GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy was a coach and nothing but a coach until the very end on Sunday in Miami, right down to his first thought as soon as quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit tight end Andrew Quarless for the game-winning touchdown.
“Three seconds are still on the clock,” McCarthy said on Monday, only half-joking. “Unfortunately, I wish I would enjoy these games more than I do. It wears me out.
“You go home and you see, boy, that was a heck of a game. It just didn’t look that way from where I was standing.”
McCarthy was awfully proud of his Packers team, though, and for good reason.
The defense bounced back from losing three starters to injury and from a rough second half to get a stop it had to have, and Rodgers was vintage Rodgers leading the offense to the last-second score.
McCarthy didn’t want to overstate it, but he acknowledged that winning a game that way can do something for a team. How exactly that manifests itself as the season goes along only time will tell.
“A big part of winning in this league is confidence. It’s an investment in confidence in one another, from one unit to the next, everybody involved,” he said. “But it’s also lessons in overcoming adversity. You cannot overcome enough adversity in the course of a game, during a preparation week. Those are all great lessons to learn from and add to that investment in confidence.”
The initial adversity was on defense, as linebacker Jamari Lattimore (neck) followed by cornerbacks Sam Shields (knee) and Tramon Williams (ankle) all left the game with injuries. McCarthy said on Monday none of the injuries is expected to be long term, but he didn’t have a return timeline for any of the players.
Miami’s offense got rolling in the second half, which McCarthy attributed to a combination of a schematic adjustment the Dolphins made with their running game, and a slew of missed tackles by the Packers. The missed tackles led to a number of Miami passing plays rupturing into big gains.
“I wish we could have played better defense in the second half, but that’s what the NFL is all about,” McCarthy said. “It usually comes down to the last series, and when our defense needed to step up, that four-minute drive was outstanding.”
Rodgers’ two-minute drive was even better, from the opening check to a run on which James Starks gained 12 yards, to the fourth-down conversion to Jordy Nelson, to the fake-spike play with Davante Adams, to another check on the TD to Quarless.
“I wouldn’t even know where to start,” McCarthy said regarding where this ranks among Rodgers’ top performances.
This one might be best remembered for the fourth-and-10 throw to Nelson off his back foot with a Dolphins pass rusher about to clobber him.
“That’s the grit of the position,” McCarthy said. “To have a pressure defender right in your face and have to make that throw and he doesn’t even blink. You talk about two guys being on the same page. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Executing the fake spike with a rookie receiver might not get any gutsier.
“I’m just glad Davante was looking at him,” McCarthy said. “Because I’ve known Aaron when he does the fake spike in practice and they don’t look at him, it’s not a good thing.”
The special teams weren’t good early but became big in the end. After allowing a long kickoff return and a blocked punt, the Packers slowly regained the edge in that phase, mostly thanks to Micah Hyde.
In the second quarter, Hyde looked completely surrounded by Miami’s coverage unit but somehow escaped for a 24-yard return.
“I have no idea,” Hyde said of how he got out of that jam. “I just tried to make a play. There was nothing there, and I was getting ready to get hit, and I kind of just ducked and opened up my eyes and nobody hit me. I was kind of surprised myself.”
His second big punt return was a 17-yarder in the fourth quarter, which McCarthy called “huge” and which put the Packers on the 40-yard line to start their final drive. It earned Hyde a special teams game ball from the coaching staff.
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