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Notebook: Making Play At Critical Time Is 'Final Hurdle'


To Head Coach Mike McCarthy, the fumble at the 11-yard line on the final offensive play of Sunday's 23-20 loss to the St. Louis Rams accurately depicts the next step the 2006 Packers need to take.

"To me that's a perfect play that illustrates (how) their defense had a chance to make a play and we were given a chance on offense to make a play to win the game," McCarthy said at his news conference on Monday. "They made the play, we did not. That's the final hurdle we need to get over."

McCarthy emphasized that wasn't the only opportunity the Packers had to beat the Rams, and all the missed opportunities throughout the course of the game are why the Packers are 1-4 rather than 2-3 heading into their bye week.

But the final play was certainly the best chance to pull the game out, both in terms of the late-game timing and what was developing.

McCarthy said the film revealed that tight end David Martin, who was one of the primary reads for Brett Favre, was wide open in the end zone. But Favre had no chance to step up in the pocket, avoid defensive end Leonard Little coming around the edge and make the throw because the Rams' Jimmy Kennedy had beaten the interior of the line with a twist move. Little reached around and knocked the ball out of Favre's hand just before Kennedy drilled him.

"If we pick up that twist, we're not even talking about this right now," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said.

But that's essentially life in the NFL. As Favre noted in his post-game news conference on Sunday, every opportunity to score or make a big play is important because you never know if it will be your last chance that day.

And as Sunday's result proved, failing to take advantage of your best opportunity to win can simultaneously become the opportunity your opponent needs to beat you.

"We're sitting there with the tie playing to win, and we didn't come out with either," McCarthy said. "We need to make a play there."

Back to fundamentals

McCarthy said he would give veterans some time off during the bye week, but the team's practices will focus on fundamentals in all three phases of the game.

"Every time we go and play, those are the root of our improvements and the root of our corrections are fundamentals," he said. "It's always the little stuff.

"We're getting better in a lot of them, most of them actually, but there are still some things we need to get cleaned up, and we'll continue to work."

Most of that fundamental work will be on Tuesday and Wednesday, the practices from which select veterans will be excused, much like certain days during training camp. Thursday's practice will be the first preparation for the Miami game on Oct. 22.

McCarthy emphasized often during training camp that the goal was for the team to improve each day, and without an opponent to prepare for this week, much of the focus in practice turns internal once again.

"Fundamentals -- that's what wins and loses football games, and that's what we're going to go back and do," Jagodzinski said. "That's what we're going to emphasize, and we're going to get better than we were yesterday."

Super sub

Noah Herron's 106 yards rushing on Sunday were notable not only because they marked Herron's first 100-yard game in the NFL, but also because he came off the bench to deliver that performance.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, over the past 20 years only four Packers players rushed for a higher total in a game they did not start. They were Brent Fullwood with 118 yards (Oct. 9, 1988, vs. New England in Milwaukee), De'Mond Parker with 113 yards (Dec. 5, 1999, at Chicago), Darick Holmes with 111 yards (Nov. 15, 1998, at N.Y. Giants) and Samkon Gado with 111 yards (Nov. 27, 2005, at Philadelphia).

Injury update

McCarthy said offensive guard Jason Spitz had been throwing up before Sunday's game, and when he experienced some irritation in his throat, he was sent to a local hospital for tests. An endoscope was used to check Spitz's throat, and "everything is fine," McCarthy said.

Spitz will be listed as questionable for the Miami game because of the throat ailment. Other injuries from Sunday's game include Chad Clifton (shoulder), Nick Collins (head), Cullen Jenkins (ankle), Brandon Miree (eye), and Charles Woodson (knee and ribs).

"They'll all be questionable for Miami," McCarthy said.

Clifton's injury occurred on the final play of Sunday's game, but McCarthy didn't think it was serious. Collins had been hit in the head on a pass completion late in the fourth quarter but returned to the game. Woodson was injured early in the game but played through it. Jenkins left the game in the second quarter, did not return and was on crutches afterwards.

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