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Mike McCarthy wants stronger finish

Posted Sep 16, 2013

Will leave Meriweather hits for league to discipline

GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy has no interest in being a league disciplinarian.

The Packers head coach politely declined on Monday to get into whether Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather should have been penalized (or should be fined) for the two tackles on which he led with his helmet in Sunday’s game.

The first one knocked running back Eddie Lacy from the game with a concussion. On the second one, Meriweather got the worst of the collision with running back James Starks and gave himself a concussion, ending his day.

“Officiating is not my cup of tea,” McCarthy said. “We’ll leave it up to the league office. They look at every play, and I’m sure they’ll have an opinion on both of those plays.”

There was no further word on the severity of Lacy’s concussion. McCarthy said he would have an update on Wednesday.

That’s when the Packers will return to the practice field to prepare for their Week 3 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, who play AFC North rival Pittsburgh on Monday night. Two areas will be emphasized this week, McCarthy noted – mental errors and finishing the game.

“I like the way we’re playing in the physical aspect of it, but our mental performance isn’t even close to what it needs to be,” McCarthy said.

Neither is the performance in the fourth quarter, which has bugged McCarthy two straight weeks now.

He acknowledged an improvement on offense, as a three-and-out was followed with a clock-draining drive that wiped out the final 7:31 of the game.

But the defense gave up two late touchdowns – and TDs on three straight possessions going back into the third quarter – after the Packers had taken a commanding lead. The phrase didn’t come up, but “garbage time” isn’t something McCarthy buys into, judging by his comments.

“The defense had a great start. (Washington) didn’t convert a third down until the score was 31-0, but we gave up 20 points down the stretch there,” he said. “It’s just unnecessary production when you look at the tape. To play at the level that we performed at for a large part of the game and to give that up … it’s something we can learn from.

“That victory, it was a sound victory for our football team, but there’s definitely things we need to take away from that game, and that’s what I’m excited about. I think our football team has a lot of growth.”

Some growth is already showing in the secondary, as cornerback Davon House and safety Chris Banjo were worked more into the rotation in the absences of Casey Hayward and Morgan Burnett. McCarthy wants to see players’ roles in the defensive backfield continue to become more defined.

On offense, a sizeable jump occurred with the receivers’ yards after the catch. The Packers ranked at or near the top of that statistic in McCarthy’s earlier years but have fallen off a bit in recent seasons.

According to multiple statistical services, nearly 300 of Aaron Rodgers’ 480 passing yards on Sunday came after the catch, a gigantic figure. Perhaps no play exemplified that more than tight end Jermichael Finley’s 27-yard gain in the third quarter, when he stepped out of two tackle attempts and spun out of a third right in front of the Packers’ bench.

“I thought his play on the sideline was spectacular – three, four, fifth tackler to get him on the ground, and he did it all on the boundary,” McCarthy said. “He’s just getting more and more comfortable, he’s stronger than he’s been.”

It’s a play Finley wouldn’t have made a couple of years ago, when he was coming off his season-ending knee injury from 2010. He began to show flashes last season of returning to his pre-injury form, and Sunday was another example of that.

“Experience, reps and confidence I think has really helped him,” McCarthy said.

Additional coverage - Sept. 16

 
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