GREEN BAY – If you were busy analyzing the Packers' scheme and play-calling from Sunday night's loss to the Broncos, you might've missed something important: In finding fault with his own effort, Head Coach Mike McCarthy might've been telling us what the real problem was.
In each of his press conferences following the game in Denver, McCarthy was questioned as to what was wrong with his ailing offense. Nearly all of the questions involved scheme. McCarthy said scheme wasn't the issue; being not ready to play was the problem, and McCarthy blamed himself.
It is how a leader of men acts. He holds himself accountable and, in the process, he demands his players do the same. By pointing the finger at himself, he invites the team's fans to do the same, thus protecting his players from criticism that might threaten their self-confidence.
The player reaction to McCarthy's accountability was the highlight of the week. To a man, they challenged themselves to play better.
"I missed some throws I usually hit. I missed a few that I'm used to hitting, which is disappointing. I have to do a better job of hitting the ones that you should hit," Aaron Rodgers said.
"I feel like it's my fault. I feel like it's on me. I have to make more plays when I get opportunities. I'm going to go out and I'm going to play better. I'm going to do more for this team," was Randall Cobb's reaction.
"I'm going to run my routes and get open. That's what I've got to do," Davante Adams said.
If you're looking for something to boost your spirits, those reactions are it. They send a message to all of us their coach has their attention. Those remarks let us know the Packers' direction is sound and its leader is unchallenged. It's what wins. This week, the Packers will be ready to play.
Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Panthers.
1. Stop the run –It was a source of pride early in the season, but the run defense has fallen hard in recent weeks, all the way to No. 25. That won't work against the No. 1 rushing team in the league.
2. Convert third downs – The Packers have fallen to 19th in the league, and the issue has worsened in the last two games. In a third-down league, failure to convert isn't a formula for victory.
3. Give him the ball – Eddie Lacy is to the Packers' running game as Aaron Rodgers is to the passing game. He needs to become "The Man" of the run, again.
4. Treat him as a runner – Because Cam Newton is a runner. He beats teams with his feet.
5. Win the one-on-ones – It's how receivers get open.
6. Get the hidden yardage –Packers coverage units have impressive rankings. Now it's time for the return teams to do the same, against Carolina kicking teams that haven't been great.
7. Protect the quarterback –The Panthers have 20 sacks.
8. Match their energy – This is going to be a highlight moment in a young franchise's history. At 7-0, Panthers fans are coming to Bank of America Stadium for a celebration. This is a statement game for the Panthers.
9. Achieve balance – That's the game plan. Execute it.
10. Win up front – The team that does almost always wins.