GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy is proud of the way his offense grinded out a tough day, excited about the way his defense is improving, and steadfast in his support of kicker Mason Crosby.
That was the gist of McCarthy’s Monday press conference, a day after a difficult, down-to-the-wire victory at division rival Detroit that created both confidence and concern, depending on the angle of analysis.
On the offensive side, McCarthy was critical of his play-calling and not pleased with a lot of film as he reviewed and graded the performance, but to emerge from those struggles with a clutch, 82-yard touchdown drive with the game on the line meant more to the head coach than the six consecutive fruitless possessions that preceded it.
Despite just 19 completions for 236 yards and two touchdowns from Aaron Rodgers, McCarthy called the quarterback’s outing “exceptional” for the way he “stayed the course” against a tough Lions defensive front and managed the offense in “tight spots.”
“When you think of Aaron Rodgers, you think of big plays and tight spirals and just doing all these big things,” McCarthy said. “A game like that for a quarterback, that’s hard. That shows you the true character of a tough, championship quarterback.”
Moreover, the Packers showed the ability to come from behind. During their pre-bye, four-game winning streak, the Packers had trailed no worse than 3-0 in any of the games. On Sunday, they trailed in every quarter – by scores of 3-0, 10-7, 17-14 and 20-14 – and had scored only one offensive touchdown in the first 56 minutes.
“It wasn’t our best day on offense by no means, but the way they just kept grinding and grinding and were able to score there at the end, that’s something we can really build off of,” McCarthy said.
“That’s how you grow. That’s the energy for growth. Winning that game yesterday is the way, frankly, you probably want to win it.”
The defense certainly did its part, with plenty of kudos to go around. In holding the league’s No. 1 passing offense coming in to less than 50 percent completions and a 54.0 efficiency rating, the Packers got contributions from everywhere.
McCarthy acknowledged several of his young defenders, including safeties M.D. Jennings, who had a game-changing pick-six, and Jerron McMillian, who broke up a fourth-down heave with 1:19 left. McCarthy also noted the play of rookie outside linebacker Dezman Moses, who had a sack and forced fumble in his first NFL start, and cornerback Casey Hayward, who had his team-leading fifth interception. McCarthy said Hayward might have played his best game, which could have been even better had he not whiffed on a potential sack when he came free on a blitz.
Yet in the midst of all that, the defensive game balls went to A.J. Hawk and Ryan Pickett, a sign that the veteran, glue-type guys on this ascending defense are doing their part, too.
“Our whole goal going into this season was to be a better, well-rounded football team, and I feel we are headed in that direction, clearly,” McCarthy said.
“That’s how you win the hard games, that’s why you win the tough games, and that’s what good teams do.”
One thing the Packers won’t do is replace Crosby, who is in the worst slump of his six-year career with seven misses in his last 13 field goal tries. Crosby missed two more kicks on Sunday, from 50 and 38 yards, both of which would have tied the score at the time.
McCarthy spoke of his commitment to Crosby right after the game on Sunday and reiterated that on Monday.
“Mason Crosby is my kicker, so we can just stop right there,” McCarthy said, adding that he isn’t going to let Crosby’s struggles impact his decision-making on fourth down in scoring territory. He’s going to continue to evaluate Crosby in practice and in pregame warm-ups, as he always does.
“I’m just going to trust the process and trust our players.”
McCarthy was not part of Crosby’s meeting with Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum on Monday, but indicated a plan is in place to help Crosby work through this.
“In Mason’s case, he’s an excellent fit for the type of human being he is,” McCarthy said. “He’s a great representative of the Green Bay Packers in his time here. We have history together, and I believe in him. I don’t think it really needs to go past that.
“But he has a job to do, and he’s not doing it the way it needs to be done. He recognizes that. I’ve recognized it, and we’ll continue to work through it, because I know he can do it. I’m not worried about trying to ask the player to do something they can’t do. This is not that case.” Additional coverage - Nov. 19