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Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Nov. 17

(Did you come out OK medically?)

Yes, we came out fairly healthy just from the medical report standpoint. Nick Barnett will have his surgery on Thursday. Donald Driver, he's just a little banged up with some bruises. He'll probably miss practice, just maybe Wednesday. That's really about it.

(How are you doing medically? You sound sick.)

Good. Just got a sore throat.

(Does Driver have some sort of turf toe thing? They mentioned it on the TV broadcast.)

Donald has some little things, he has a number of things, and I think it's like a lot of players. He has some things he deals with during the course of the week, but it's nothing where he's missed any practice time. That's probably why I'm going to give him a day this week to get back healthy.

(How do you look at where things stand in the division?)

Well, we're tied obviously with Chicago and Minnesota. When you start the season, everybody's tied, and we're 10 games into it, and we're tied. It's really a six-game season. I'm really just focused on what we've been focused on all the way through. We make sure we improve this week, get everybody healthy, and get ready for a Monday night game in New Orleans. We have a tough challenge in our six weeks because we have two Monday Night Football games, so we're dealing with short weeks coming off of Monday night games both on major holidays, with New Orleans followed by Thanksgiving and Chicago followed by Christmas. So those are all things you have to deal with from a scheduling standpoint. But I like the framework of our football team. I like the mindset. I thought we played good football the past month. We weren't successful as far as in the win column, but I think we were able to go out and play strong in all three areas and put together the performance we had against Chicago, and that will be our goal each week from a level of execution. If we're able to play that way week in, week out, we like where we'll be at the end.

(When you score a defensive touchdown, what does that do to your sideline, or to an opposing offense?)

A defensive touchdown or a special teams touchdown, they're just huge momentum swings in the football game. Having seven this year is just a credit to the players and the extra time that they've put in, particularly in our practice structure. We emphasize it all the time, and you can just see the urgency and aggressiveness of our coverage units on special teams and defensively, when they do have an opportunity to get their hands on the ball. And we're finding the end zone, too, which is exciting. But it's definitely a big lift for you football team.

(Have you studied statistically how scoring on defense improves your chances to win?)

I don't have to study it. I know it helps our chances when you score on defense. I think the record is, what is it, 10? 10 on defense. The year I went to Kansas City, '93, I think they had nine the year before, in '92. I think it's definitely a big-time statistic because there's so much that's made of big plays in a game, and that's clearly a big play. Plus, turnover ratio is something that we've really emphasized since I've arrived here, and we're plus-7. We want to be a double-digit, plus-turnover ratio team, and we're on course to do that. So those are all things we want to be part of our identity of how we play week in and week out.

(Was there ever a concern when you moved Tramon Williams back to nickel that he'd play at the same level going from a full-time player back to a role player?)

I expected it to be the same. Tramon, I can't say enough about the path that he's taken, how hard he's worked. He's shown his ability to play and be a starting corner in this league. He's been productive with every opportunity that he's been given, and the beautiful thing about Tramon is his best football is ahead of him. He's still a young player. He continues to improve. I thought he played very well against the Bears. So no, I was not concerned about any drop-off in his performance.

(Will Aaron and Chad Clifton both practice fully this week?)

I would anticipate that. I'd be better to answer that Wednesday. I met with Pat McKenzie before I came in here, and this is the best Aaron's felt coming out of the game. I don't think he was hit yesterday in the football game, so that definitely helps. This is the best he's felt, so we'll do as much as we can. We'll push that as far as it can go. Chad Clifton, he'll go back-to-back, which days I haven't determined yet. It's important based on where he is with his situation medically that he doesn't go three days in a row.

(Is there a correlation between the success of the run game and the performance of the fullbacks and the tight ends playing the fullback role?)

Are you talking about their blocking performance or their statistical performance?

(Their blocking.)

Definitely, it's a big part of it because the fullback and the tight end, for the most part, they're either on the front side or the back side. Depending on the scheme, they're part of the integrity of the run-blocking unit because they're involved in the initial three gaps to the front side or the three gaps to the back side. So they're as much tied to the success of the run game as the offensive line is, because based on where they're fitting from a schematic standpoint, it's at the point of attack. Just particularly how we run the football, the point of attack for us isn't always one hole. We do a lot of things where the running back has an option to run through a certain hole based on the front and the reaction of the defense. So yeah, they play a big part in it.

(You've had success in November and December in the past. What's the key to that? Is it managing your players' health throughout the season?)

