Team Must Handle Success In Constructive Fashion

The first time Head Coach Mike McCarthy said it, it raised a few eyebrows. He had just finished coaching his first NFL game, and his team had been thrashed, 26-0, by arch-rival Chicago. And yet McCarthy said then that the biggest challenge his team would face would be handling success. - More Packers-Chargers Game Center


The first time Head Coach Mike McCarthy said it, it raised a few eyebrows.

He had just finished coaching his first NFL regular-season game. His team had just been thrashed, 26-0, by arch-rival Chicago. And one of McCarthy's comments toward the end of his post-game press conference last Sept. 10 was that the biggest challenge his team would face would be handling success.

Come again?

Well, it turned out McCarthy didn't have to be overly concerned about his team's ability to navigate some rough patches. The 2006 Packers battled back from a 1-4 start and a 4-8 record with a month to go to finish 8-8 and almost sneak into the NFC playoffs.

"I think every football player that comes through these doors has a natural, survival mentality to overcome," McCarthy said this week. "I don't think they get to this level in professional sports without that. So for them to overcome adversity I think it's something a lot of them innately do."

Now, at 2-0 to start 2007, the Packers will find out if they're just as adept at handling that bigger challenge, the one McCarthy claimed way back when.

The atmosphere these days at 1265 Lombardi Ave. has certainly changed since last September. On Monday, McCarthy talked about the energy and the confidence the team has, the confidence that comes from improving and seeing the preparation during the week pay off on Sundays.

Dating back to last December, the Packers have won six straight games. But of paramount importance is finding a way to feed off of that momentum and not take it for granted.

"I know what's ahead of us, and to start 2-0 with as many questions marks as we have - had or have - I'm pleased," quarterback Brett Favre said after Sunday's win over the New York Giants. "I can't say enough about this team the way we've handled adversity.

"But once again, we have a long ways to go. It only gets tougher. The more you win, the better you play, the more there's a target on your back."

The Packers are the NFL's youngest team, but it's veterans like Favre, Donald Driver, Mark Tauscher, Chad Clifton and Bubba Franks, among others, who will need to make sure the team doesn't get caught up too much in the big picture and lose sight of the immediate task in front of them.

They've all experienced first-hand how fleeting success in the NFL can be. Back in 2002, they were a win in their season finale from clinching a bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, only to get blown out and find themselves out of the playoffs one week later, after a Wild Card loss.

Then a few years later, they were on a team that had appeared in the postseason four straight years, only to crash hard at 4-12 in 2005.

A lot of national attention is headed the Packers' way this week. With Favre closing in on the all-time record for touchdown passes and the team off to a fast start for the first time in six years, the potential distraction must be managed.

"We'd like it if we just keep humming along and execute and win football games," said Tauscher, preferring to stay under the radar, which doesn't appear likely. "I know we're going to be facing one of the best teams in the entire NFL next week, so we're going to have definitely a big challenge ahead of us."

{sportsad300}That would be the San Diego Chargers, who had the NFL's best record last year at 14-2. If there were any chance to be distracted, an opponent of this caliber will force the Packers to focus all of their energies on preparing to play and not be peeking ahead to big NFC North battles against Minnesota and Chicago the next two weeks.

San Diego brings reigning league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson to Lambeau Field in a game many are going to call a test to see whether the 2007 Packers are for real.

"It don't get no easier, that's for sure, said Charles Woodson, who played eight years for an Oakland team that went to the Super Bowl and plummeted to 4-12 the following year. "We can't feel too high about these two wins. Feel good about it, enjoy it for a minute, but get ready to work this week to go against another tough opponent."

There's nothing better than that even-keeled approach. It's how the Packers turned last season around, not by throwing tantrums and tirades when things didn't go well. And it's how they've started this season well, building on last year's four-game winning streak but not living in the past.

"We have to approach it with the same mindset," Franks said. "We are 2-0, but you can't get real high."

McCarthy won't let them, to be sure. Remember, he's been ready for this since before his team even scored a point.

"I've said this about my career -- how you handle success is probably as important as how you handle adversity," said Favre, sounding an awful lot like his head coach. "We have a lot of work to do, including myself.

"I know we play San Diego next week, and the walls can crash down on you quickly. It means a lot, it means that we're 2-0, but we still have 14 left, and they only get tougher from here on out."

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