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Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 19

(At 12-2 and with only four Pro Bowl players, are you shocked by the voting?)

Shocked? I wouldn't say I was shocked. Let me just say this, the Pro Bowl is something positive. It's a reflection of your football team. You have individuals being honored. We had four, some will go as starters. You look at the other, we have 10 individuals as alternates. I look at that as a positive. Am I surprised that a couple guys didn't make it? I would definitely say yes. If you look at Charles Woodson, I've had conversations with national media about him being a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. So he doesn't go to the Pro Bowl, you can question that. I think Nick Barnett has played outstanding in our two years together. Chad Clifton, if you've ever had to play without a top-notch left tackle then you would probably appreciate Chad more. We have individuals like that. It is a bit disappointing. But once again, the Pro Bowl is something positive. You have to be happy for the four guys that did make it. To have 10 alternates shows the progress we've made from Year 1 to Year 2.

(At some level can you use this as motivation?)

Who am I going to blame it on? I can't control the process.

(Other coaches and players vote, so they obviously didn't think as highly of your players as maybe they should have.)

It's definitely an angle you can take. It's one that I won't spend a lot of time with personally. We're thankful that we have four that will go. We're also appreciative having 10 other individuals on our football team recognized. I think it speaks volumes about our team. Would we like to have more? No doubt about it. I can't control the process. This unfortunately goes on around the league. Probably a lot of teams are disappointed that they didn't have more guys. To sit here and take it out on the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, to me, that's false motivation. We're worried about the things that we can control; that's preparing to beat Chicago.

(What kind of season has Nick Barnett had, and could you argue he's your defensive MVP?)

Clearly I think Nick Barnett has had an outstanding season. He plays within the scheme, very disciplined. He makes a lot of plays. I can't say enough positive things about Nick. You can make the case that he's the most consistent player on our defense also. He puts up the numbers week in and week out. I love the energy that he brings to practice. Nick Barnett is a big part of our success on defense.

(The Bears game last year, was that when you felt this team had turned the corner to Year 2?)

I would say it really started for me in San Francisco. I felt our football team really came together that day. You're trying to get your team to compete in all three phases. We had some positive games but we were so up and down, I felt, throughout the first 12 games. San Francisco to me, that's what our football team was supposed to look like. That's the way we were coached. We were still practicing at a high level that late in the season and we carried that through the final four games. We didn't particularly play very well on offense in a couple of those wins, against Detroit and Minnesota. But San Francisco and Chicago were games that I really felt like we'd turned the corner.

(What would you like to shore up heading into the playoffs?)

The only thing that I'm really concerned about is the momentum of our football team. Raising our level of play is the thing that we can control. We're focused on beating Chicago. It's a rival game. More importantly, we want to go down there and play very well. We have Chicago and Detroit left and the momentum that we carry into the playoffs is definitely a focus for us. We can control that. We can't control what Dallas does or what anybody else does and their remaining games. I've said it all along, we'll play anybody anywhere, at Lambeau or wherever we need to go if we have to. As long as we're playing good football, we'll be confident.

(Not kicking to Hester in the first game, how did you feel about that strategy?)

I was comfortable with it.

(But after the game you said you lost about 200 yards in field position.)

We were minus-200 yards of field position. I think there are some things that we could do better. But we could also do better on offense with the turnovers. They hit some big plays on us on defense. I didn't think it was a bad game. He's clearly a weapon. He can score from anywhere on the field. If you have an opportunity to take that away, it's no different than game-planning against a quarterback or big-time receiver. The thought process was good.

(Last year your team was trying to finish respectable and the roles are kind of reversed now. How does that happen?)

I disagree. We were fighting. Almost up until that game we were still in the playoffs, we got knocked out the night before. Our week of preparation we felt like we still had a chance at the playoffs. With the Giants game the night before, it was resolved. With it being a rival game, by no means do I think the roles are reversed because that was an important game for us. I would like to have taken our football team into the playoffs. I said that before. We were playing good football. I can't speak for where they're at mentally. Maybe it is more similar. Maybe your point is accurate. I just look at it differently because we are 12-2 and we are focused on playing our best week of football. That's worked for us throughout the year and that's the direction that we'll go as we head down to Chicago.

(How do teams fortunes change so much?)

I think it speaks volumes about the National Football League. This isn't the first time it's happened. You've seen it happen over the last five to 10 years where there are swings from one year to the next. You can call it parity. Some of it is being fortunate with the health of your football team. They've had a number of situations. Confidence is huge. Winning at the beginning of the year, that's our emphasis of starting fast. That's really helped us. We found ways to win games in the beginning of the year and our confidence grew as we improved as a football team. I think those are all factors.

