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Home Struggles Must End Sunday


Head Coach Mike McCarthy has said it repeatedly this week. He doesn't know the specific reasons for the Packers' 1-5 record at Lambeau Field this season, and he doesn't care.

What he does care about is simply getting another home win this week against the Detroit Lions. And he's not into trying some off-the-wall pre-game routine, because that will have nothing to do with what goes on between noon and 3 p.m. on Sunday.

"We've talked about all the potential distractions, reasons, but frankly we need to play better," McCarthy said.

The potential reasons for the home struggles are numerous. Maybe the players have taken home-field advantage, an undeniable trait when the Packers won 61 of 70 games at Lambeau from 1995 through 2002, for granted. Or they're trying too hard to live up to that lofty home record, and the pressure to play at that level at home has worked against them.

Certainly the competition at home has had something to do with the struggles. Green Bay's five home losses have come to three division leaders (the 11-2 Bears, 9-4 Saints and 9-4 Patriots), one wild-card contender in the loaded AFC (the 7-6 Jets), and one team that was hot when it came to town (the Rams, who were 4-1 after beating Green Bay before their season went south).

But no one wants to hear that, either, particularly the veteran players who have lost 12 of their last 16 games at Lambeau.

"There are many excuses you can try to make, but we're not about excuses," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "There really is no excuse. We're playing at home, we have to win games here."

"I look at it as it's been a tradition here," receiver Donald Driver said. "When I first came in here in 99, that's the first thing these guys let me know, that you don't lose at home. Maybe it's because we have a young team and they don't know the tradition behind it. You really don't know, but to me, it's something I cherish a lot and I feel like we've got to get it back."

The Lions would seem to be the perfect opponent for trying to turn things around. They're not only 2-11, but 0-6 on the road and a team the Packers beat earlier this season, 31-24 in Detroit on Sept. 24. Two of their best players who had a significant impact in the first meeting, defensive tackle Shaun Rogers and running back Kevin Jones, have suffered season-ending injuries since then.

But the Packers are in no position to take anything for granted, and they won't. They see an opponent that battled them to a last-second Hail Mary three months ago. That was one of Detroit's seven losses by a touchdown or less.

They also see a team that two weeks ago, on the road, led New England -- a team that came to Lambeau and blanked the Packers 35-0 -- by a score of 21-13 in the fourth quarter before three late turnovers did them in.

McCarthy noted after watching film of the Lions that they force a lot of fumbles, don't surrender a lot of big plays, and make opposing teams play hard to the end.

"They've been in a lot of games, they've lost numerous games by seven or less," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "They have a bunch of talent on their team and sometimes things aren't clicking one way or the other, but we don't look at it (different than) any other game and we're going to have to play our best to win."

{sportsad300}That's what's certainly been missing at Lambeau Field this season, the Packers' best. They played perhaps their most complete game of the season in a 31-14 win over Arizona at home on Oct. 29, but they've only been able to duplicate that type of effort on the road thus far.

"It definitely bugs us a lot," Barnett said. "We want to win at home. That's the best type of win you can get is at home, in front of your fans, in front of your family.

"The cheering, the intensity and the excitement when you're winning at home, it can't be matched."

The players don't blame the fans for some of the boos that have rained down in the last two home defeats. Many have said they would have booed too.

But they realize it's up to them to change that, and they know if they hold up their end of the bargain, the fans will too.

"We have to get our fans to be energetic, we have to give them something to cheer for," defensive tackle Colin Cole said. "If we can get some momentum from our fans, we feed off our fans and our fans feed off us. Everything will go great, we'll have a nice upbeat tempo. The fans help a lot, trust me."

Home wins would help a lot, too.

"We're very anxious," Hawk said. "Like we talk about all the time, we need to use this home-field advantage. We need to use the fans for us. The fans want us to win and they deserve for us to come in and win."

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