I'll start with the injuries from the game. Korey Hall with his knee sprain, he will be out this week. Atari Bigby with a groin strain, he will also be out this week. So with that I'll take your questions.
(Any update on Cullen Jenkins?)
Cullen Jenkins, just meeting with the medical staff, we really don't have a pulse on his situation. I was hopeful that he would be back this week. We're probably going to need the rest of the week to make a determination on his status, so I'm not sure. They couldn't give me any specifics.**
(How about Zombo, and how did the two guys do in his place?)
Frank Zombo, we'll take the same approach as we did last week. He'll be with the rehab group throughout the week and then Friday morning after his medical examination with Dr. McKenzie, we'll give him a chance Friday like we did last week. He had a setback on the field last week on Friday, and so we're going to take the same approach. As far as the outside linebacker performance, I thought Erik and I thought Robert, they played well. It was really an overall very good performance by our defense. Very sound and did the things that they were asked to do. I thought they played good solid football for us.
(Do you like the team's mindset right now?)
I like the mindset of our football team. I think this is clearly the most resilient team I've coached in my time here. Just the number of challenges that you face over the course of a season, and last week was no different. Had a big opponent that came in here, played at a high level, feel very good about it. But we have a seven-day process that starts today. A lot of confidence, a lot of guys in the weight room, a lot of people here watching film already, getting ready for the Chicago Bears. I like the heartbeat, I like the pulse. They're a fun group to coach, and we have a big one this week as everybody knows.
(What did you think of Clifton's performance?)
I thought Chad played very well. I thought our offensive line played very well as a whole. I thought Chad played one of his better games. He's been getting a lot of bull rush of late, and something that we worked exclusively all week. Chad has played a lot of football for us, and when you're a prime-time left tackle like he is, you have to step up to those challenges, and he has another one this week vs. Chicago.
(How did you like Bulaga on the other side?)
I thought Bryan, he played solid. He did a couple things that he'll learn from. He had a couple minuses. But Bryan is just going to continue to improve. He's tough, he battles. He's playing better in the run game. He probably played in my opinion against their best defensive player. That's definitely an experience that he can learn from and move forward. But we felt his performance was solid.
(There is a scenario where you can still get in the playoffs with a loss. Do you tell your team to avoid that?)
I'm focused on winning. I don't look at scenarios. I've been standing up here for two months, it's the same talk I give to my football team. We need to get to 10 wins, and until we get to 10 wins nothing else matters. That's where we stand. We're focused on win No. 10 against the Chicago Bears. Scenarios, I couldn't even tell you what they are. That's Jeff's job. I'm focused on winning games.
(How much importance do you place on time of possession?)
It's important. Statistics are important. Time of possession is an important statistic. Obviously the No. 1 key to a football game is to get the football. So if you have the football longer than the other team, that is important. That's an indication that you're doing things the right way. But then off of that comes all the different situations involved in the football game. But yeah definitely, time of possession is a variable that factors into winning games.
(Philosophically, how important is the play-action game to your offense and how well are you executing it right now?)
Well, philosophically I've always felt that you have two types, two categories in the way you throw the football, and 50 percent of it is action passing game and the other 50 percent is dropback. Now, that doesn't mean you go out and throw 20 passes and it's 10-10 each week. But when you install an offense, you have to have the ability to drop back and throw the football, but you also have to have the ability to have action that fits to your running game. So it's very important. These defenses in today's game are not as standard as they were 10, 15 years ago. Defenses today will overload you, whether it's based on if you're running the ball, they'll overload your formation, they'll overload you based on your protection. Defensive schemes in my opinion today are so much more aggressive, so you have to make sure that all your categories of your offensive concepts are clicking, and that's no different with play-action. Play-action is very important. But running the football is important. The attempts in the running game in my opinion is the most important, and you need to tie in another statistic of third down. Third-down conversions, which a lot of time leads to more running attempts. I think all those things are tied together.
(The last couple of weeks as you have been able to run the ball more frequently, you feel like the play-action game has been more effective?)
