GREEN BAY – Less than 12 hours after a disheartening loss to the Bears, Mike McCarthy hadn’t watched the game film, but he sounded like a head coach who didn’t really need to.
From the sideline Thursday night, he saw plenty through the rain that a clearer computer screen isn’t going to change.
“Our passing game is not where it needs to be,” McCarthy said Friday morning. “Anytime you see basic plays, a slant route that turns into an interception as it did last night, the timing isn’t as clean, which would lead to the details and the fundamentals.
“So much is made of scheme. Frankly, I think too much is made of scheme. At the end of the day it’s about running your route or defending your route or blocking your guy or getting off the block, making the tackle and getting to the ball.”
The ball-handling remained a point of frustration as an area the Bears won in the wet conditions. The Packers lost the turnover battle, 2-0, and the defense had clear chances for both an interception and a fumble recovery but didn’t come through. Green Bay was on the worse end of dropped passes and a bad shotgun snap, too.
The Packers’ most productive player on offense was running back Eddie Lacy, with 139 yards from scrimmage (105 rushing, 34 receiving and a TD), but he was guilty of being sloppy as well and it landed him on the bench for the final two series of the first half.
“Make no bones about it, if you don’t hold onto the football, turn the football over, your opportunities are going to decrease or go away,” McCarthy said. “Eddie has played very well the last two weeks, but he has to handle the football.
“On the touchdown, he was careless with the ball there, and on the fumble he was careless with his technique, the ball away from his body. That’s what happens.”
The Packers didn’t get any breaks, either.
McCarthy called it a “flat poor call” of offensive pass interference near the end zone that negated what would have been a third-and-goal from the 1 and instead put the offense in second-and-goal from the 15. McCarthy said it “wasn’t even a rub play” involving James Jones and Randall Cobb that led to the penalty on Jones and ultimately forced the Packers to kick a field goal.
“He missed the call. You can shake that any way you want,” McCarthy said. “They’re looking for it.”
With regard to potential free plays on defensive offside calls that were blown dead, McCarthy said he was told by referee Ed Hochuli to “read the rule book.” Presumably that’s in reference to those plays being killed when the offense jumps before the snap as well, which wasn’t always happening earlier in the season when the Packers were gashing jumpy defenses with free plays.
Be that as it may, the Packers have had chances in the final moments to tie or win each of the last three games they’ve lost, but they haven’t executed at the most critical times.
“The reality is we’re not that far off,” McCarthy said. “It’s the attention to details. Our issues are technique and discipline in the technique, and quit worrying so much about the plays. Win the route when the play is called.”
On the injury front, McCarthy believes both right tackle Bryan Bulaga and rookie cornerback Damarious Randall avoided serious knee injuries, but he won’t have a good handle on their status until the players return to the practice field on Sunday.
That’s when the preparation will begin for another Thursday night game, this one in Detroit against the Lions, a team that used a two-point victory over the Packers earlier this month to start a three-game winning streak.
It’s a game the Packers need to start a winning streak of their own as December begins. The offense is headed back to the drawing board with a month to go, and while McCarthy suggested a player like receiver Jeff Janis has earned more opportunities to contribute, any changes on the horizon are likely to be more subtle than wholesale at this late stage.
“The passing game is not clean,” McCarthy said. “We’ve made scheme changes from last year to this year and it’s not productive enough. We’ll take another hard look at it, as we continue to do, and either emphasize some of the changes we have made or go back to emphasize some of the basics of our offense.
“The reality of it is it has to fit the game plan for the Detroit Lions.”