McCarthy: 'That’s our greatest regular-season win'

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers gets a hug from a Detroit Lions staff member after Rodgers made a Hail Mary catch against the Detroit Lions to win the game Thursday night's game at Ford Field in Detroit, Mich.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy spoke to the media on Monday morning. Here are some highlights:

On excitement level of team:

Yeah, I think we all slept a little bit. Just had the players in today. We had an NFLPA meeting at 11. We had a team meeting at noon. Then, they had their workout. After the conclusion of team meeting, training room’s full. Most guys are in there getting treatment.

On plan for this week:

We’ll be off for the weekend. We’ll have some things to get done Monday and then we’ll crank it up full speed Tuesday.

On using the Hail Mary as a teaching moment:

It’s unique on a number of fronts. The personnel grouping we were in was different than we practiced, but the reality is we were able to get it set. Plus, it came off of a play that there was a lot of dispute over a potential penalty. A lot of time was lost there in the transition of that. To be able to get the play off in time was a credit to the players and Aaron. They went with a three-man rush, so the ability to extend the play and for Aaron to buy time and really to get the momentum into throw, that’s probably the best throw I’ve seen in my time in this game. Just the arc, that you want to put on the ball and obviously the distance, so great throw. Like I said, we were in a different personnel grouping, so the ability to get down there and try to box out and really try to form the triangle. You talk about a play that happens in that time frame and that time clock that far down the field, that’s a lot different than going up and running a 12-yard hook, having the spacing underneath it with a two-yard drag route. There obviously is some variance to it just like rebounding in basketball. But just the way Richard got there and the position he got himself in to high-point the football and really having Randall right where he was at for the tip coming forward. Davante was behind them potentially for the tip backwards. Obviously, their roles switched there. Our guys doing a really good job of playing football in space and Richard going up and getting the football.

On Aaron Rodgers’ range for a Hail Mary:

The way he threw it last night, he probably had a few more yards left in him. Just mechanically and just being in tune with his technique and the way he processes information. The ability to get up a close as he could to the 40-yard line and to launch the ball. I think a lot of guys may go with a flatter throw because they’re thinking they have to get it there, but the confidence he has in his arm and his ability to throw with that arc. The arc of the ball is critical to the success of the play. That’s the why it’s coached. The angle you want the ball to come out and drop down into the end-zone area. It’s great protection and a great throw.

You call that ‘Down the chimney,’ right?

Down the chimney, yep. That’s the way we practice. It’s the same throw as we practice every day in the quarterback school segment whether it’s the tight red-zone throws and moving it back eventually to the go-route. We don’t practice the Hail Mary throw that much.

On when he watched the play after the game:

On the flight home. It’s the beauty of fast forward. I obviously went right to the last play and then watched the tape. I just wanted to see the specifics of it. Saw it on TV last night or this morning I guess you would say. I couldn’t sleep so I sat up and watched it a few times on TV. It was a phenomenal play. I was just speaking with Aaron in the training room before I came in here. Outside of the Super Bowl, to me, that’s our greatest regular-season win. It’s more about – obviously the play – but the reaction on the sideline. That’s the stuff you remember. I get the biggest kick just seeing our guys, the joy that they had and the excitement and the locker room. It was phenomenal. I’m looking for flags like I always do when we have big plays to make sure it’s going to – I think that’s just your process as a head coach. Just what a great win. It’s one win. It’s a division win, but I think this stretch that we wanted about. The second stage of our season. We know this was going to be the trials of our schedule and it’s definitely been that. There’s a lot to learn from what we’ve been through and we need to carry it forward.

On the officiating in final moments:

I’ll be honest with you, I thought the referees handled it great. I mean Carl (Cheffers) – you’re running down to the end zone and he’s running over to me telling me we need to kick the extra point. I kind of laughed and said it’s going to be a couple minutes. I’m not stopping this. You have to be kidding me. We laughed about it. He said, ‘You’re really going to kick it?’ I said, ‘I’ve never really been in this spot before, Carl.’ Then, I said, ‘Well, I should just kneel on it.’ He says, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what he would do.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s kneel on it.’ It was good to have great help from the officiating.

On telling his team at halftime they weren’t going to lose:

Well, I don’t think the thought process is a lot different. You’re in a football game. You have zero points on the board and they have 17. Perception and reality. That’s the factors. We’re down 17 points, but just the reality from the way we were playing and the things were happening to us. Offensively, the penalties and the long down-and-distances. We could not overcome that. It really was a pretty big factor in our offensive production. You can take the facemask on Josh (Sitton), I think on the second series we start with the screen. We had a couple first-and-20s and things like that. Defensively, we had the bad punt. Gave them field position and they got the first three points and then they got seven off the turnover and we didn’t get the check versus their empty line. So we really were three, four plays – I hate when we do analysis like that where we say, ‘Hey, they rushed for 160 yards, but they got 75 or 80 on two runs.’ Well, they all count. Just like Detroit, those plays count against us; it’s why we’re down 17 points. I just felt that we were a lot closer than the scoreboard indicated. Detroit came out in the second half with that long drive, time consuming, a little over six minutes. We held them to a field goal, and then that was really kind of the point that we got started.

On Julius Peppers’ strip-sack:

Well it was huge. If you look at it, when it went to 17-0, I think we had three three-and-outs. Got the ball back for the 2-minute drill opportunity before the half. WE didn’t take advantage of that but to come out hold them to three, go down there and score and then get that sack, that’s a huge play. It’s a huge momentum changer and it puts us back to the game.

