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Day-After Notes: Special Teams Must Rebound

After two weeks of solid, productive efforts, the Green Bay Packers’ special teams units were outplayed by the Chicago Bears’ on Monday night, and getting that phase of the game back on track will be one of the team’s top priorities during this short preparation week heading into Sunday’s home game vs. Detroit.


The Packers had done an admirable job containing return men such as Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson and Buffalo's C.J. Spiller and Roscoe Parrish through the season's first two games, but Chicago's Devin Hester burned Green Bay with a 28-yard punt return that set up one touchdown and a 62-yard return for another score in the fourth quarter.

Those big plays on special teams, along with a blocked field goal, a kickoff that went out of bounds, a penalty on kickoff coverage, and another penalty on punt return all played a part in Green Bay's 20-17 loss.

"If you look at the past games against the Chicago Bears, the team that made the big play in special teams directly factored in the outcome of the game, and that was a key focus of ours," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday. "We obviously didn't accomplish that."

On the heels of the Packers' struggles on special teams the past couple of seasons, the lingering question is whether the performance against the Bears was a hiccup in the efforts to improve the units, or a regression to the sub-par efforts of the past.

It's up to the players to determine that, beginning this week. McCarthy said the onus is on the coaching staff to navigate the team's injury situation better and make sure the players who are going to be on the special teams units during the game are the ones taking the snaps in practice.

"We need to take this opportunity and we'll stay after the fundamental focus," McCarthy said. "That's not going to change.

"We were challenged last week with all of the different players in and out on the depth chart. Every team goes through it. Special teams is the first group that is always hit. Hopefully we can do a better job of getting players repped at the positions they are going to be playing in games. That's one thing that looking back on the week's work that we discussed as a staff this week that I didn't think we hit the mark on."

Getting what they can
Despite the lack of a consistent ground attack against the Bears, McCarthy defended the play of running backs Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn, taking into consideration their yardage gained on short passes.

Jackson and Kuhn combined for just 43 rushing yards, with Kuhn getting 31. But they also combined for 47 receiving yards. That's a total of 90 yards from the backs on 19 touches (13 rushes, six receptions), slightly more yardage than the backs, including fullback Quinn Johnson, had the previous week against Buffalo (86; 65 rushing, 21 receiving).

"I thought the running back production was a positive in the game," McCarthy said.

"I think our staff has done a very good job from a game-planning standpoint of using those two on the different packages, and we'll continue to go with that format as we move forward."

Not looking back
McCarthy indicated he didn't necessarily agree with the pass interference penalty called late in the game on rookie safety Morgan Burnett that set up the Bears' game-winning field goal, saying there should have been a "50-50 right to the football," given the position the players were in.

But he wasn't going to get into a lengthy debate about the merits of certain calls in the game versus others, because little good can come of it.

"You get into judgment calls, you are banging your head against the wall," McCarthy said.

Similarly, he wasn't going to spend much time revisiting his decision at the end of the game to try to stop the Bears and either get a turnover or block the field goal, rather than let them score a touchdown and give quarterback Aaron Rodgers some time to drive for a potential tying TD the other way.

"That was definitely an option to let them score, and it is part of your game-management call sheet," he said. "But I can't look back on it."

Injury update
One new injury McCarthy reported on Tuesday was a shoulder strain for linebacker Brandon Chillar. He expects Chillar, as well as safety Nick Collins (knee sprain) to miss some practice time this week.

Left tackle Chad Clifton (knee) also is expected to be limited in practice, though McCarthy said he didn't have an exact practice plan in place yet for Clifton and his backup, rookie Bryan Bulaga. He reiterated that Clifton is the starting left tackle as long as he's medically ready to play.

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