When we're running the football the way we've done it the last two weeks, and I'm talking clearly about attempts – I'd like to see our productivity improve in our run game – but when our attempts are where they have been the last couple weeks, that's the vision of the offense. The vision of the offense is not to go out and line up with five wide receivers for 35 snaps. That's not what we're trying to do here. I think sometimes that's what people try to say that's what we're trying to do here. I think the quarterbacks and receivers like to do that. But this is not a game of seven-on-seven. It's a game that starts at the line of scrimmage, and it's important to the success of the quarterback, which the system is ultimately built around, making him successful, that you need to run the ball.
(What is the biggest difference with Kuhn the last couple of weeks? Someone mentioned before that maybe his reps needed to be cut down.)
I think he's played his best football the last two weeks. You talk about game balls for the game, John Kuhn, he'll have a game ball for special teams and he'll also have a game ball on offense. I don't think we've had that in my time here. John's playing at a very high level. It's nothing to do with his reps. I think he's making the push like everybody else on our football team. He's one of our leaders. He's a tough guy and well-respected in the locker room, and he's really stepped to the forefront.
(Who gets the game ball on defense?)
The offensive game balls will be John Kuhn and Aaron Rodgers. Defensive game balls will be B.J. Raji and A.J. Hawk. The special teams game balls were John Kuhn and Brandon Underwood, and the big hit was Jarrett Bush. You got that before the players got it. I guess that would classify as a scoop, right? You say we don't ever give you anything in here.
(Where have you seen the improvement on third down?)
Well, third down, the first thing you need to look at is the categories that you're operating in. Probably No. 1, more favorable down and distances on third down. Third down usually starts with protection. I think we've been protecting the quarterback very well. I think Aaron has been playing at a very high level. Our third-down production, particularly early in the season, we had a number of interceptions and just didn't start the season the way we would have liked on third down. But since then I think we've really picked it up. It's a combination of those things.
(Your quarterback was coming off a concussion and he made that good run and could have challenged for the end zone and risked a collision. Instead he slid. What was your thought process there?)
I thought it was a smart play. He doesn't get paid to go head-first into collisions. I thought at the time in the game, the point in the game, it was a smart decision. Now, I'm not going to stand here and be naïve to the fact that if that was the fourth quarter and the situation was differently that he wouldn't go head first, and I would be fine with that. I'm just glad that this week he chose to slide.
(Can you talk about how the defense responded to the two quick touchdowns by the Giants?)
We had a series of plays there with the first one, and then we come right back there, it's 14-7 and take the drive right down the field, we had the fumble in the red zone, and they came back and took a shot with the go route over Tramon. I think that's healthy for you. It's healthy to stand here Monday morning after you had a significant win, you feel it's healthy. But that's the way football games go. (It's) more important how the sideline reacts in those types of situations, and no one blinked. We talked about just stay the course, pick each other up. We're going to hit some bumps in the road here, we're going to hit some red lights in the course of this game. Just keep playing, and I thought our guys did a great job of it.
(What did you learn from the first Bears game that you can take into this one?)
Penalties. I just watched it before I came in here and it made me sick, just to watch that game again and to feel that you came away on the short end of it. Clearly the penalties was the biggest factor in the outcome of the game, and there is no way around it. Whether you agree with how many penalties were called or so forth. We had a touchdown taken off the board, we had interceptions taken back, so penalties really affected us in that game. Since then we have been very disciplined. We emphasize it every week and it's important for us to be the most disciplined team when we play here Sunday at 3:15.
(When you look at Devin Hester and their return scheme, is that tough to simulate in practice?)
Devin Hester, I think he is a special player. Frankly he may be the best player on their football team. Every time he touches the ball, he is a threat to score and that's the way you need to approach it when you game-plan for him. He is dynamic and I think he is playing as well as he ever has in his time there. I know he was banged up last year, but he is playing very well.
(How much more comfortable are you with Masthay now compared to Week 3?)
I think it's obvious. I think Tim has improved throughout the season. He has an opportunity to break the net-punt record here in Green Bay. I think that in itself says a lot about a young man that is punting in this climate, this stadium for the first time. He has definitely improved. I thought the punt that he hit there yesterday in the third or fourth quarter that changed the field position was a big key for us because it was still I think a one-score game at the time. I think he is doing very well, but more important he is improving.
(When you play a team that plays Cover-2, what do you have to do on offense?)
