Head Coach Mike McCarthy has shown faith in the young players on his roster all season long, and he's starting to get the team's veteran players to share that faith as well.
That was no more evident than on a key fourth quarter play on Sunday.
With the Packers leading 27-24 and facing third-and-1 at the Miami 25-yard line, McCarthy called a play that gave quarterback Brett Favre a run or pass option, depending on what he saw at the line of scrimmage. Seeing the Dolphins stacking for a run and with single coverage outside on rookie wide receiver Chris Francies, Favre called for the pass and threw a quick slant to Francies, who made a tough catch against tight coverage for a critical 12-yard gain.
Never mind that it was the first pass thrown Francies' way as an NFL player, or that an incompletion would have forced a field goal try and kept the Dolphins within one score. McCarthy insists that no matter a player's age or experience, the coaching staff and his teammates have to trust he'll do his job when called upon.
"That's important as a head coach and as a play caller to emulate that when you go into football games," McCarthy said.
"As a quarterback and for the other guys involved, they need to have the same belief in the system, in the game plan, and in the individual."
One of the keys to the process, McCarthy added, is not to ask young players to do things they're not capable of, and that is taken into account during game-planning. If everyone knows the game plan is catered to different players' strengths, and stays away from their limitations, there should be no hesitancy to go to them if needed.
"The biggest challenge I've found is that the older players need to have the same mindset that you do," McCarthy said. "It's really a two-fold situation. Get the young guys ready to play, and give them the confidence and attitude that we're going to play to win."
One play after Francies' key catch, Favre hit David Martin for a 13-yard touchdown to put the Packers ahead 34-24 and seal the game.
McCarthy didn't say it in so many words, but he indicated the facemask penalty on Michael Montgomery that wiped out a 40-yard field goal at the end of the first half Sunday was a quality acting job by Miami's Will Allen.
Miami had just been called for unsportsmanlike conduct for simulating a snap count on the previous play, when Dave Rayner booted what would have been a franchise record 55-yard field goal. Because the penalty was pre-snap, the kick didn't count and the Packers moved 15 yards closer for another try.
That's when Montgomery was called for a facemask, as he reached to get a hand on Allen rushing from the outside and made contact with the helmet. McCarthy said Montgomery was doing what he was taught to do, in not letting the rusher go free, but Allen played up the contact to look like a penalty.
"They got the call, and if you see on the one before, it was close," McCarthy said. "It's probably something they anticipated and tried to re-enact, and they got it done. It's an unfortunate call at that time."
Miami quarterback Joey Harrington passed for 414 yards to just 206 for Favre, or slightly more than double Favre's total.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Sunday's game marked only the third time the Packers won a game when the opposing quarterback threw for more than twice as many yards as Favre.
The others were on Dec. 13, 1992, when Houston's Cody Carlson threw for 330 yards to Favre's 155, but the Packers beat the Oilers 16-14, and on Nov. 29, 2004, when St. Louis' Marc Bulger threw for 448 yards to Favre's 215, but the Packers beat the Rams 45-17.
Further tests were being done Monday on receiver Greg Jennings' injured ankle. McCarthy said the x-rays taken at Dolphin Stadium on Sunday indicated the ankle was not broken, and that the diagnosis was a sprain, but he didn't know if Jennings would be available to play on Sunday.
Other injuries from Sunday's game being evaluated include offensive lineman Daryn Colledge's calf and defensive tackle Corey Williams' knee. More information will be available later in the week.
In addition to Francies, two other Packers rookies made their NFL debuts on Sunday.
Cornerback and fourth-round draft pick Will Blackmon, inactive all season with a foot injury sustained in the spring, played on special teams and got some snaps at cornerback in place of Patrick Dendy when Dendy needed a rest.
Defensive tackle and sixth-round pick Johnny Jolly played on special teams and on the defensive line. He recorded his first NFL tackle, taking down Miami running back Ronnie Brown after a 2-yard gain in the second quarter.
A pioneer has passed
Bob Mann, the Packers' first African-American player who played in Green Bay in the early 1950s, died on Saturday at age 82.
Mann played college football at the University of Michigan and was part of the Wolverines' undefeated national championship team of 1947. After two seasons with the Detroit Lions and a partial season with the New York Yanks, Mann signed with the Packers as a free agent in 1950.
He led Green Bay in receptions (50), receiving yards (696) and touchdowns (8) in 1951 and was the team's second-leading receiver in 1952 and 1953 behind Billy Howton.
"He was on the small side. He wasn't a big receiver but he was a very nifty, productive receiver," Packers historian Lee Remmel said. "He was very professional in his approach to the game. He was a man of great dignity."
The Packers had two African-American players in training camp in 1950, offensive lineman Jim Thomas and running back Jim Clark, but neither made the final roster, according to Remmel. That made Mann the team's first African-American player when he joined the Packers part way through the 1950 season.
Mann concluded his playing career with the Packers in 1954 and went on to head a successful law practice in Detroit. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1988.