Prep and planning pays off for Packers' McCarthy, Rodgers
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Game-planning sessions can get a little dry sometimes for the Green Bay Packers.
Not lately, not with coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in that same meeting to spice things up - both on and off the field.
The Packers are coming off their most impressive offensive outburst in a while after beating the Washington Redskins 35-18 in an NFC wild-card game on Sunday. Rodgers has been more involved in planning of late and don't expect the routine to change as the Packers prepare to visit the Arizona Cardinals in the divisional round this weekend.
''So Aaron's been very much involved the last couple weeks. That's fun having him in the room,'' McCarthy said Monday. ''Once you get the head coach back in the room, the meetings go an hour longer. And then you get the quarterback in there, now they're two hours longer.''
The hard work has paid off.
The Packers shook off a sluggish first quarter and 11-0 deficit to race past the Redskins on the road. The offensive line performed well, running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks each had touchdown runs, and the receivers created big plays.
Rodgers was back in rhythm, enjoying every minute. A TV camera even caught a light moment when the giddy Rodgers walked up behind McCarthy and put two hands on the coach's shoulders.
It sure didn't look like there was any friction between the coach and quarterback, which has been a popular topic of speculation during an offensively-challenged season.
''Yeah, I mean I don't see it the way it's perceived,'' McCarthy said. ''So I enjoy our relationship and `it's great that everybody got to see some good clips' is my answer.''
After handing play-calling duties to associate head coach Tom Clements at the start of the season, McCarthy took the responsibilities back in Week 14 against Dallas. There was a promising win against the Cowboys, but results since then were mixed - until the convincing victory over Washington.
A playoff win means even more after Green Bay ended the regular season with two straight losses.
''I talked a lot the last couple of weeks about being able to turn it on and a lot of you probably thought that was lip service,'' Rodgers told reporters after the game, ''but we just needed a game like this to get our mojo back and got our confidence going.''
First, they need a little rest. The Packers weren't going to return to the practice field until Wednesday, though planning meetings for the Cardinals game have begun.
Rodgers' involvement isn't entirely new, since he's usually around on off days when coaches are putting together the game plan, though it appears that he might be a little more involved.
Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett spoke highly of Rodgers' football mind. McCarthy said Rodgers asks good questions, ''and questions are important in those meetings, because it can be dry ... But it's good to go in there and make sure you hash it out.''
Whatever the reasons behind the rejuvenated offense, the Packers are feeling much better about themselves than this time last week.
The team talked earlier last week about taking on an underdog mentality before McCarthy decided to scrap that theme. For all of their struggles in the regular season, the Packers still know what it takes to win.
''I get what people are saying. We're not going to be an underdog. We're no underdog going to Arizona. I don't care what people think or how we're picked or things like that. We're going out there to win, and we expect to win,'' McCarthy said.
NOTES: McCarthy wasn't sure yet whether the team would love Thursday night or Friday for Arizona, and whether the Packers would hold their final practice of the week on the road. ... The team returned from the relatively warm Washington area, where the temperature at game time was 61 degrees on Sunday, to sub-zero wind chills in Green Bay in the evening. The Packers had a nice surprise waiting when they got back into town. ''Getting home, the guys from the equipment room had our cars warmed up, so it was nice to come home to minus-5 and have your car running,'' McCarthy said.
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