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Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 17

OK, I'll start with the two significant injuries from the game. Korey Hall had a hip strain. He may be a couple weeks. And Ryan Pickett had a groin strain. He'll be day to day. With that I'll take your questions.

(How do you handle playing time for the veterans now that you have the first-round bye, or has your thinking changed because of what happened with Dallas yesterday?)

Well, we've got two teams that are 12-2. We're playing for home-field advantage, and that will be our focus. But with that, we have been playing pretty much almost everybody at most of our positions and we'll continue with that mindset.

(Are you in a better situation if you do get into an area where you can rest players, because so many guys have gained experience?)

Absolutely. I think it's important for any football team to be operating on all cylinders. We have competitive situations at a number of positions. The game of football in today's NFL is such an emphasis on different situations, it helps you to have flexibility to get in and out of the personnel groups and to be playing potential backup players in starting positions. It helps you in times when injuries do occur and it's something that we feel is a strength of our football team with our 53-man roster.

(If Hall is out a couple of weeks, are you inclined to keep him on the roster?)

I think we're fine there. It's a little bit of a different muscle strain. I'm confident that he'll be on the roster as we move through the playoffs.

(Who's the backup fullback now?)

That's not a primary concern of mine because of the flexibility we have with our tight ends. I feel one of the strengths of our system on offense is the ability to be a two-back team in formations for a one-back team, and vice-versa, to be in one-back personnel groups and play two-back concepts. I think we'll be OK there.

(The injury decisions you made on Nov. 29, some coaches would have done things differently. Did you have an inkling with four games left that things might still go your way?)

I'm not going to stand here and tell you I knew the Dallas Cowboys were going to lose a football game. That was not the mindset at that time as far as playing Charles Woodson or Kabeer. It was clearly a medical decision in line with our long-term plan as far as getting ready for the playoffs. It's amazing how much the playoff picture changes week to week. It goes on every year, and when you get down to the last three or four weeks, it's happening now again in the NFC. We just focus on winning the next game but keeping your eye on the big target, and that's to make sure our team is at full strength, to try to put us in position to be full strength, as we move into the playoffs, and we've never wavered from that.

(If you didn't have an opportunity for home field, would you handle Brett differently?)

Those are all options, those are all things we talk about in the meetings. We're pretty organized as far as Monday, we have our post-game meetings, and then we get the medical report, and we'll talk again tonight on a one-on-one basis with the coordinators, and then the coordinators will get together tomorrow. Those are all weekly discussions.

(Will Harrell have to play with a cast on his hand?)

I don't know if he's going to have to play with a cast. He had an injury to his thumb, the tip of his thumb. I'm not sure if it's going to be casted or wrapped. That's something I think through the week of practice will be determined.

(Will you get Collins back this week?)

We were just being smart with Nick. He had some low back pain. He could have finished the game, actually was disappointed when he came out of the game. I think Nick will be fine.

(How do you like that threesome at safety - Bigby, Rouse and Collins?)

I like all four of them. I like Charlie Peprah too. I think Charlie has played well when he's been given his opportunities earlier in the year, and had a great performance on special teams yesterday. Aaron Rouse played very well on special teams. Had a big hit on the opening kickoff and has done well with his opportunities of late at safety. I think the safety position, the corner position, our defensive line position, that's what you want your team to look like. It's competitive. It makes the guys in front of them play better. It's always good when other players are pushing each other, and it gives you flexibility because unfortunately injuries do happen.

(How did Harrell play in the game, and did you hold your breath when he came off the field considering the injuries you've had at that position?)

Well, he went off the field after an offsides, so I had a pretty good inkling it wasn't a very serious injury. I was a little more concerned about the offsides. Actually, he graded out well. He played much better this week than he did last week, and that's what you want to see from your younger players that just need experience. He's a perfect example of that. I thought he played well, graded out well.

(How big a deal do you make playing for home field in talking to the players this week?)

I'm going to make a big deal out of beating the Chicago Bears, and everything else comes off of that. I think it's important to stay focused on the immediate target, because (if you don't) that's how you set yourself up for not playing your best football. I wasn't particularly happy with the way we started the St. Louis game. So we will be focused on the Chicago Bears. 13-2 is important. And we'll see what Dallas does Saturday night. I know they play down at Carolina. Those are all things to watch. But this is a rival game. There's a lot of emotion. The importance of this game is very evident. It's probably the best rival football game in the National Football League, and we need to be 13-2 when we come back from Chicago.

(What did you see on Brett's two interceptions? On the second one, should Jennings have fought for it a little bit more?)

I thought that during the game, but after watching the film, I could see I think Greg didn't have a very good view of the ball early enough. Really, both of Brett's decisions were just minus throws. The first one was short, and the second one the safety was tilted all the way over to Greg. They went down as minus throws.