I think we have the same challenge every NFL team has. You try to manage the health of your football team. You keep them on course through your scheduling to not do too much or make sure you're doing plenty during the week as they prepare for Sundays. I think we've done a good job. I think we've been very realistic in our approach scheduling-wise. It's important to be in pads at this time of year so the fundamentals do not decrease. We keep that as part of our scheduling. The biggest part I tell the team all the time, it's part of the winning. Our focus is to win and improve, because you have to play your best football in November and December. That's a philosophy of ours. It has been since the day we arrived here as a coaching staff, and it will continue to be this year. We stress it all the time. It's important for us to come out and play our best football, because playing football in November and December is a lot different than playing in September and October.

(What jumped out at you on film from the offensive line yesterday?)

I thought they did an excellent job, both the run blocking and the pass protection. Number one, the communication was excellent. I think we had three mental errors, three or four mental errors on offense throughout the day, and some of them were questionable based on what they gave us defensively. But the run blocking unit, I thought we were able to get the running back to the second level repeatedly during the course of the game, evident by the statistics itself. I thought they did a very good job of establishing the line of scrimmage, and in pass protection, like we already talked about, Aaron wasn't even touched. They played at a very high level.

(What did you think of Hawk after you watched the film?)

I thought A.J. played very well. I thought A.J., number one, did a very good job with the communication. We had a couple situations particularly when they went no-huddle where the communication might not have been as fast or as clean as we would have wanted. He managed that very well, made the appropriate call for that particular situation. He did a very good job from that standpoint. Didn't even look like we missed a beat with the boundary communication and so forth, and he was productive. He did a very nice job. I thought he did a great job playing downhill in his gap responsibility in the run game, and he was productive in the passing game. He was matched up a few times there with Forte on crossing routes, and did a nice job. I thought A.J. graded out very well.

(Is this week any different or special, to go back to New Orleans and coach against a team you used to be with?)

Yeah, New Orleans was an organization I was fortunate enough to be a part of for five years. I have a lot of respect for the people down there. Even the fans, they have excellent fans. It will be an incredible atmosphere Monday night in the dome. A big part of our business is the personal relationships that you build throughout your travels, and I had a very positive experience in New Orleans and it will be neat to go back there for the first time.

(Are the players more focused later in the year because they see the possibility of playing in the playoffs?)

I think it is natural to have more urgency. I think our players do a good job of focusing throughout the season. Your challenges are different as far as the way they come at you as far as your focus. You come out of training camp and everybody is excited and everybody is going to win the Super Bowl and you've got all of these new ideas you have been practicing all spring and you start playing a little different type of football. As the weeks go on you establish yourself, so I think your focus has always been very good at the beginning of the season. Now that you get to this part of the season you really establish yourself as a football team, the things you like to do and the things you need to continue to do at a high level, the things you are continuing to work on and improve. Then on a personal note you've got the holidays coming. Everybody, regardless of what business you are in, is challenged to focus. I think our players, I can only go by the way they practice and the way they prepare and the way they perform, and I'd say we're an extremely focused football team. It's an excellent locker room. It's a fun team to coach. We had an excellent day yesterday and I think it's important for us to try to carry that forward.

(Do you start shortening practices on Wednesday and Thursday now?)

We go to what we refer to as a winter schedule after the 10th game of the season. I've done it the last two years and we'll do that again starting this week. This is a little bit of a distorted practice schedule because we are playing the Monday night game. The first practice that you'll see that reflects the same practice structure with less time would be our Friday practice, which will be a Thursday schedule in a normal week. But yes, this is when we start to cut it back.

(How much do you shave off?)

Fifteen minutes of practice and 15 minutes of meeting time, approximately.

(You talked about carry-over, but you haven't had as much sustained success this season. How do you get that going?)

I disagree. I agree with the fact as far as the wins and losses, and I'm not making excuses for the games we did not win, but I think our football team has played well. We just haven't played good enough in some particular critical situations. But I have never felt where any time I have walked off the field this year, not once, where, 'My goodness, we just did not play well.' We had an opportunity to win almost every game that we have been in this year. So I am more in tune with the level of play, what is our performance level, and that's why I just go back to it's about winning and improving. If we can continue to improve our performance level, and that was our change this week. That was our whole focus. We need to do more, we're not doing enough, and our players did that. We'll continue with that mindset as we move forward.

(How many times did you feel that last season when you walked off the field?)

