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The first win is always the hardest

Posted Oct 23, 2017

The Packers needed a counterpunch late in the game


Jack from Saugus, CA

Is this the beginning of the end?

A very tough Sunday was followed by a highly disappointing one. There’s no sugarcoating it. The Packers expected more, as did their fans. They got little mileage out of the hot start, and the better team finished the game strong. But this is no time to throw in the towel. As frustrated as they are, I know McCarthy and Hundley won’t.

Patrick from Ashland, WI

Do you think the question to McCarthy about play-action deserved a better response than “blame it on me today”?

It didn’t matter what the question was. Coach McCarthy wasn’t going to let his young quarterback take all the blame for the poor performance. If I’ve heard McCarthy say it once, I’ve heard him say it a thousand times, coaching is about putting your players in positions to succeed, and he didn’t feel he did that enough with Hundley on Sunday. That said, a coach falling on his sword usually means two things. He’s acknowledging the buck stops with him, and he’s preventing himself from blasting everyone else who shares in the blame. There’s plenty to go around, all three phases. On offense, this will be a process between the coach and his QB, and I think McCarthy’s frustration was in feeling the process didn’t move forward the way it needed to.

Mike from Novato, CA

Hey guys, tough loss, but we had a chance. One thing that bothers me, this is the second time this year we've only had 10 men on the field in red-zone defense, and the second TD. How can that happen this far into the season?

I don’t know. I have no answer for you.

Steve from Lake Stevens, WA

Even without Aaron Rodgers, these last two games were winnable. We all know help is not on the way. What do you think is the main thing the Packers need to do better?

Keep momentum and capitalize on it when you have it. To be up 2-0 in turnovers but tied 7-7 early in the second quarter wasn’t good enough. The advantage was nullified too quickly. Failing on back-to-back third-and-ones really deflated what could have been a big first-half balloon.

Brandon from Kenosha, WI

Given the news that Rodgers could return in Week 15 vs. Carolina, realistically, if the Packers could find a way to win three of the next six that would put them at 7-6. Rodgers would have three games left to try and win. Nine wins may be a wildcard, 10 could get you the division.

The first win is always the hardest. The Packers, for the second time this season, have to get that first win and go from there.

Steve from Plymouth, MA

I believe that Mike McCarthy's record with substitute starting quarterbacks (not Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers) is 3-6-1. Bill Belichick's is 13-5 (not including 2001 when Brady took over, which would make it look even better). At what point do we start to acknowledge that the quarterbacks have made the coach in Green Bay more than, let's say, in New England, where it appears they have put together more complete football teams throughout the last two decades?

Interesting stats, but let’s be fair here. How many times in the Patriots’ case has the opposing QB been a Hall of Famer? In the 10 McCarthy games, I count four (Brady, Eli Manning, Roethlisberger and Brees), plus one borderline case (Romo) and a recent MVP winner (Matt Ryan). In New England’s nearly twice as many games, I count only five (Favre twice, Peyton Manning, Roethlisberger and Warner, who was benched in the late ’08 game), plus one borderline (Rivers). I understand the frustration, but to spit out Belichick numbers without any real context, which Inbox readers are wont to do, gets nauseating. You have my permission to revisit this come mid-December if you like.

Jeff from Fargo, ND

Thanks for the opportunity to ask a question. It feels like Hundley is struggling to get the ball down the field. While I think the protection was overall sound, is this something that Brett will see better as he gets more game action? It's clear we've been spoiled with Aaron and his predecessor over the last 25 years.

When Hundley gets to match up the game film with what he saw, he’ll know whether his apparent reluctance to pull the trigger on downfield throws was justified, or if he left some chances out there. Frankly, I think the Packers expected more blitzes from the Saints, and they sat back in coverage a lot instead.

John from New York, NY

Gentlemen, 87 yards passing per game will not lead to many wins in this league, will it?

Allowing 485 yards is not a recipe for success, either. That’s obvious, too. Green Bay needed a counterpunch in the fourth quarter but didn’t have it. That was the game in a nutshell. Starting on the 10-yard line after a special-teams penalty with the score 19-17 didn’t help. Giving the Saints the ball on the 45, after another special-teams penalty, didn’t help.

Kurt from Frisco, TX

MM said he learned his lesson by giving Scott Tolzien a Thanksgiving-size plate full. Looks like he gave Hundley a plate so small it would easily hold a Weight Watchers appetizer. I just expected more after investing a third year in Hundley.

McCarthy has an extra week to analyze how he feels he fell short, but he’s not going to absolve others of their responsibility, either. He’s just not going to call them out publicly. That’s never been his style.

Jocelyn from Dallas, TX

Hey Mike, a friend and I were wondering the last time the Packers had more rush yards than pass yards. Was it at Denver in 2015?

Last year at Chicago, 226 to 225.

Nate from New Berlin, WI

For having a backup QB in the game, I really believe the offense did enough to win the game. Even our pass defense, though it allowed some third-and-long conversions, did alright against Drew Brees. I saw very little resolve in our run defense, though. Hundley and Jones can lead the offense to the playoffs, but someone has to step up on defense.

The offense didn’t do enough, and the pass rush/pass coverage needed to be better, but your point about the run defense is spot-on. Those who read regularly know I’ve been concerned about the fourth-quarter run defense all season, and Sunday we saw fourth-quarter Saints runs of 8, 19, 23, 7, 7 and 6 yards.

