To Mike McCarthy the play-caller, there’s a difference between playing aggressively and taking a gamble.

As gutsy as the fourth-and-26 fake field goal was in the second quarter Thursday night against the Bears, the thought process that went into it didn’t push McCarthy over the line, he explained on Friday.

Some of those thoughts were:

  • With the score 3-0, he was trying to send a message to his team to pick up its play.

  • The field-goal unit had practiced that fake, called “Spark,” countless times and executed it smoothly.

  • With the line of scrimmage the Chicago 27 and with his defense playing well, he was fine giving the Bears the ball at or near there if it didn’t work.

In other words, gamblers wouldn’t think all that through. That’s part of what makes them gamblers.

“I would say I’m a conservative person, but when you play the game of football, or you call a game, you have to be able to be aggressive,” McCarthy said. “That was a big-play opportunity that we felt if we got the look, we had a chance to execute it. I would have preferred a better down and distance, no doubt.”

An interesting argument is whether the down and distance decreased or increased the chances of success. Twenty-six yards, all the way to the 1, was a long way to go, but it made the call that much less foreseeable for Chicago.

Either way, the execution was flawless, from holder Tim Masthay’s flip pass to tight end Tom Crabtree, to kicker Mason Crosby’s decoy move, to the blocking at the point of attack and downfield.

“They had a little penetration at the beginning of it,” McCarthy said, perhaps admitting his heart briefly skipped a beat. “Once Tom cleared that I thought we definitely had a chance to score.”

The tricky touchdown was the biggest play in the 23-10 victory and it represented to some extent how tough the going has been the first two weeks for Green Bay’s offense.

For the second game in a row on Thursday, the Packers faced a defense that kept two safeties deep most of the time and used numerous line stunts up front to get penetration. McCarthy said as common as the Bears’ “cover two” look was, he had never seen their front four play so many games and stunts at the line.

One result was five sacks of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but the Packers’ offensive line did improve its run blocking considerably over Week 1, as Cedric Benson doubled his per-carry average from two yards (nine carries, 18 yards) against the 49ers to four (20 carries, 81 yards) against the Bears.

“He’s getting better, he’s getting more comfortable,” McCarthy said of Benson. “I thought our line did a good job. We could do a better job up front, too. Our line has had two big challenges two weeks in a row, particularly with the personnel they’ve played against, but (also with) just the activity and the line movement that we’re seeing.

“We’ll get better at that, Cedric will be better, and I’m excited to get Alex Green going, too. I think he definitely offers the same type of style of runner. I think he’s similar to Cedric.”

The offense played Thursday without wide receiver Greg Jennings (groin), but McCarthy said he’s “pretty confident” Jennings will be back next week. He feels the same about defensive end C.J. Wilson (groin), who also missed the Chicago game.

The players will return to the practice field next Tuesday after three days off. They will get another day off on Wednesday before beginning the usual three-day practice regimen on Thursday for the Monday night game in Seattle. Once this disjointed schedule through the first three weeks is complete, the Packers will play their remaining 13 regular-season games on Sundays.

“We’ll get them back in the routine,” McCarthy said.

Additional coverage - Sept. 14