GREEN BAY - It wasn't long ago that the Green Bay Packers had a 4-6 record, and coach Mike McCarthy was receiving plenty of disdain from the fanbase.
McCarthy had one of his lowest moments in a 12-year tenure last November, when it looked like his team might miss the playoffs for the first time since Aaron Rodgers' first season as the starting quarterback.
Now, his counterpart Sunday faces a similar scenario. Fifteen years into his tenure, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis leads his team into Lambeau Field on Sunday hoping to avoid falling to 0-3.
It would be the third time in Lewis’ tenure the Bengals started a season 0-3, but the first since 2008.
“I have great respect for Marvin,’’ McCarthy said. "I understand the things that go on in the external, but I can promise you this: Marvin's coaching as hard today as he always has, and his team is going to be prepared. They’re a blue-collar bunch. This is going to be a physical, knockdown football game. That’s what we’re preparing for. It has been the last two times we played them, four years ago in Cincinnati and eight years ago here at Lambeau. Both of those games were close games.’’
The Bengals, the lone opponent Rodgers has never beaten, won 34-30 at home against the Packers in 2013. They won 31-24 at Lambeau Field in 2009.
For Lewis, that was a different time. He’ll enter Sunday with an offense that hasn’t scored a touchdown through the first two games this season. The lack of production prompted Lewis to fire offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, replacing him with quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor.
Despite their struggles, McCarthy gave Lewis his endorsement Wednesday. After leading the Packers to the NFC championship game last season, McCarthy knows how quickly a season can turn around.
“It's more about his approach to the game,” McCarthy said. “His defense, with the experience that they have, they’re off to a good start statistically in the things that they're doing. He’s a football coach, and he’s a damned good football coach. Always has been. Always will be.
“His football team will be prepared coming in here, and that’s our focus.”
New start: The Packers defense may see some things from the Bengals that they don’t recognize.
Lazor went to work this week trying to fix the offense. How much he can do in a couple of days remains to be seen.
“You can’t come into this and completely change everything that we have been doing on terminology,” Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said Wednesday. “He will obviously have his twists on what we are doing. You just can’t change everything in just a couple of days.”
Dalton has completed just 54.5 percent of his passes for 394 yards and no touchdowns with four interceptions.
Out to make an impression: Ahmad Brooks only got to show the coaches what he could do for six snaps before a concussion knocked him out of the Seattle game.
He was cleared this week to return and with fellow outside linebacker Nick Perry (hand) ailing, there’s a chance he’ll play quite a bit Sunday. He’s ready for a do-over.
"I thought that I was ready to go on Wednesday or Thursday, but they told me I wasn't ready, so they kept me out last game,” Brooks said. "It's not frustrating. It's just unfortunate. I really wanted to come here and show what I was all about from the jump and that's the very first game of the season.
“I was upset that I couldn't do that at that time."