GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy steeled himself against a barrage of questions, all of which sought an answer to the burning question: What's wrong with the offense?
"It's football. This is a tough game. It's not easy. If we spoiled you in the past, that's great. We look forward to spoiling you in the future," McCarthy said following an 18-16 loss to the Lions at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
It marked the Packers' third consecutive loss, all of which have been punctuated by an inability to move the ball, convert third down and score points with any consistency. This loss was especially difficult to accept for several reasons:
- It was at home.
- In the division.
- It immediately dropped the Packers out of first place and threatened their hold on the NFC North.
- A chance to win was spoiled by a missed field goal attempt.
- The Packers offense, once a seemingly unstoppable machine, sputtered again, resulting in nine punts and five three-and-out possessions.
At 6-3 and facing a game in Minnesota that'll go a long way toward deciding the NFC North title race, McCarthy was not in the mood to start calling out his players. The Packers head coach remained firm in his resolve to fix what's wrong with his team.
"I don't correct players in the media. We're not as efficient in our passing game. We need to keep working on it," he said following another media probe.
What's wrong with the Packers offense? It's been a month-long question that became an interrogation on Sunday. Everybody wants answers. They remain a mystery.
"Very disappointing, tough, hard-fought loss at home. It never feels right to lose, especially at Lambeau. These division games are always the hardest to win. We had a chance to win at the end and didn't convert. Started fast and struggled with rhythm. We made the plays in the fourth quarter to get down there," McCarthy said in volunteering his assessment to begin his postgame press conference.
For most of the fourth quarter, the Packers trailed the Lions, 12-3. With 5:55 to play, the Packers pulled to within 12-10. With 1:57 to play, the Packers trailed, 18-10, after Lions kicker Matt Prater missed his second extra-point kick attempt of the day. With :32 to play, the Packers failed to complete a two-point conversion pass that would've tied the game. On the final play of the game, following an onside kick recovery and a couple of pass completions, Mason Crosby's 52-yard field goal attempt fell short of its mark.
All of a sudden, the 6-0 Packers are 6-3, and the team's fans are stunned by the team's inexplicable failure to move the ball. Who is this team wearing green and gold?
"The humility of losing is hard to swallow. We dropped one today we felt we had a very good chance to win," McCarthy said.
"We're going to focus on getting better. We had a very good week of preparation. We need to get ready for Minnesota," he added.
McCarthy said all the right things, but the media's questions pounded away at him. All of them were aimed at one target: What's wrong with the Packers?
The big question was: Are you considering taking back the play-calling duties?
"I don't think it's that simple. The way you play, fundamentals and so forth … I like the way our staff works and the way it works with the players," McCarthy said.
The likely translation is McCarthy doesn't intend to re-install himself as the team's play-caller, but it could become a daily question.
"When your team prepares well and doesn't play as well as you'd like, that's tough to watch. We've won close division games over the years. We dropped one here at Lambeau," he added. "We need to keep working and fight our way out of it. Keep things in perspective. That's how we're going to approach it."