It's not that simple. If they play Cover-2, you run the ball. If it was as easy as that this game would be a lot easier. When they play Cover-2 they have things built into their line for the run game. It really comes down to fundamentals. They do a very good job of playing defense on time. Their line and the way they are coached, the line rush is tied into the coverage. They are a veteran defense. Just watching them like I said before I came down here, they have been playing with the same group all year. So they are playing with a lot of continuity and they are playing with a lot of confidence. They are flying around. They play with excellent vision to the football. Cover-2 is the starting point of that. All of the eyes are on the ball and that leads to how many takeaways they have. And they have been doing it a long time. They have a really good understanding. It is important for you to be smart during the course of the game. You may get them once or twice on a concept, but the recognition of what you are doing is very good. They have got veteran players and they are all on the same page.
(How do you think you have been against Cover-2? Have you gotten better?)
Well, there are different forms of Cover-2. The Cover-2 that we'll see this week is different than what we played against this past week. There is Tampa-2, there is Traditional-2, there is 2-Man, there is 2-Trap, there is corners over 2. It comes in all different forms and fashions. It's really how you utilize your formations and the matchups you can create within their scheme. It's not the dreaded Cover-2 game, but they play their scheme very well. They have done it for a long time. The veteran leadership that they have on their defense, they do a very good job dissecting what you are trying to do to them.
(How much help did you give Bulaga yesterday?)
When you don't line up a guy right next to him, that doesn't mean he is not getting help. There is different ways of getting a tight end help, based on the time clock of the play, all of those different factors, the surface you are playing on. We were very aware who Bryan was blocking in the game yesterday, and we had a number of help components if needed. But I can't sit here and tell you exactly how many times we went over and chipped Justin Tuck or how many times we had to back set to him and so forth. That was definitely a matchup that we went into the game and wanted to keep an eye on, and I thought Bryan did a good job.
(All told, did you feel like the pass blocking was where you wanted it?)
They had one sack. They had a couple of pressures, a couple of hits. We moved the ball up and down the field. I don't know if you are looking for the one negative story of the week. We were very productive on offense yesterday and Bryan was part of that, and he'll improve from his performance. I think anytime as a young player you have a chance to play against someone like Justin Tuck, that's something you can carry forward and I know he will do that.
(Are you glad the game wasn't moved to Sunday night?)
Night games, I understand what they are for. Frankly I didn't want to play in the night game for our fans. A night game here, I think it's a little different than a night game down in New Orleans or Tampa Bay. I think 3:15 is fine. I'm more concerned about our fans, so I'm glad we didn't get moved into the night game.
* (Are there certain things you have come to expect from a Lovie Smith-coached team?)*
Yeah, his approach is very similar week in and week out. I think that speaks to his consistency and his approach as a football coach. They are very fundamentally sound. They don't change to change. You can see that just in the way they play defense and the way they play special teams. Now they have gone with a different offensive system and they have improved a lot from the first time we saw them until now. I think it was just evident yesterday in the Jets game for the point production that they were able to generate I think only on 54 or 55 plays. They are a very consistent football team.
(What is your thought process with Starks? He kind of burst on the scene against San Francisco.)
He needs to compete to get on the 45. His situation has been exactly the same the last two weeks. James Starks and Dimitri Nance compete for that fifth spot as a running back and as a special-teams player, and Dimitri is just ahead of him right now. He needs to do a better job throughout the week in preparation and in practice. Until he gets that done, he won't be on the 45.
(Is special teams the big thing since Nance does a lot there?)
Yeah, I think I just said that, the factor of the running back position and special teams. When you are not a starter, if you don't play all three downs as a starter on offense or defense, you have special-teams responsibilities. You can't give lip service to special teams. We have had so much change on special teams. We are trying to have some sense of continuity and consistency on our special teams, and we need for the younger players to play better and be more accountable and detailed when they get an opportunity. He needs to do a better job in that area.
(I understand you have to get the 10th win, but does the possibility that you could play Chicago the next week again enter into your thought process or is it a different situation from last year?)
I think it is totally different. I think it is a totally different situation. We could play doubleheaders any week based on how much scheme we take into a game. If we need to play Chicago, we could just fly right now to Chicago and play them Sunday night too if we had to. We're not holding anything back.