Notebook: Still Striving For Complete Game

It’s not difficult for the Packers to stay grounded during the highs of their 4-0 start while at the same time staying optimistic about the remaining three-quarters of the regular season. That’s because the team firmly believes it hasn’t played its best game yet. And it hasn’t, judging by the flaws in each of the first four performances. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Bears Game Center Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 5


RB DeShawn Wynn is tackled by two Chargers during the Sept. 23 game at Lambeau Field.

It's not difficult for the Packers to stay grounded during the highs of their 4-0 start while at the same time staying optimistic about the remaining three-quarters of the regular season.

That's because the team firmly believes it hasn't played its best game yet. And it hasn't, judging by the flaws in each of the first four performances.

Against Philadelphia, the offense struggled to gain just 215 yards. The following week at the Giants, the running game had nine carries for zero or negative yardage. Back home against San Diego, a goal-to-go situation late in the fourth quarter was squandered. And last week at Minnesota, the defense was gashed for a handful of big plays and 155 rushing yards.

Whether or not a perfect or near-perfect performance is due this week against NFC North rival Chicago remains to be seen, but it's what the entire team is after as it begins the second month of the regular season.

"I think we've done some positive things on the football field in our first four wins," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "But I don't think we've really put together a complete game as a football team. I think our offense has played some really good games, I think our defense has played some really good games, I think the special teams, three of the four games has played very well.

"But I don't think we've gone out and played our top game in all three phases and put one together, and that's our focus, regardless of who we're playing this week, and that will be our focus as we move forward."

The most surprising occurrence last week was the hiccup by the defense, which had played solidly for three weeks and was facing a backup quarterback for the Vikings. But rookie sensation Adrian Peterson was a force running the ball (12 carries, 112 yards, long run of 55) despite the defense targeting him to limit his production.

Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who had perhaps his best game of the season last week with five solo tackles and a sack, said the defense is still waiting to put together that suffocating performance it showed signs of in the preseason.

"We definitely can do better," Pickett said. "When we watch film, there are a lot of areas we saw we gave up big runs because of missed assignments, stuff like that.

"We can do a lot more improving. We're doing it every week, but we have not yet had a dominating game like we're capable of. It's going to come."

Block that kick

Much of the special teams talk this week has focused on Chicago return specialist Devin Hester, and rightfully so. Hester, a second-year speedster out of Miami, has nine returns for touchdowns, including one in the Super Bowl, in his brief NFL career.

But another area of special teams the Bears have excelled at is blocking kicks. They have blocked a field goal in each game this season, plus an extra point last week at Detroit, with defensive tackle Israel Idonije recording three of those five blocks.

"I think their predominant rush is right up the middle," kicker Mason Crosby said. "They like to rush hard there, and like every team, if you do the right fundamentals and guys block right in the middle, it's hard to get through and get penetration. You just have to keep them from getting their hands up, and I've got to do my job and get the ball up in the air right down the middle."

Crosby said the height on his kicks has been fine thus far, so it's not as though he's going to change his approach, despite the pressure the Bears have put on kickers.

"You can't rush it, you can't hurry it," he said. "That will make more mistakes than just doing what we've been doing. I'm just going to go out there and keep kicking, trust the protection and the snap and the hold, and it's been great, so I just have to keep it up."

Injury update

Most of the players on the Packers' injury report are listed as probable for Sunday's game, meaning it's a virtual certainty they'll be available for regular duty.

{sportsad300}They are offensive tackle Chad Clifton (illness), defensive tackles Colin Cole (concussion) and Corey Williams (back), safety Nick Collins (knee), cornerbacks Al Harris (back) and Charles Woodson (foot) and defensive end Cullen Jenkins (ribs).

Cole was held out of practice on Thursday due to his slight concussion, but he was cleared and was a full participant on Friday. Clifton also was a full participant on Friday. The other probables were all limited.

Defensive end Michael Montgomery (knee) and cornerback Will Blackmon (foot) are both out for Sunday's game. Running back Brandon Jackson (shin) is questionable.

Center Scott Wells and receiver Greg Jennings were removed from the injury report on Friday and will play.

Been a long time

The Packers have begun the season 4-0 for the first time since 1998, a season that ended with a last-second Wild Card playoff defeat in San Francisco.

With a win on Sunday against Chicago, the Packers would start 5-0 for the first time since 1965. That year, Green Bay actually won six straight to begin the season and went on to win the NFL championship in the last year before the advent of the Super Bowl.

Still popular, as always

According to the latest Harris Poll, an annual fan survey related to professional football, the Packers are the fourth favorite team among all adults who follow the sport.

The Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers took the top three spots, followed by NFC North rival Chicago in fifth.

Since Harris Interactive began doing the annual survey in 1998, only the Cowboys and Packers have been in the top five every year. The Packers ranked No. 1 for four straight years from 2002-05.

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