McCarthy: Passing game not where it needs to be

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) shouts instructions to his teammates at the line of scrimmage during the season against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy spoke to the media on Friday morning. Here are some highlights from his news conference:

(On play for the Thursday-to-Thursday week) Well, it’s a seven-day week – Thursday to Thursday. Today is pretty much a coaches’ day. We have the training room and the weight room that we have hours there for the players. Tomorrow will be a game-plan day, so tomorrow’s a Tuesday. We’re bringing them in a little later Sunday just because of the three games in however-so-many days and then we’ll have a later practice on Sunday, which will be our Wednesday practice.

(On if there are preparation problems?) Our passing game’s not where it needs to be. I think any time you see basic plays – a slant route turns into an interception, like it did last night – the timing isn’t as clean, which would lead to the details and the fundamentals. So much is made of scheme. Frankly, I think too much is made of scheme. At the end of the day, it’s about running your routes or defending the route or blocking your guy or getting off the block and eventually tackling the guy and getting the football. When you have a chance to get your hands on the football, you’ve got to take advantage of it. We had a chance to get our hands on the football a number of times last night but didn’t get that done and we gave away two. I thought both our turnovers were the result of sloppy play. That’s just not the way we train, that’s not the way we play. When you’re minus-2, you lose games, usually. I think that was a huge, huge part of the outcome of the game last night.

(On saying last night there will be changes)  Well, I said more than that. I talked about demand, which is a job responsibility of the coach, I talked about changes, I talked about emphasis, I talked about adjustment. The same thing I’ve been talking about for years around here. It’s every game, everything we do is constantly evaluated on that. If you look at the offense, the passing game is not clean. We’ve made scheme changes from last year to this year and it’s not productive enough. We’ll take another hard look at it, as we continue to do, and we’ll either emphasize some of the changes we have made or go back to emphasize some of the basic emphases of our offense and do more of that. The reality of it is, it has to fit the game plan for the Detroit Lions. We’re going to do what we need to do to have a game plan to beat these guys.

(On if Damarious Randall’s knee injury is significant) I don’t think so. Basically, when I left here last night and talking to Flea and the trainers is we’re really not going to know until we get out on the field Sunday to see how he can move. That’s the last thing we talked about.

(Same with Bulaga?) Him and Bryan both.

(On Cutler limiting mistakes) Well, I think they ran their offense. The run-pass check at the line of scrimmage, trying to run the ball to the low technique, however you define that through a defensive approach or identification. You know, there wasn’t a whole lot of high-risk play selection from their offense, which is probably the way to go with Jay Cutler. We had a couple chances to get our hands on the football, and that’s what you’ve got to do. You have to convert those opportunities.

(On lack of defensive interceptions) The first thing you have to do is you’ve got to get in position to get your hands on the ball. I think that’s the biggest challenge when you’re talking defensive football. We’re getting there. You can’t just throw away the conditions last night. They handled the ball a little better than we did, and it resulted in the turnovers. The fact of the matter that we’re getting there, that’s the hardest part. We’ve just got to convert those opportunities.

(On explanation he received for free play being blown dead) Just read the rulebook. It will be word-for-word in there.

(On if that’s what he was told?) Word for word, yeah.

(On Eddie Lacy fumbling for fourth time in five games) Well, make no bones about it, if you don’t hold onto the football, if you turn the football over your opportunities are going to decrease or go away. Eddie has played very well the last two weeks, but he’s got to handle the football. The touchdown, he was careless with the ball there, and the fumble is clearly technique. The ball is out away from his body and that’s what happens. The guy comes in from behind and strips the football. It’s a basic technique of fundamental football, and it’s something we emphasize every day. We have a ball security drill. It may look like nonsense when they go through it, but that’s why we do it.

(On running out of time to figure offense out) The reality is we’re not that far off. It’s the attention and the details. Our issues are technique and discipline in the technique, and quit worrying so much about the plays. Just win the route or win the play called. If you look at the way the game was called, if you have 73 games in a football game and you run however many times, you have a pretty good balance. We give Aaron Rodgers the ball 43 times. Other things around it have to happen. We had opportunities to be a little bit more efficient and score some more points. We had some tough breaks from the officials, but that’s all part of the game – the officials, the weather, you can’t control that. You just have to keep playing over that. We still had opportunities to be more productive. It’s no different on defense. A couple of those drives, those third-down conversions we gave up, we have to get off the field.

(On if it’s troublesome to fall short in comebacks in last three losses) Four losses and three of them we’ve had a chance to win the game right at the end. Those are what we refer to as critical plays in the game and we’ve got to do a better job converting those opportunities.

(On if he worries if this will compound?) I’m not worried, Bill. It’s the game of football. This is how it goes. Ebb and flow. Whatever how you’re trying to categorize it, emphasize it or characterize it. It’s about staying the course. We have to do a better job in the little things. When you sit down and watch those plays at the end of the game, I’m confident that we’ll all feel the same. If we did something a little bit better, we’d probably convert those plays.

(On if officials are overreacting to calling picks on Cobb’s out routes in red zone?) Well, the one play on Randall is just a flat poor call. He missed the call. You can shake that any way you want. They’re looking for it. I think Dean Blandino does an excellent job with the continuing education. The videos they put out are very informative. I think the instruction of them is excellent, better than prior seasons. Something that I know we continue to use as teaching tapes just because of the quality is so much better. But in the same breathe, officials are human, too. I think when you emphasize things, you may look for them a little more. There’s contact that’s made. There’s contact on the interception with Davante. You have plays like that where on both sides – it wasn’t a rub and no different defensively, the guy’s breaking to the flat for his coverage element. So you have those types of situation, but the play that was called on Randall wasn’t even a rub play. It was drag-slant. James Jones ran a slant and like I said, the official missed the call.

(On honoring Brett Favre, Bart Starr’s return to Lambeau Field) I think as a fan and I know for the organization, just having Bart and Cherry and Brett and his family here and from what I’m told, everything around the ceremony was fabulous and that’s the way everybody wanted it. As coaches and players, we felt obviously our responsibility was to keep it about the game, and I thought our players did a good of that. That was a huge night for everybody. I think as a fan, to go to Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving  and watch the Bears and Packers play and have Brett get his number retired, and Bart and Cherry Starr and just the fight that Bart went through to get here and just all those things, it was definitely a special evening.

(On if route on Rodgers’ interception was similar to Cobb’s end-zone play) The interception? Really, they’re actually the exact same play being ran, but obviously down there in that tight red-zone area, they were in tight man-to-man where the one out there in the field, the interception, the safety’s coming down on the drag route by Richard Rodgers. There was contact there, I don’t know if it was (within) 5 (yards), I haven’t seen the film yet. The one in the red zone, the defender on J.J. bumps the defender on Randall. That was not the explanation I was given on the sideline. The explanation and the video that I saw on the screen – what is it, I’m not allowed to say Jumbotron (you mean TundraVision) TundraVision thank you, on the TundraVision was not accurate.

(On if Jeff Janis could help the offense) Hey, Jeff Janis is coming on, there’s no doubt about it. I think Jeff has been given some big-play opportunities and he’s converted some, starting with the kickoff returns and the deep ball last week, the pass interference and some scramble extended plays. But there’s certain things, each receiver has a skill set that fits a certain part of the offense. So I would look at Davante and Jeff a little differently as far as how you would utilize them and where you play them. But Jeff is definitely getting more opportunities, and he’s earned that.

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