GREEN BAY—Nobody plays better hurt than the Packers. It's a fact about this team that has become its image. As the injuries mount, the Packers peak. It is a rare and unexplained phenomenon, or is it?
Asked to explain this head-scratcher, Mike McCarthy said: "There were young players in that game that had a role. Do your job and don't get outside yourself. You have to take your hat off to our veteran players. We will excel through this."
How do they excel through this? The Packers were playing without Randall Cobb, James Jones, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry on Sunday. That's 49 receptions and six sacks worth of talent missing from the Packers lineup, yet, "Team Hurt" shifted into high gear and blew out the visiting Browns, 31-13.
Now "Team Hurt" has another injury about which to be concerned. Jermichael Finley, who broke three tackles to score the Packers' first touchdown on Sunday, sustained a neck injury in the fourth quarter and was taken from the field on a stretcher. All of Packer nation awaits word on Finley, arguably the most improved player on the team this year.
At the core of the Packers' ability to excel in spite of injury is McCarthy's ability to coach. He's a master of preparation, and he had his team ready to play out of the gate on Sunday. Its first drive went 40 yards in four plays, its second drive went 56 yards in 11 plays and, with 3:44 to play in the first quarter, the Packers had a 14-0 lead.
Score one for preparation.
Then there's Rodgers. He's the constant through the Packers' wonderful run of success in the face of injury. He tilts the field, as he did by burying Brandon Weeden under an avalanche of passer rating points on Sunday. Rodgers played without error. He threw the ball away instead of risking interception, he made big plays when the opportunities presented themselves, and he was the equivalent of a coach on the field.
"Aaron Rodgers did a great job of managing the game," McCarthy said.
"Did he call me a game manager?" Rodgers said with a smile.
"That's how I'd like to play, not as a game manager, but as a guy who gets us into clean plays," he added.
Everything about the Packers' play on offense on Sunday was clean. Eddie Lacy had clean running lanes and rushed for 82 yards, and Rodgers was sacked only once.
"Hang with us, fans, it might not be the prettiest game, but our defense is playing great. Win with defense, don't turn the ball over and make plays when they're there," Rodgers said of the game plan.
It might have to be the Packers' game plan for an extended period of time, depending on when the Packers can get some of their injured players back in uniform. Matthews, Perry and Cobb aren't likely to return quickly, and Finley's status is now in question.
"We need to get a couple of our guys back, if we can. We know what kind of environment it is in Minnesota. It's going to be a tough challenge," Rodgers said.
As long as Rodgers is able to play, it would seem the Packers are a healthy team. He's the guy who makes the hurts go away. Complete game coverage