GREEN BAY — Despite his admitted fascination with analytics, Mike McCarthy hasn’t kept official count of how many times he’s heard the word “accountability” around 1265 Lombardi Avenue since last season’s Aaron Rodgers-less collapse.
He just knows it’s been a lot.
“If there’s one word that’s been thrown around here a lot the last six, seven months, it’s ‘accountability,’” the Green Bay Packers coach said Monday, one day after his team’s stunning 24-23 come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. “I mean, it’s got more (fingerprints) on it right now than I’ve ever seen in any dictionary.”
Count McCarthy and outside linebacker Clay Matthews among those who had to take accountability for making mistakes that could have cost the Packers the game Sunday night.
Matthews’ mistake came near the end of the game, when he hit Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky late from behind after a fourth-down incompletion, keeping the Bears’ final drive alive. Only fellow outside linebacker Nick Perry’s sack of Trubisky five plays later prevented disaster.
Matthews admitted after the game he was “beating myself up” over the mistake, and McCarthy said Monday he should have been.
“We definitely have to be smarter there,” McCarthy said.
“That’s not a mistake that I generally make, especially on fourth down,” Matthews said. “I think last year (the officials) might’ve given me a nice warning, but it’s changing this year. I had my iPad (playbook) charged and ready to turn in tomorrow to ‘Gutey’ (general manager Brian Gutekunst). I’m glad Nick bailed me out.”
McCarthy, meanwhile, was bailed out by quarterback Aaron Rodgers erasing the Bears’ 20-0 third-quarter lead — a lead that was seven points larger because McCarthy was too aggressive late in the first half and wasn’t content to go to the locker room down only 10-0 without Rodgers.
Instead, with the Bears out of timeouts, McCarthy called a timeout of his own with 56 seconds left in the half after backup quarterback DeShone Kizer was sacked for a 9-yard loss, setting up second-and-19. After an incompletion on a deep shot downfield to Geronimo Allison, McCarthy called a screen pass to Ty Montgomery — which Kizer threw directly to Bears defensive end Khalil Mack, who returned the interception 27 yards for a touchdown and a 17-0 Chicago lead.
“The screen play, I had a lot of regrets. Because we talked about it (as a staff): ‘Run the ball, get out of there,’” McCarthy said, explaining he flashed back to a game last year when then-backup Brett Hundley hit on a screen pass just before halftime that gave the offense a jolt.
“I was trying to give DeShone a chance to get (going) … We didn’t handle it very well. That’s the call that kept me up last night, that dang screen play.”
McCarthy said the team discussed both his gaffe and Matthews’ on Monday.
“We talked a little bit about (accountability) in the team meeting — myself included,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s very important to be transparent, because we did some great things as far as, as a team, to come back and get that win. But we had ugly moments. And the fact that we’re going to take the opportunity to fully grow from them, those moments, it’s critical to be transparent. And it’s important for everybody.”
NBC’s cameras caught rookie linebacker James Crawford, perhaps the biggest long shot to make the Packers’ roster coming out of training camp, with tears welling in his eyes during the national anthem before Sunday night’s kickoff. Crawford, an undrafted free agent from Illinois, joined the team on the eve of the first preseason game.
“It was definitely emotional,” said Crawford, who’d been listed as questionable because of a hamstring injury but was active and saw action on special teams. “I had both of my parents there watching. I tried to hold it back but sometimes you just can’t hold it back. I’m glad that I did let it out because it shows everybody that hard work does pay off. That was very emotional to me to actually be out there on the NFL stage.
“At every level, I was seen as a long shot. High school … College … In the NFL, I hurt my hamstring on pro day, so it was a long shot for this dude to make it. I get a shot here right before the preseason opener, ‘Oh, it’s a long shot for him to make the team.’ I make the team, ‘Oh, it’s a long shot for him to get on the 46.’ I’m just here to be all the long shots.”
McCarthy said the score didn’t factor into his decision to bring Rodgers back into the game. Even had the Bears scored a touchdown on the first series of the second half to make it 24-0, Rodgers still would have played, he said. “I mean, 20 (points) or 24 (points), in my opinion, what’s the difference?” McCarthy said. “Lot of time left.” … McCarthy singled out safety Kentrell Brice as having played especially well. “Kentrell Brice played outstanding,” McCarthy said. “He clearly had the highest grade on the defensive side of the ball.” … McCarthy said kick returner Trevor Davis, who was a surprise inactive, came to Lambeau Field with his troublesome hamstring hurting. “When Trevor showed up at the stadium, his hamstring was really bothering him — more than I think even he expected,” McCarthy said. “So we took him out on Lambeau and we had a pregame workout. And he wasn’t ready to go.”