Something the Packers couldn't do back in August is something they didn't do this past Sunday, and it might've cost them the pursuit of a second consecutive Super Bowl title.
In his season-ending press conference on Wednesday, Head Coach Mike McCarthy expressed major disappointment in his team's inability to tackle, to get Giants players on the ground, in the Packers' 37-20, divisional-round playoff loss. More than his defense's inability to rush or cover, McCarthy railed at his defense's failure to execute the most basic of football skills, the fundamental ability to tackle the man with the ball.
"The tackling was just not there all year. We did not tackle well enough as a football team. It's not acceptable," McCarthy told reporters.
Two plays in Sunday's game immediately come to mind: 1.) Hakeem Nicks' 66-yard touchdown reception, during which Nicks bounced off a defender and turned what should've been an intermediate gain into a monster play. 2.) With 15 seconds left on the first-half clock and the Giants satisfied to run out the clock and take a 13-10 lead into halftime, the Packers were unable to get Ahmad Bradshaw on the ground in bounds; the combination of his 23-yard run and having stopped the clock allowed the Giants to complete a 37-yard, Hail Mary touchdown pass on the final play of the half.
While the majority of Packernation continues to gnash its teeth about the Packers defense's inability to rush the quarterback and deny big plays in the passing game, McCarthy is focused on his team's inability to tackle. It was a season-long event. Remember LeGarrette Blount's run for the ages?
So how does a coach teach his team to tackle when the league's rules all but forbid the practice of it? McCarthy isn't the only coach in the league confronted by that question. It's a leaguewide dilemma, the result of the CBA to which the league's owners agreed last summer. Goodbye two-a-days. Goodbye padded practices. Goodbye tackling.
"There are good tackling teams in the league," McCarthy countered. "You get what you emphasize. Any time something doesn't go right, the first thing I do is look at myself."
Good tackling teams? OK, how do they do it? Do they have a new-age tackling drill that allows for acquiring proper tackling skills without actually tackling somebody? Do they infect their players with a particular mindset that promotes physical play? Or is it as simple as they find and draft players that are good tacklers?
These are questions the Packers must ask themselves and answer during the offseason, especially before this year's draft, because a very good football team with a promising future needs to find a few good tacklers for the Packers to realize their full potential.
Emphasized? You can count on it.
"It's not about pressure calls or coverage calls, it's about fundamentals," McCarthy said.
He even took a veiled shot at Madden, the video game, not the coach.
"When you get too far from the fundamentals, you're losing focus on what's important. My biggest disappointment with our defense is our tackling," he said.
What about those padded practices, as in the ones that were bargained away in CBA negotiations?
"Padded practices are important. I've answered that question all year. We need to be a better tackling team next year," he said.
Yeah, but how? Additional coverage - Jan. 20