GREEN BAY – The page already has been turned.
There’s no time for the Packers to celebrate their Monday night victory in Philadelphia and the end to their four-game losing streak.
Not with AFC South leader Houston coming to Lambeau Field in just a few days, and the calendar turning even sooner than that.
“These uncommon opponents are a challenge,” McCarthy said on Tuesday, referring to the Texans, whom the Packers haven’t played since 2012. “This is a heck of a defense. They’ve lost two in a row.
“It’s December football, so everything goes up a notch. Everyone talks about playoff football when everything goes to a different level. Well, it goes to a different level in December. That’s where we’re at and that’s what we’re getting ready for.”
The Packers have five games left in the next month (plus Jan. 1) to make the Eagles win the start of a playoff push, and Green Bay’s rising offense will be put to the test against two of the league’s top defenses the next two weeks.
Houston is ranked fifth in the league in yards allowed, with Week 14 opponent Seattle currently seventh. The Packers knocked Philadelphia’s defense down a couple of pegs (from sixth to eighth), but McCarthy stressed that the Texans will present schematic changes the Packers will have to prepare for and react to.
The Texans also rank fifth in passing yards allowed, third in first downs per game, and seventh in third-down conversions, all despite the loss of three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt to injury early in the season.
“Their defense is very impressive,” McCarthy said. “This is a different type of defensive front than we just played.
“Houston is extremely athletic. They’re going to have a different look for us. They play every team differently. We have a lot of extra film work to do this week.”
The Packers also have some injuries to work through, though McCarthy had no medical updates to pass along on Tuesday.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ hamstring and linebacker Clay Matthews’ shoulder will be watched closely during this short week. McCarthy indicated Matthews’ injury is the bigger concern of the two.
“I can’t say enough about him coming back out there and fighting through what he did,” McCarthy said. “I’m sure he doesn’t feel very good today.”
Linebacker Jake Ryan (ankle), who was expecting to play, didn’t have a setback, McCarthy said, but the medical staff wasn’t “quite there to let him play.” Perhaps he returns this week.
The head coach was pleased with the performance of cornerback Damarious Randall after his long layoff, saying his “presence” made a difference for the defense. The press box statistics credited Randall with a team-high seven tackles plus one pass breakup.
“He plays a very challenging position. Coming back from his injury, it definitely was taxing for him,” McCarthy said. “I thought he played a really good, solid game.”
The same could be said for the defense as a whole, which allowed just two field goals after an opening touchdown drive.
McCarthy felt a number of elements helped the effort, including long drives by the offense to keep defenders fresh, strong special-teams coverage winning the field-position battle, and owning the second-half lead to allow the pass-rushers to attack.
“We’re healthier. All those things factor into it,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we executed better on defense.”
It has to continue for the Packers to keep any pressure on their NFC North rivals ahead of them. The next game is already a day closer.
“There’s nothing like winning,” McCarthy said. “That’s what it’s all about, winning football games. It felt good. It was definitely way too long.
“Monday night games are fun to play in, but they’re a challenge once they’re over.”