Mike from Chico, CA

Optimism? Yeah. Saints game shows how the rest of the season will pan out whether you like it or not. But you guys go ahead and write tulips and roses. Mention this post in let’s say five weeks. We'll see who's right if you have the guts. Optimism. Yeah. Vic clones.

OK.

Mel from Eau Claire, WI

Javan from Milwaukee suggested that Aaron grow a comeback beard. Spoff and Wes, in Packer spirit, will you also?

I don’t think I could if I tried. In the world of 5 o’clock shadows, mine shows up at 5 o’clock the next day.

Kimberly from Kaukauna, WI

I know that players on injured reserve are not required to rehab at the team's facilities. Is there any requirements that players must do to keep their teams appraised of progress during rehab? Also, do you know if Aaron Rodgers will be in Green Bay during his rehab? I would think it would help the team if he were in town during rehab.

I would imagine Rodgers will be around the team as his health allows. Being in QB meetings with Hundley and on the sideline during games would be invaluable, and the coaching staff will want that. I think Rodgers would want to stay as involved as he can as well, no matter his prospects for coming back this season.

Paul from Oxford, NC

It's a dog-eat-dog world out there...and I'm wearing milkbone underwear.

Norm!

Kevin from Whitehall, WI

For players on IR, do the Packers need to decide that they will be designated for return before they can practice, or can they see how they respond to practice before designating them for return? Seems like it would be a shame to designate someone and have them get reinjured before they can be activated.

As soon as a player on IR returns to practice, that counts as using one of the designated-to-return options.

Kevin from Asbury Park, NJ

Watching the Raiders Thursday night had me thinking about the whole Giorgio "don't call me Sergio" Tavecchio thing I've seen in the Inbox a few times. Can you explain that to me? I'm lost.

When Tavecchio was here competing with Crosby for the kicking job in 2013, one time in a press conference McCarthy mistakenly referred to him as Sergio. As with everything, Tavecchio handled it with grace.

Lawrence from Onalaska, WI

Mike, do you have an opinion on the rise of fantasy football and video games and their effect on how people understand real life football leagues? It seems to me that more and more fans are clueless when it comes to the process of assessing, acquiring and development of NFL players. Is there any hope for today's generation?

I’m not going to condemn a whole segment of sports fans, but I do think the plug-and-produce element of fantasy football and player-rating basis of video games can make it easier to forget the human element. Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers just outpitched C.C. Sabathia for the American League pennant. Matchups on paper are just that, on paper. That’s why we watch.

Mike from Algoma, WI

Can anyone give us a decent explanation of why a flag was thrown on the fair catch? How many times is the receiver given an opportunity?

This was the same scenario that was called incorrectly against the Packers last season, when Trevor Davis muffed the punt at Tennessee. When a fair catch is signaled, the ball is not live, and the player is protected, until the ball touches the ground. He still gets an opportunity to catch the ball after juggling it, as long as it hasn’t hit the ground. They botched it in Nashville last year, but they got it right Sunday.

Jerry from Kansas City, MO

I saw a good game plan and first half go south as the Saints wore down the Packers after two drives stalled deep in Packers' territory. Do you think this game feels like as much of a missed opportunity to the players as it does to this fan? I was thinking "W" all the way up to the Saints’ last TD.

The opportunity was there, but this game illustrated how the margin for error shrinks when you lose the elite QB who can make up for miscues. I mentioned the special-teams penalties earlier. You can’t drop a pass right after you catch one. You can’t commit offensive pass interference to knock yourself out of field-goal range at the end of the first half. You can’t surrender third-and-17, particularly on a horizontal pass you want them to throw. You can’t have only 10 defenders on the field on third-and-1 in the red zone. All those mistakes, which have nothing to do with who’s playing QB, make life harder, and life is already harder.

Cameron from Augusta, GA

Mike, what are we to take away from Coach McCarthy's disappointment in the team? Does his "disgust" for a second straight week give you a sense he is unsure of what to do with this team going forward to get on track? Or is it a positive that he knows the flaws and how to address them?

Like any coach after a game like that, McCarthy knows his team is capable of much more. He has to find a way to get it out of them. He liked the way his team prepared last week, but it didn’t translate. Why not? That’s the issue McCarthy will spend the bye week exploring.

David from Los Angeles, CA

Hi Mike, in postgame interviews, several players cited their lack of energy coming out for the second half. You’re playing at home in an important game leading into a bye. I think a lot of fans would like an explanation on how a lack of energy can occur.

I wish I could give you one. The kickoff return to begin the second half was a punch in the mouth, and the Packers didn’t punch back.

Ben from Kewaunee, WI

Blake Martinez was everywhere again today. Heck of a second-year jump we're seeing from him. Are you guys at least a little surprised at his level of play so far?

I’ll admit I didn’t see this coming from Martinez. I pegged him as a role player on defense and a special-teams leader in his second year. He’s quickly become a reliable, every-down defender, and the credit goes to him.

Daniel from Castle Rock, CO

Silver lining: we came out relatively healthy going into the bye. And Aaron Jones looks like the real deal.

The health of the team, generally speaking, is hopefully coming around. Jones is special. The Packers rode a rookie running back in Eddie Lacy to stay in games back in 2013, and it looks like Jones can do the same thing. His vision is exceptional. His ability to make something out of nothing is uncanny, and when there is something, he really hits it. The Packers have to take better advantage of what that kind of running game does to a defense.

Kelby from Prairie Farm, WI

Patience is hard, it takes time. I'm guessing many of the people writing today need to remember that, right?

Disappointment is justified. Surrender is not.


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