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McCarthy: ‘They’re fighting, they’re playing hard’

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GREEN BAY – For all the struggles and frustrations the Packers are going through as the season turns to its final month, Head Coach Mike McCarthy is not attributing the results to any lack of effort or focus.

“I think our team has done a really good job keeping our eye on the target,” McCarthy said on Monday, a little more than 12 hours after a loss at Minnesota dropped the Packers to 4-6-1. “They’re fighting, they’re playing hard. They’re giving us everything they’ve got.

“As a coaching staff, we need to keep giving them everything we’ve got. We need to coach better and we need to play better. Those are the things we’re talking about.”

The Packers certainly are banged up, with more injuries added to the list against the Vikings. Offensive linemen David Bakhtiari (knee) and Lane Taylor (quad) left the game, as did returner Trevor Davis (hamstring), safety Kentrell Brice (ankle, concussion evaluation) and receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (forearm). St. Brown was the only one to finish the game.

McCarthy didn’t have any injury updates, other than to say Bakhtiari has “a couple things going on.” The goal is to have as good a read as possible on the injured players by the end of the day Tuesday so the plan for this week’s game against Arizona can be set when the players begin preparation on Wednesday.

Heading into the Minnesota game, front-line players such as receiver Randall Cobb and cornerbacks Kevin King and Bashaud Breeland were all questionable but did not play.

“We’re focused on beating the Cardinals,” McCarthy said. “The most important video we watch each and every week is our last game. That’s our big picture.”

All the player shuffling due to injuries hasn’t helped the team develop much consistency, but McCarthy feels that aspect has been handled fine.

The greater challenge has been reacting effectively, on offense in particular, to the way opponents have changed up their plans mid-game. The Packers have scored just six points on two field goals after halftime in each of the last two contests after putting up a total of 35 points in the first halves.

“You look at the last couple games, the second half, the way defenses have played us, we just haven’t handled it well,” McCarthy said. “(In Minnesota) that was a four-man rush, coverage game, no different than (what) Seattle and New England went to in the second half.

“Our focus clearly for improving on offense is third down. We’re just not where we need to be there.”

McCarthy was pleased with how the Packers ran the ball against a stout Vikings run defense, aside from the back-to-back failures on third- and fourth-and-1 in the third quarter that loomed large.

Even including those two stops, he noted Green Bay’s 4.3 yards per carry was the highest against Minnesota playing at home in two years. He also pointed out the Packers “won” on almost two-thirds of the run downs.

“You have to build off those things,” McCarthy said. “If our third down improves, we’re clearly a touchdown or so better a game.”

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