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Tuesdays with McCarthy

Posted Oct 15, 2013

In this week's edition, the head coach discusses what made the win in Baltimore special, how the team is improving and his thoughts on low hits by defenders, among other topics.

Q. What made the win in Baltimore special?

It was special because of the team we were playing against. It’s an organization that has done it the right way for a long time. The physicality of their team and their success at home presented a huge challenge. The icing on the cake was overcoming the adversity we faced as a team throughout the game. It was a tough, hard-fought game for each team with some unusual plays and some big plays that went both ways. The way the game finished was special. Our defense played strong throughout the game, and the last 10 plays were their biggest challenge. Our offense was struggling to generate consistent production, but then came on strong at the end of the game. The special teams were pretty stable throughout. We had the big play with the punt block but weren’t able to convert it into a positive outcome. The locker room atmosphere afterward was incredible; there was a lot of enthusiasm. Our team took a step in a lot of ways – emotionally, mentally, physically, and more important, in the win column.

Q. You speak about needing to take a step in Baltimore. What was that step?

A step in every area of our team. The young players stepping in and playing for the first time needed to get integrated and contribute. We wanted to improve on our last performance, and we had a good performance on a number of fronts against Detroit. Despite having not won on the road this season, we’ve been a good road team, and we were going into a hostile environment. There were a number of challenges that we knew if we overcame we’d definitely take a step in the area of overall improvement as a team, and we accomplished that.

Q. You were able to win a game in which you didn’t win the passer rating. Is that a testament to your running game?

Absolutely. You can definitely say that, but you can also look at the big-play ability of our offense. Aaron made timely, big plays, and we were able to give him a clean pocket where he could go after the one-on-one matchup. He accomplished that on the two biggest plays of the game on the throws to Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley. Those two plays directly affected the outcome of the game.

Q. What are your thoughts on low hits?

A coach’s responsibility is to educate and train the football players. The regulation of rules in pro football is evolving. When we’re in the position as a coach where we don’t have sound answers and training for the situations players will be put in, it’s difficult. We were on the receiving end of a low hit, and it doesn’t feel good at all. No one liked it. Everyone felt it was preventable. However, when you step back and look at it from a defensive back’s perspective, it’s tough. We had a situation against Detroit when Jerron McMillian hit tight end Tony Scheffler. He was trying to hit him with his shoulder pad, trying to break on the ball as Scheffler was going down and he’s in a no-win situation. It resulted in a penalty and a fine. The defensive players are in a position where the target zone has been lowered, but let’s be honest, they are moving at a high rate of speed and they’re not always going to hit the proper target in the fast-paced flow of a play. We’re seeing some of that. Could the hit have been higher? Absolutely. But in the same breath, the target zone has changed in pro football, and these guys are being taught to go lower.

Q. What did the tape say about A.J. Hawk’s performance?

It was outstanding. I don’t know what else to say. He was impactful, had great command of our defense, and was good in coverage and excellent in run defense. He was an impact player with his pressure opportunities.

Q. What did the tape say about that fourth-and-21 play?

It shouldn’t have been converted. On fourth-and-21, we should win that 100 percent of the time.

Q. You talked about sideline chatter being an indicator of your team’s focus for the game. Can a coach get a feel for his team’s focus during the days leading up to the game?

Definitely. You can tell by looking at the week’s practices, and our Thursday practice in pads was better. We’re not practicing quite the way I want yet, but that’s my responsibility to get it the way it’s supposed to be. We haven’t had a perfect week of practice, but it was chippy on Friday. Our guys were overzealous. I changed my speech about an hour before I walked in front of the team on Saturday night at the hotel because I knew it wasn’t what they needed to hear. They needed to hear something else. I’m not saying it had anything to do with the outcome of the game, but you have to feel where your team is at. I knew when I walked in the team meeting room Saturday – and it was confirmed when I walked out – we were ready to play.

Q. Are rosters big enough?

Roster size comes down to the economics of our business, and I’m not in a position to give a strong opinion about that either way. Coaches would love to have more players to work with, because the season is so demanding, and every team suffers a lot of injuries. From a pure football standpoint, I’d like to have more players, but the reality of it is it’s part of the economics of the NFL.

Q. You ran the ball on third-and-two and threw it on third-and-one. Does that keep a defense guessing?

Absolutely. That’s why we game plan and that’s why we self-scout during the course of a game. At the end of the day, it’s about giving your players clean plays with potentially favorable matchups. It comes down to execution. That’s why coaches spend so much time on game plans.

Q. Are you concerned about the injuries?

No. I feel bad on a personal level for the players going through it, but I can’t control the injuries.

To see previous editions of Tuesdays with McCarthy, click here.

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