GREEN BAY—The issue perturbed Mike McCarthy in the Week 1 loss at San Francisco, and two months later it has only gotten worse.
“What I’m disappointed in, and it’s gone on all year, is our fourth-quarter performance,” McCarthy said on Monday, a day after another fizzle at the finish led to a second straight home loss. “We’re not playing our best football when it counts. I’m obviously frustrated with it.”
Frustrations exist on both sides of the ball, and the raw numbers aren’t pretty. The Packers have been outscored 83-46 in the fourth quarter this season. They’ve scored three points or less in the fourth quarter five times and allowed 13 points or more five times.
As McCarthy said, there’s no “drill” for finishing strong, but it’s been this team’s weakness all year, even in victory. Now that it’s starting to cost the Packers critical midseason games, it has to change soon. Starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers is still “a couple weeks away,” McCarthy said, and defensive star Clay Matthews will be playing with a hindering club on his hand for several weeks.
The scoring statistics don’t come close to telling the whole late-game story, either.
In the last two games, the Packers have given up just three points in the fourth quarter, but they’ve allowed the Bears and Eagles to control the ball for a collective 18½ minutes on two lead-protecting drives that killed any hopes of an offensive rally.
“Our issue yesterday is we didn’t tackle,” McCarthy said. “We’ve played nine games. Like I told the team, it’s time for our locker room to step up and take a big step.
“We’re always talking about who’s not there. We need to focus on what the hell we’re doing, and that’s winning football games, playing quality football.”
The Packers got some quality play from quarterback Scott Tolzien in a pinch, as the former Badger came off the bench in the first quarter and led the offense to 351 yards in nine series in his NFL debut.
As he did right after the game, McCarthy praised Tolzien’s performance given his limited preparation, and he attributed the goal-line interception in the second quarter to a footwork issue that messed up his timing.
The turnover, and two straight incompletions from the Eagles’ 7-yard line in the fourth quarter, contributed to an 0-for-4 showing in the red zone that prevented Tolzien’s day from producing more.
“The opportunities were there,” McCarthy said.
The defense had its chances, too, but gave up three long TD passes, two of them when the secondary had double coverage on the receiver.
“You can’t have that in any game,” McCarthy said. “You’ve got to make plays when the ball’s in the air.”
Asked about possible personnel changes, McCarthy said that’s difficult to gauge given he’s just trying to have 46 players healthy to fill out the active gameday roster.
There were no updates on the injuries to quarterback Seneca Wallace (groin), offensive linemen Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee) and Don Barclay (knee), defensive lineman Johnny Jolly (groin), outside linebacker Nick Perry (foot/ankle) and cornerback Casey Hayward (hamstring), but the most obvious concerns depth-wise are on offense.
McCarthy confirmed the Packers worked out quarterback Matt Flynn on Monday as a possible backup to Tolzien, but with the aforementioned injury information “still coming in,” there was nothing else to report.
He also said the offensive line for the upcoming Giants game may not be settled until the end of the week, and he wasn’t sure if tackle Derek Sherrod would be available for game action yet if needed.
“I hope so,” McCarthy said. “He looks good, but let’s be honest, practice only takes you so far. He’s going to have to step up at some point and be ready to go.”
The same goes for the whole team, which hadn’t lost consecutive games since 2010 and hasn’t lost three straight since 2008.
“Losing is hard. That’s the part of this business you don’t ever get used to, and it doesn’t get easier,” McCarthy said.
“We moved on to the Giants today.” Additional coverage - Nov. 11