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Tackling problem rears its ugly head again

Mike McCarthy says team will look in mirror, coaches included


GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy knew it before he watched the film, that his Packers did not tackle well in the season-opening loss to Seattle.

Upon reviewing the recorded evidence, perhaps the most disturbing thing to the head coach is that tackling fundamentals are a daily emphasis, and they have been ever since a poor tackling season two years ago. All through OTAs and training camp the last two springs and summers, a practice period has been dedicated to tackling work, such as it can be repped in a no- to low-contact environment.

Yet, rather than see the improvement from 2013 maintained, the performance looked more like a regression to 2012.

"The biggest thing that jumps out at you on film is we didn't run through the tackle," McCarthy said late Friday. "Our footwork was poor. You start leaving your feet to tackle people, it leaves you in a compromising position."

Missed tackles were a big reason for Seattle's 207 rushing yards in the 36-16 decision at CenturyLink Field. Running back Marshawn Lynch is known as a tackle-breaker, and the Packers defense did nothing to change that reputation.

The Seahawks had a handful of explosive gains in the passing game as well, none bigger than the 33-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter to Ricardo Lockette, who dodged rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the open field to waltz into the end zone.

The first-round draft pick should by no means be singled out, though. There were plenty of whiffs to go around, and McCarthy knows what he saw on film will also be noticed by future foes, beginning with the Jets this coming week.

"We had way too many missed tackles," McCarthy said. "It's a fundamental we practice every day and it did not carry over to the field.

"After one game, we've put out our performance and our opponent will stress us in areas we did not perform well."

McCarthy also was frustrated with communication issues on the sideline on defense, as some calls weren't relayed in a timely fashion following late substitutions by Seattle. On Lynch's 9-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, the defense had only 10 players on the field.

"We were not sharp. I think our players were unsettled and we never got into the flow we needed to," he said. "We were trying to be in the perfect call instead of giving our guys clean calls."

On the injury front, right tackle Bryan Bulaga has avoided a major knee injury and is pushing to return to the practice field as soon as Wednesday, though there is no specific timeline right now. McCarthy said his knee will be monitored, but the team is "relieved" by the news.

Derek Sherrod would remain at right tackle should Bulaga need to miss any more time.

Elsewhere on the offensive line, McCarthy praised the play of rookie center Corey Linsley in his first NFL start, saying he "stepped up to the plate" in a "tough assignment."

Running back Eddie Lacy also has begun going through the concussion protocol and has passed the first step, a good sign for a possible prompt return.

The Packers have some extra time to ponder what went wrong before the Jets visit Lambeau Field, and while McCarthy said the team won't dwell on one defeat, it will look closely in the mirror, coaches included.

It's imperative to do so when so much hard work and preparation goes into an opener and the results don't reflect it. The Packers felt confident and ready but didn't play like it, though that's not prompting McCarthy to advocate "crazy changes."

"Give Seattle credit. Their unscouted looks performed better than ours," McCarthy said. "Our players have the right perspective. We'll take a hard look at everything and correct it.

"We'll move on to the Jets. It's not a one-game season."

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