(Are you looking at signing Corey White to the active roster?)

That's something that we'll consider. I think Corey has done a very good job throughout the season. If we were in need at that position, I would feel comfortable with Corey on the 53.

(How much better do you think you are now versus the last time you played the Bears?)

I thought we were playing pretty good football the first time. The first half was about as well as we played on offense if you take away the two turnovers. We just weren't very productive in terms of points. The special teams was OK. The game plan, the way we approached it, had more to do with that, and the defense was playing well. We're doing some things better at this time of year than we were earlier in the year. I think it's a game where the records don't mean much. I think it's irrelevant. Our players are very excited to play this football game, period.

{sportsad300}(You seem to struggle with the screens to the running backs. Any reason?)

I think anytime you have a certain concept, or particular play concept that hasn't gone the way you like, going through the ones that happened in the last game, we had the one where Ryan Grant fumbled, it was an odd look. The play was designed to fake into pressure and then throw the screen away from it. That's exactly what happened. They brought the blitz off the slot. We faked into it. Donald Lee picked it up. But they did not have a flat defender. Technically Chillar should have been in the flat. So he hugs up and plays it the way he does, and Jason is put in a position, it's an odd look. It's not the standard operation that you'd expect out of a defense. It's not an excuse. It's the reality of what happened. Ryan got too deep in the lines and the mechanics weren't exactly right. When you have things like that you really have to look at it factual. It's easier to go through our self-scout, which we do every week, and say, 'Screens are not very good. We're terrible there.' It doesn't work that way. That's why we practice. There are things in the screen area that we can clean up, that we can improve on. We've been effective with the screens. I'm not concerned about it. I'm not going to stop calling them. I'm not going to change the way we coach them. I'm not going to change the way we practice them. We have a screen and deceptive period every week on Thursday. We used to do it twice a week. There are some things on Wednesday that we're emphasizing more that we don't do the screen and deceptions versus the defense. I think the practice time allocated to that particular phase gives us the opportunity to be better at that. We just have to do a better job.

(The first Bears game when Jones had the two fumbles, you acted very decisively with him. Did that set a tone for him and the rest of the team?)

I don't think so. I think it had more to do with the situation. To me, pulling James at that particular time was not the fact that he fumbled the ball. It was the technique. When you fumble the football you have to look at what happened. It's no different than Ryan Grant's fumble. When you're carrying the football and you're hit from the side unexpectedly and the hat is put on the ball, that's different than a guy catching the ball and holding the ball down around his waist. There's a reason that we say high and tight. We practice it every day. Everybody sees the practice segment that we go through. It was more a reaction to the technique used at that particular time. Those are two big plays in the first half that had a chance to change the course of that game.

(Is it pure silliness to kick to Hester, or if you have confidence in your coverage units is it something you can realistically do?)

We have confidence in our coverage unit to answer your question. Talking about Devin Hester and how we're going to run the football, those are all game-plan decisions. I'm not going to discuss it.

(I was just wondering as a general idea.)

Generally, we're not going to discuss it.

(Using so many different quarterbacks over a period of time, like the Bears have, compared to here, how big a difference does that make?)

It definitely gives you an advantage. When you have the same quarterback playing for you for (16) years and he's the No. 1 quarterback in the history of the league in wins, there's a direct correlation with that statistic. You have the opportunity to have continuity. You're able to build from year to year, change course with your offense based on other personnel. It gives you tremendous flexibility. I go back to continuity, just to have the same quarterback play. I hope it happens again. I told Aaron, 'If you just give us 15 it will be OK.' It's definitely an advantage and I think the statistics support that.

(What are Aaron's chances this week? Bubba's?)

Aaron's getting better. Big picture, I don't know if it would be smart to play him this week. It's something we'll discuss again next week. The playoff run is our big picture focus. Bubba had a better day today. I know I've said that on a couple Wednesdays. We'll give him the week to try to get ready. I'm hopeful he can go but I'm not sure.

(Can you talk about the importance of John Kuhn's role this week?)

John Kuhn has been a very good player for us, a consistent player on special teams. He will start at the fullback position. Korey Hall will be out. John has been playing more and more. We've been giving him more reps over the last three or four weeks. We're very confident in John's ability. We don't look to change or tailor anything just for him.

(Did Pickett do much today?)

Ryan feels a lot better today. Big picture-wise we're going to be smart with him. He's chomping at the bit to get back in there. We'll take the week to see where he is.

(If you decide to play it safe with him, would Harrell be given a chance to start?)

Justin Harrell would probably start if Ryan didn't play.

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