Notebook: Focus Is On Chicago

Head Coach Mike McCarthy isn’t going to preach about fighting for home-field advantage to keep his team jazzed up to play this week. He’s going to focus on something a little more emotional. "I’m going to make a big deal out of beating the Chicago Bears, and everything else comes off of that," McCarthy said. - More Packers-Rams Game Center Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 17


With the Packers and Dallas Cowboys now tied for the NFC's best record at 12-2, there will be plenty of talk about fighting for the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

But Head Coach Mike McCarthy isn't going to preach about that to keep his team jazzed up to play. He's going to focus on something a little more emotional.

"I'm going to make a big deal out of beating the Chicago Bears, and everything else comes off of that," McCarthy said. "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. We will be focused on the Chicago Bears."

That shouldn't be hard. The Bears handed the Packers their first loss of the season in a game Green Bay felt it should have won. Five turnovers (to just one for Chicago) negated a 439-285 advantage in total yards in a 27-20 defeat.

On top of that, Chicago is the only NFC North team to beat the Packers under McCarthy, who is 8-2 in division games over the past two seasons. The Bears won the season opener in 2006 and then on Oct. 7 this year, both at Lambeau Field.

"This is a rival game," McCarthy said. "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."

That said, the playoff picture will be on the players' minds as well. The Packers will know by the time they hit Soldier Field on Sunday whether they're playing to move into the NFC's top spot or to remain tied with Dallas. The Cowboys play in Carolina on Saturday night.

Special game balls

McCarthy said the entire special teams unit was given the game ball from Sunday, and for good reason.

Koren Robinson averaged 43.3 yards on three kickoff returns, while Will Blackmon averaged 10 yards on three punt returns. That led to an average starting field position of the Green Bay 48-yard line for the offense.

On the coverage side, St. Louis was limited to an average of just 20.2 yards on six kickoff returns, with Mason Crosby hitting two touchbacks. Punter Jon Ryan also had a touchback on a 60-yard punt for a 40-yard net. That helped produce an average starting position for the Rams of their own 17-yard line.

That's 31 yards per possession on 12 possessions, for a total of 372 yards in field position gained by the special teams.

"It was the most dominant game that I've been a part of on either side of the ball from special teams," McCarthy said. "I thought our special teams was tremendous. You talk about a group that came ready to play."

That said, the offense didn't necessarily take full advantage of the field position it had, despite scoring 33 points.

There were seven drives that reached at least the St. Louis 41-yard line that potentially left points out there. The Packers committed three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) on the Rams' side of the field and settled for field goals on four other occasions.

"That's a lot of opportunities for points, so we certainly weren't as productive as we should have been," said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, adding that he can't ever recall being part of a game with so much field position in his team's favor.

"We may never see field position like that again. It was really ridiculous almost. We need to do a better job of finishing those drives off and taking advantage of opportunities and maybe closing that game out a little earlier than we did."

{sportsad300}Injury update

The most significant injury from Sunday's game was to fullback Korey Hall, who has a hip strain and could be out until the playoffs. McCarthy said Hall would most likely not be placed on injured reserve so he would be available in the postseason.

In his absence, John Kuhn will move into the starting fullback spot. McCarthy said he wasn't concerned about finding a backup fullback during Hall's absence because the tight ends give the offense the flexibility to cover that spot if needed.

Also, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett has a groin injury, and he is day-to-day. If Pickett is unable to play this week, it would most likely mean rookie first-round draft pick Justin Harrell would get his first NFL start alongside Corey Williams, and fellow rookie Daniel Muir would be active as a backup.

Harrell has a thumb injury from Sunday's game, and McCarthy said he didn't know if it would require a cast or just a wrap to play, but it's not an injury that would prevent him from playing.

Safety Nick Collins was taken out of Sunday's game in the second half with low back pain, but McCarthy said it was strictly precautionary.

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