I didn't know I was going to do...these multiple choice questions are tough. I was a little better at the essays in my time in school. I'm trying to think of the games. We didn't play well down in Chicago. I think it was obvious. Dallas, we were a little up and down. I didn't think we started very well down at the Dallas game, but I thought we played well in the second half. The game at home last year against Chicago, I don't know if we have played better as a football team in the first half. We had the two giveaways that factored into the game. Is that good enough?

(With the secondary playing the way it is, does that allow you to do some things on defense you haven't done much before?)

There are so many little things that go on that you may not think they are different but they are. So much at this time of the year is involved in the matchups. Not A, how does your particular player at this position match up to their particular player, but also what they are doing with that particular player from a particular alignment too. Those changes and adjustments, and I understand where you've got two-shell defenses and you've got a one-shell defense, was it a five-man pressure, but there is a game within the game. Whether it is offensive line play, whether it is your coverage scheme, it's whether how you are blitzing, you are disguising it, what is the pre-snap look, so there is so much of that that goes on. It's just not that simple where we can't do empty pressure the way we play. We're able to go four-man rush, five-man rush, six-man, seven-man, we can do whatever you need to do. Really we go about it week to week. Our systems in all three phases have a lot of flexibility to really get us through a season. Frankly we could probably play doubleheaders if we had to sometimes. But we're not going to just change to change or try to go wholesale and just overload scheme people to change up. Frankly I think the NFL from a coaching standpoint, people do a much better job than five years ago. People change from week to week. Just look at Chicago. Their pressure percentage was higher than I can ever recall playing against those guys, and they came in here and started off playing the game with more coverage. Everybody does self-scout, everybody is trying to anticipate tendencies of their opponent, and that's really the chess match that you are playing.

(With the defensive touchdowns, is there anything special you actually work on, like blocking on interception returns?)

Every team drill that we have been in since I've been here. Any time the ball is turned over, you'll hear the offensive coaches, everybody yelling cover. Actually every offensive member on the field covers the ball. Then every defensive player is trying to get in front of the defensive player with the football. That has been practiced every day since I have been here as part of our team drills. That's right, you guys don't...well, training camp. You guys are too busy going through the depth chart then. Do you guys watch the team drills in training camp?

(Why do you do that, have guys who aren't even playing chasing it?)

It's all about the awareness of the football. The most important thing about the game of football is the football, who has the football. It's an emphasis from an offensive standpoint. You want to sit there and tell your offense you're never going to give the ball away, but unfortunately that happens. So if you make one mistake you don't want to make two. If we do turn the ball over we want everybody covering the football. On the other side of it, when the defense, when they do have the opportunity to get their hands on the football, you want everybody to get out front and block. It's a way to emphasize it.

{sportsad300}(Did you give any thought yesterday to putting Flynn in?)

Yes, I did. I actually had him warm up, had him ready to go. I just didn't get it done from a timing standpoint. I would have liked to have gotten him some snaps.

(What do you mean from a timing standpoint?)

I don't recall the actual time the series started. There were about six or seven minutes left in the game and we didn't warm him up before that. The series before is when we started talking about it. Then we actually got the ball and I talked about putting him in in the middle of the series and I just didn't want to do that. I wanted him to start the series. It just didn't work out. It would have been good to have gotten him some snaps there though.

(Is Grant starting to look like the guy you saw last year?)

I think Ryan and really the whole run game is in tune and I've really felt that way probably the last three or four weeks. Yesterday we were able to commit to the run game. We had favorable down and distances for the most part in third down throughout the game. We were 50 percent. Frankly I felt we could have been higher than that and that gives you the ability to run the football. The most important thing I think for Ryan was he got to 25 attempts, and that's where he needs to be.

(How did James Jones play? How's his knee?)

He banged his knee again, but he was able to return. He didn't get as many snaps as you probably would have liked, but he had the two catches, two first downs. I thought he played OK, he played well. It was just good to get him back out there. I would just like to get him healthy.

(How many run plays did Aaron change to pass plays, and were you happy with the results?)

I don't know the exact number. I have it on my quarterback grade sheet, but he graded out fairly high there. They held the coverage a number of times where the safety came down late, and we were fine with that. His decision grade in both the run and pass was very high.

(What's the difference between that play at Tennessee, where Jennings was locking on because he thought it was a run, and the play yesterday where he comes off the run and throws it to Jennings for the TD?)


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