On why Eddie Lacy didn’t play much:

Nothing happened last week with Eddie. Leading up the game, frankly, there’s an internal football decision that was made. That’s what resulted in Eddie’s reps.

So it wasn’t disciplinary?

Could be. But those things we don’t discuss in here anyway. It’s something that we handled internally, and that was the outcome.

On what Lacy needs to get to get his playing-time back:

He needs to build off his preparation. He’s put up some yards in the prior games, but he can be better. We need to be better as a team, frankly. I discussed this in our team meeting. There’s a lot more to give. The fine details are not where we want them to be. There’s a formula for us to get it there. That was made clear to our players and with the expectations and the commitment that we’ve made to each other, and we’ve got to do a better job. We’re not clicking for four quarters in all three areas, and that’s what we’re working for.

On lack of fourth-quarter comebacks:

I think it’s part of the fabric of your team. It’s really, you talk about the word focus, and focus covers a lot of things. What are you think about when you’re down 17-0? What’s going through your head? You have one of two choices. Make sure you’re taking the positive one and if you’re not, make sure you switch it to the positive one. Those are kind of things that really give you a good look inside your football team and tell you what you’re all about. I’m not sure what the statistics are about close games and so forth, but I think there’s periods in our program and our time, particularly in Aaron’s early years that I think that stat got lopsided. But hey, our guys play til the end and they illustrated that last night.

On how David Bakhtiari is doing:

He’s beat up. They’re all beat up. I just visited with David earlier, and his words to me was he plans on practicing every day next week and just looking forward to this time off. Your big guys, obviously playing the four games, the four division games, the 11-day period, I think the fact, what you hear a lot of is the two turf games, the two turf games in the last three-play segment, that’s something that’s been really hard, particularly on the big guys with their joints.

On decision to swap Alonzo Harris for John Crockett on active roster:

That’s really a personnel decision. But I’ll just say, it just puts a smile on my face when I think of Crockett. You come off the field here at Lambeau, he’s the first guy in the tunnel, greets the team. He’s got unbelievable energy. He puts a lot of time in. He’s got his nose in his playbook, the way it should be. So there’s just a lot there that’s been going on for really since training camp. That decision could’ve went either way, in my opinion, between Alonzo and Crockett. It was time to give the young man an opportunity. Ripkowski was sick. There’s a number of things that went on. Frankly, there was some guys that I thought maybe were going to play that didn’t make it. So we had a lot of moving parts over there Thursday morning in Detroit.

On standing closer to play-caller Tom Clements:

I don’t think more than normal. I’m on the headset the whole time. I’ve gone to every game-plan meeting now for the last three weeks. So I feel like some of the things we changed earlier in the season we’ve gone back to the way it was done when I was in there. But I think we’ve made some progress there.

Still no intentions to take over play-calling?

No. I mean, I need to shut up more, frankly. I think the most important thing is, and I don’t know how other people do it, but the network, the communication network when you’re calling plays, if you’re calling plays you need the information before the series and timely information within the series. So that’s something that we’re all conscientious of, and it’s just to make sure we’re trying to give Tom the support that he needs there.

On having to use timeout on fourth-down play in the comeback:

Well, we have communication situations. I don’t recall whether it’s if it didn’t go in clean or you know the headset goes off at 15. I don’t recall exactly what happened there.

On starting Jake Ryan at inside linebacker:

From what I saw, I liked what I saw, but frankly, I have not watched the defensive tape yet. But I watched the offense, but the defense and the special teams I’ll do this afternoon.

On winning with a Hail Mary:

Well, frankly, I think when you call plays, the responsibility of the coach is to put the player in position. And I know that sounds very basic, but that’s all I’m thinking about there. That whole segment of when you’re calling plays, we were at the final play beforehand because that technically was the final play and where Richard threw it back to Aaron and then we got the penalty. So you’re trusting your preparation, and then you get the rebound pass. We actually call it rebound pass. We don’t call it Hail Mary because we think we’re going to go catch it like a rebound. So it’s called a rebound pass. And it’s just really watching the mechanics, the play entry, and I saw the three-man rush. I was excited about that. Aaron, the way he maneuvered the rush, and then when he came out to the right, I thought, ‘Shoot, we’re going to get a clean attempt at it.’ So I’m not even watching what’s going on downfield. So then when he released it, with the arc of the ball, my thought was, ‘We’ve got a shot.’ And then obviously the positioning of the players, and really, it just comes down to will – going up and making a catch and Richard Rodgers got that part done. I really do, even in the big moments. Frankly when he caught it, right away I start looking for yellow flags. I just think your experience, the longer you do things, that’s kind of the process of the head coach.

On fighting temptation at reassuming play-calling duties given his past success with it:

Well, I think, the head coach’s responsibility is to give input throughout the whole team. So I do it on special teams on defense, not as much as before, but yeah, I think anytime you have experience in a certain area you (tend) to give more advice there. That’s fair.

On Richard Rodgers’ performance:

Yeah, I think you look, before the Hail Mary, Richard had a heck of a football game. I think he caught every ball that was thrown to him if my memory is right, so he needed that and we needed that. So we need more production in the passing game. And that was a big night for Richard.

On what they call that final play:

It’s actually Two Jet Rebound Pass, but we were in a different personnel, so it was actually Scat Two Rebound Pass, since you guys are such experts, which is a five-man protection and you’re scatting all your receivers.

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