GREEN BAY – At first blush, Mike McCarthy felt the Packers were lacking energy in Sunday’s loss to the Colts, and he told his players so right after the game.
Upon reviewing the film, he amended that assessment Monday, believing the 31-26 home defeat was more about lapses in key situations than any absence of fire in his team.
“I thought there was good energy,” McCarthy said in his Monday press conference. “But there’s moments in that game where we’re not detailed, we’re not sharp, and it factored in the outcome.”
Many of those moments came on third down, as the Colts converted seven of 14 opportunities while the Packers were just four of 12. It was the offense’s worst game of the season on the money down and the defense’s second-worst.
The Colts cashed in a third-and-5 in the red zone in the first quarter that led to a touchdown. They moved the chains on third-and-9, backed up on their own 5-yard line late in the second quarter, to jump-start a 96-yard TD drive. They also converted a pair of third downs on the final drive to run out the clock.
Meanwhile, the Packers were against the chains more often than not. Only three times did Green Bay need three or fewer yards to convert on third down. Eight times, the Packers needed eight or more.
“We had too many third-and-longs,” McCarthy said. “Third down was a pretty good swing for the Colts as opposed to us.”
It wasn’t just about third down, though, not when the defense surrendered two rushing TDs for the first time since Week 8 last year, the offense failed to get any points on a drive that started at the Indy 29-yard line, and the kickoff coverage unit allowed 160 yards on two returns.
“Ball placement was poor, lane integrity was poor,” McCarthy said of the game-opening 99-yard score. “He wasn’t even touched.”
Implicit in McCarthy’s changed tone on Monday is that pep talks and loud voices to crank up the energy can’t be solely relied upon to produce more detailed, sharp football.
More focused play is required. If additional emotional intensity goes along with it, all the better, but getting more fired up isn’t the cure-all.
“We were not clean in a number of different situations, and they took advantage of it,” McCarthy said.
The Colts played a lot of man-to-man coverage, spied QB Aaron Rodgers regularly, and the Packers squandered some big-play opportunities.
One play after Rodgers led Jordy Nelson too far on a deep shot downfield, he placed another long one perfectly over Jeff Janis’ shoulder, but Janis couldn’t come down with it.
McCarthy said Janis has improved “leaps and bounds” at tracking deep balls since last year, but he didn’t carry it over to that play.
“It’s a well-thrown ball,” McCarthy said. “He ran a great route, and he’s got to catch the ball.”
Receiver Randall Cobb’s hamstring appeared to come out of the game no worse for wear after his limited work, and McCarthy acknowledged the running game was hampered by Ty Montgomery being on a rep count coming off his illness.
Montgomery rushed seven times for 53 yards and caught three passes for 38 more. At 9.1 yards per touch, he’s a player who almost certainly would have gotten the ball more had he been cleared to take more snaps. The plan this week will be to see if James Starks (knee) can crank up his practice workload as well.
Where Clay Matthews stands is uncertain, though. The defense struggled to get to the quarterback without Matthews for the second straight week, recording just two sacks in 40-plus drop-backs by Andrew Luck.
Matthews all but vowed to play last week, but McCarthy said he had a setback with his hamstring injury on Friday and had to be rested again.
McCarthy believes the pass rush is “not that far away,” but better results are needed.
“At adverse moments in the game, we have to sharpen things up,” McCarthy said.