Last week, the message was all about urgency. This week, take your pick.
Consistency, reliability, accountability: Any one works. As they apply to the Packers in their preparation for the St. Louis Rams, they all say the same thing – if you can do it once, you can do it again.
“We haven’t won two in a row yet this year,” Mike McCarthy said. “That’s our theme this week. Back to back. Stacking success is so important in this league.”
The Packers have to go all the way back to McCarthy’s rookie season as head coach to find a time they went this deep into a season without consecutive wins. In 2006, the first back-to-back victories came in Weeks 6 and 7, the very pair the Packers are in the midst of now.
At 3-3 and looking up at rivals Chicago and Minnesota in the NFC North, Green Bay’s margin for error isn’t large. With five division games in the final seven weeks, the Packers could put themselves in position to control their own division and postseason fate.
But that depends on their performances the next three weeks prior to their bye, and the prime-time victory over previously unbeaten Houston needs to start a roll, not continue the roller coaster.
“There isn’t a secret formula to urgency. It’s not like something you just turn on and off,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “It has to be a mindset thing, and I think this team has that mindset. It’s just a matter of having a great week of practice and going out there on Sunday and playing.”
This week the Packers will be playing a 3-3 Rams team that is 3-0 inside its Edward Jones Dome. St. Louis has won its last two home games largely on the strength of its defense, which harassed Seattle QB Russell Wilson into three interceptions and buried Arizona QB Kevin Kolb under a barrage of nine sacks.
The Packers prepared for a similar defensive buzz saw last week in Houston but got off to a fast start. A 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter quieted the indoor crowd, prevented the active Texans’ defense from dictating tempo and took a normally patient Houston offense out of its run-first game plan.
“That was a good game for us offensively last week,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who tied a franchise record with six TD passes. “But it doesn’t really mean a whole lot unless you can get on a roll here and put two, three, four, five games in a row where you’re playing like you want to on offense.”
The Packers have resisted comparisons all season to 2011, because every year is different, but there was no denying last week looked an awful lot like last year.
It did in one key respect for the defense, too – the turnover category. The Packers intercepted three passes against the Texans, and even though only two of them came against starting QB Matt Schaub, it still marked just the second time in six games the defense came up with multiple takeaways.
Rookie cornerback Casey Hayward had two of those three interceptions, and he is poised for a bigger role in place of starter Sam Shields (shin/ankle; out). The defense also will be playing its first game without starting linebackers Nick Perry (knee; out) and D.J. Smith (knee; IR), replaced by Erik Walden and most likely Brad Jones, respectively.
Different faces will be a fact of life for the Packers, but the same type of performance would be most welcome.
“I think if we play the way we know we can play – Sunday was a good picture of that – we can stack these successes,” Bulaga said. “Yeah, we had a good game, but that game is over. Now it’s time to go out this Sunday and do it again.”
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