GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy isn’t concerned about his players’ confidence after a 30-point loss. Offensive Coordinator Edgar Bennett doesn’t believe his receivers lack confidence against man-to-man coverage. Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers is confident his unit won’t let the struggling offense affect the way it performs.
Nobody has lost belief at 1265 Lombardi Ave., especially not with so much at stake this week.
“I’m not worried about confidence. We’re playing for a division championship,” McCarthy said on Monday. “We have some bumps and bruises, some injury situations we need to try to work out in a timely fashion this week. We have to get the right people the right reps to get ready for this game.”
That game is against Minnesota on Sunday night for the NFC North title and the No. 3 playoff seed.
Not having one starting offensive tackle and then losing the other during the game factored heavily into quarterback Aaron Rodgers getting sacked eight times in the 38-8 loss in Arizona.
McCarthy said he didn’t know if left tackle David Bahktiari (ankle) or right tackle Bryan Bulaga (ankle) would be back this week, but both told the coach they hope to be available. There was also no update on cornerback Sam Shields (concussion).
After the loss, McCarthy brought up the man-to-man coverage issue again, an ongoing storyline this season with the receiving corps, but Bennett insisted it’s not a mental hurdle for the group. He said it’s a matter of making the big play when it’s there. Jared Abbrederis’ drop on a deep crossing route and a ball going through Davante Adams’ hands on a fade route in the end zone are two examples from Sunday.
“We feel good about the men in that room, starting with the coaches and players,” Bennett said. “We all have more to give. That’s our thought process.”
The offense has a 30-point performance against the Vikings the first time around, its best output since Week 3, to draw upon. In balancing 34 passes with 34 runs, the Packers hit on several big plays – a 25-yard run by Eddie Lacy, a 30-yard screen to James Starks, and passes of 25, 37 and 27 yards (for a TD) to James Jones.
“We were efficient with our play style and execution,” McCarthy said of the 30-13 triumph in Minneapolis. “We ran the ball the way it’s supposed to be run. We didn’t make a lot of mistakes in that game. That’s the style of play and level of execution we’re going to need this week.”
Capers’ biggest concern of late is the two-minute defense at the end of the first half, which has allowed a long touchdown drive each of the last two weeks. To be fair, Mike Daniels’ interception of Carson Palmer came right after the two-minute warning in the first half, but when the defense retook the field with 57 seconds left, it allowed an 80-yard TD drive that turned a 10-0 game into a 17-0 one.
“The big plays, we have to get that squared away,” said Capers, referring to the 47-yard catch and run by Michael Floyd that started Arizona’s drive. The previous week, the Raiders started their two-minute drive with a 29-yard screen pass.
“You don’t ever want a team to move the ball down and put points on the board going in at halftime. It just gives them momentum.”
The start of the third quarter stung, too, as the defense didn’t respond in an “adversity situation” following a Starks fumble in Green Bay territory. The Cardinals went 28 yards in two plays for another TD.
“You want to go out in those situations and show what you’re all about,” Capers said. “We didn’t get that done.”
Those letdowns undid what had been a strong defensive start that included a three-and-out, a sack to take the Cardinals out of field-goal range, a goal-line stop to force a field goal and Daniels’ interception.
On special teams, the plusses were another solid game from punter Tim Masthay and a flawless debut by rookie long snapper Rick Lovato, who replaced injured veteran Brett Goode.
Lovato didn’t have any placekick snaps in the game, but he had no trouble on six punts. Special Teams Coordinator Ron Zook pointed out his only mistake was not sealing off the backside pursuit on the successful fake punt, which could have allowed Masthay to run for more than the seven yards he gained.
“To be put in those situations, a little bit of a buzzsaw, I thought he handled it well,” Zook said. “I was proud of him.”
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