The Packers have been walking a fine line all week. They’ve been emphasizing the “urgency” surrounding Sunday night’s game in Houston without encroaching into “panic” territory.
That line is what separates the participants from the observers. At least some observers, anyway.
There’s a segment of the fan base that’s ready to panic after the Packers squandered a big lead in losing to a Colts team that was 2-14 a year ago, and now the Packers must head south to face the undefeated Texans in what promises to be a loud, raucous road venue. Those fans are inclined to write off the season should the Packers lose and fall to 2-4.
The players and coaches, however, are in no such frame of mind. To borrow a favorite phrase of Mike McCarthy’s, that would be wasted energy.
“You don’t overreact,” McCarthy said. “I’m not a panicker. I think it’s a loser mentality. It’s time to increase the urgency.
“We’ve got a great opportunity on Sunday Night Football. We’re excited to play this team. This is a good team. They’re undefeated. We know how that feels. We know what that position looks like. But we’re going to Houston to win a football game. That’s what we’re focused on.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers echoed his head coach’s thoughts when he cautioned against placing too much “stress” on a game in Week 6. As the team leader, it’s inappropriate for him to declare the game as do-or-die when that’s simply not reality.
That said, Rodgers has shown his leadership this week by being rather self-critical, publicly, of his play. It’s been a message to his teammates that everyone needs to proverbially look in the mirror to see what they can do to level out the inconsistencies that have produced two disastrous halves of football – the first half in Seattle, the second in Indianapolis – that have cost the Packers two wins.
But a stern reminder to self-reflect is not pushing the panic button. It’s not even close to the line.
“I’m not going to change the way I’m leading these guys,” Rodgers said. “I think the urgency level naturally has to go up.
“You expect guys to understand the significance of this point in the season.”
Most significant is that the Packers have yet to win all three phases in a given game – offense, defense and special teams. That was the message last week, and the Packers were on their way through two quarters before everything fell apart. Even the special teams, which had been the team’s most reliable phase through the first month, missed two field goals in the second half in Indy.
“We haven’t put a game together yet,” defensive lineman Ryan Pickett said. “We haven’t played close to what we’re capable of playing. We come in and watch film the next day and we’re like sick that we left so much stuff out there.”
It’s time for that day-after film review to take on a different vibe. Playing a complete game will provide that.
“I think it’s the one big-picture constant thing that we need to do,” McCarthy said. “We have not accomplished that yet, so that part hasn’t changed. That’s where you knuckle down in practice and heighten the urgency and awareness.”
There’s that word again, urgency. It’s the push for more while remaining confident in success. Panic implies a lack of confidence. That’s the other element that defines the line.
“We need to win this game, for a lot of different reasons,” Pickett said. “Because we can, and we just need to get better as a team.” For a list of all Packers-Texans preview headlines, click here.