(So the decision was OK but the throw ...)

The decision could have been better on the second one. We're not going to go through all of this. You can really cut these things. When you get one-on-one in that particular play, when you have individual cuts on the outside with a seven-man protection, there are options involved and they vary based on game plan and match-ups. The decision part of it is fine, they were graded as minus throws.

(The balls were too far inside?)

Not close enough to the receiver.

(Did you leave a lot of points on the field yesterday considering the field position you had?)

Absolutely. I tell you, it was the most dominant game that I've been a part of on either side of the ball from special teams. I thought our special teams was tremendous. You talk about a group that came ready to play. Actually we gave the game ball to the whole special teams group. It started on the first kickoff, and to have 363 yards of field position, I think that in itself tells you what kind of day you potentially could have had on offense. When you win by 19 points and you're frustrated, I think you need to look in the mirror, but that's what you do as coaches. You have a chance to come in here today and grade the film. We didn't play very well in segments offensively, but we did have an opportunity to score a lot more points in that game.

(The touchdown to Jennings, was that an example of something being set up earlier in the game? I recall a zero blitz they sent earlier when Brett threw underneath to Driver.)

They're very similar plays. The one where he threw underneath, actually Greg was matched on Witherspoon down the middle of the field there early. It's a similar play concept, but they're in a little different blitz, but really the same concept. Really what they did is their secondary, some people call it Iowa, it's an in-and-out concept where they tried to bracket both Greg and Donald, and they both bracketed the wrong guy, and that's why Greg was able to come clean. It's just really good recognition on Brett. But I wouldn't say the earlier play set it up, because that's really their staple pressure, particularly in that situation. We call it 22 dog zone, they trap with the corners and they match with the inside coverage element. It's just good recognition by Brett.

{sportsad300}(Did you express to Bob Sanders that you wanted to get more pressure with blitzes?)

Get more pressure? Well, I never mentioned it. It was you that mentioned it. You wrote about it. I'm fine with the pass rush. Our pass rush wasn't the best against Dallas, but I was fine with the pass rush last week against Oakland, especially for the type of game that they played. But as far as the pressure, those are game-plan decisions. I don't ever want to walk into Bob's office and say hey, I want you to be 35 percent pressure. The only thing that I participate in game-planning is volume. What are you practicing and what are you using? Because in my opinion I've made those mistakes as a coordinator. I've carried extra plays and concepts trying to cover every situation, and when you do that you can be heavy in volume, and just because it's a base blitz or a base pass that you've run so much in training camp, if you don't practice it during the course of the week, the execution level is probably not going to be what you would like. So the only discussions I ever have with Bob are about volume.

(What do you call that 3-3 nickel? Is that Frisco?)

Yes. Is that a good buzzword for you or what? That's good, you're paying attention.

(Is that something you'd like to do more of? Does it give you more options?)

It's a situational defense. I think it's a defense that has a lot of flexibility because you have playmakers, putting the linebacker type on the field. It challenges the offense from a declaration, identity standpoint, of who's potentially the fourth rusher. You can change the front, whether you cover both the guards or keep both guards uncovered, get to a four-man line. It gives a lot of flexibility where a team either has to either block the look or are they going to block the match-up. It's a defense that's popular in the National Football League, and I think it gives us flexibility to use our three linebackers who as far as the St. Louis game, I thought they played tremendous. They do have the ability to rush the passer. It just gives us that flexibility.

(Do you think Koren is getting his football legs?)

I think Koren has improved over the last couple of weeks. I think he's comfortable now with the blocking in the return game. I thought our return game was excellent as far as the blocking, and he just shows you his big-play ability with the ball in his hands. I definitely think he's improved and probably need to get him more involved in the offense.

(Is that almost like adding a player, getting a guy who gives you a lift when maybe you don't expect it?)

I think anytime one of your players on the 53 takes his level of performance to another level, it gives you a lift. Will Blackmon is another good example of that. He was injured earlier in the year and now he's had an opportunity to make some plays on special teams. I think Koren definitely falls into that category. Ryan Grant is another great example. It's nice when the players from within are improving, and that's really what we feel is one of the foundations of our success this year with our players, particularly improving from Year 1 to Year 2.

(How did the interior line grade out with all the twists and stuff?)

Just OK. I thought the protection part of it, they did a great job of the pressure recognition, declarations. I don't think we were fooled one time. I thought the communication was outstanding on the boundary as far as what they were trying to do, who's bluffing and picking up the disguise and so forth. I thought they did a very good job of that. The run-blocking unit as a whole, it wasn't our best day. We weren't as productive as we would have liked to have been in the run game. But I thought their performance was OK.

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