GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy arrived late for his usual day-after-the-game news conference on Monday, explaining a guest speaker had run a bit long.
And who had the Green Bay Packers longtime coach brought in to address his guys? Dr. Christopher Carr, an Indiana-based sports and performance psychologist who was hired by the team in July to serve as a consultant.
At 2-2-1 and having looked sloppy and out-of-sorts in each of their losses, give McCarthy this: In his quest for what ails his inconsistent team, he’s looking into all aspects of their game.
Of course, whatever psychological ills the Packers are suffering pale in comparison to their struggles in the basic fundamentals of what McCarthy has long believed in as a coach: Winning the turnover battle, avoiding foolish penalties, having their two-time NFL MVP play at his typically elite level, and their usually rock-solid kicker making sure the offense has something to show for drives that stop short of the end zone.
None of those things happened in Sunday’s 31-23 loss at Detroit, a defeat that left McCarthy’s team a decidedly mediocre 23-23-1 over its past 47 regular-season games.
“(Not) taking care of the football and the penalties was a huge part of our not reaching the goal we set out to accomplish,” McCarthy said Monday.
The Packers committed three turnovers Sunday: two on fumbles by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and one when officials ruled that a Lions punt caromed off Packers cornerback Kevin King while he was blocking. Green Bay’s defense, meanwhile, failed to generate a takeaway, and through five games, the Packers are minus-2 in turnover differential, having turned it over eight times (six fumbles, two interceptions) while forcing only six turnovers (two fumbles, four interceptions).
In addition, the Packers committed an alarming 12 penalties for 112 yards against the Lions, running their season total to 43 penalties for 413 yards. By comparison, opponents have been flagged only 30 times for 262 yards. Only Pittsburgh (49 for 459 yards) and Kansas City (45 for 372 yards) have committed more penalties.
Adding to the Packers’ problems in Detroit were veteran kicker Mason Crosby’s five misses — four field goal attempts and one extra point — which cost the team 13 points.
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McCarthy acknowledged that had Crosby made the three first-half kicks he attempted — from 41, 42 and 38 yards — a 24-9 deficit would have allowed him to stay with a better run/pass play-calling mix on offense. Instead, while Rodgers piled up lots of yardage (he completed 32 of 52 passes for 442 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 108.0 passer rating), the results didn’t correlate.
“He’s a proven, highly successful kicker. I still believe in him,” McCarthy said of Crosby. “But he knows it — he has to make those kicks. It’s a different game at halftime (if he does). So hopefully we’ll learn from it and move on.”
As for the run/pass balance being out of whack — which, in turn, led to running back Aaron Jones’ playing time being limited during the pass-heavy second half because of his shortcomings as a blitz protector — McCarthy said, “To be a very balanced offense was the plan going in.”
Playing from behind has become all too commonplace for this team this season. In three of their five games this season, the Packers have trailed by double-digits: 20-0 early in the third quarter in their season-opening comeback win over Chicago on Sept. 9; 28-10 at halftime in their Sept. 24 loss at Washington; and 24-0 at halftime Sunday. And the offense and defense each played a part in digging Sunday’s hole.
“I’ve got to play better in the first half,” Rodgers said. “It’s frustrating. We’ve been kind of a one-half team: one good half and one not-so-good half. … I was a little off. I missed a couple I usually hit. We missed some opportunities there.
“(It was) definitely a disjointed game — not punting, putting up a lot of (yards) and not winning the game.”
On defense, the Packers surrendered 160 of the Lions’ 264 yards and 24 of their 31 points in the first half. That bore a striking resemblance to the group’s showing against the Redskins, who rolled up 323 yards in the first half, and only 63 in the second.
“We need to put a whole, full game together,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said Monday afternoon. “Making more plays, finishing tackles, making this defense better. If we can critique ourselves and figure out what we can do better as individuals, I think we’ll be better as a whole.”
Said McCarthy: “This is not a getting-close-enough type of sport. We get that. We didn’t win the game.”