Packers' McCarthy aims to turn around NFL's worst rushing defense
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers enter their midseason bye week with a 5-3 record and a head coach who is well aware of both his team's strengths and deficiencies.
Chief among coach Mike McCarthy's concerns: The NFL's worst rushing defense. After allowing New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram to rush for 172 yards on 24 carries during Sunday night's 44-23 loss at New Orleans, the Packers rank last in rushing yards allowed per game (153.5). Entering Monday night's Washington-Dallas game, only the Cowboys (4.9) and Carolina Panthers (5.2) allowed more yards per rush than the Packers (4.8).
"We need to tackle the damn ball carrier and put him on the ground," McCarthy said. "That's what we'll be focused on."
McCarthy was particularly perturbed by the number of tackles the Packers missed on Ingram -- the advanced statistics site Pro Football Focus had them for 10 missed tackles against Ingram alone -- and the Saints' ability to set up favorable down-and-distance situations with productive early runs. The Packers allowed 495 yards total yards on Sunday night, one yard shy of the season-high 496 yards they gave up against Chicago in Week 4.
"The run defense was our Achilles' Heel clearly on defense. Too many missed tackles," McCarthy said. "Missed tackles are fundamentals. . . . Everybody wants to talk about scheme and personnel. That's something that you're always weighing or looking at. Or are there other individuals who deserve opportunities? Can we use other individuals a certain way? That's really what we talk about as coaches day in and day out. Our issues on run D are fundamental."
One thing McCarthy isn't concerned about: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers left hamstring, which he injured during Sunday night's loss and limited his effectiveness even though he stayed in the game. Although McCarthy did not see Rodgers during his time at Lambeau Field Monday, the medical staff felt good about Rodgers' chances of being back in the lineup for the team's next game, Nov. 9 against Chicago.
"They're very confident where Aaron is today," McCarthy said of the medical staff.
Players were not available to reporters Monday, but Rodgers stayed in the game until the Saints had put it out of reach and expressed confidence on Sunday night that he'd be fine by the Bears game.
"I'm not going to miss any time," said Rodgers, who suffered a torn hamstring in practice during the 2007 season. "If I felt it, then I had to back off a little bit. We had to do a little more in the shotgun but it wasn't a big deal, ultimately."
Before the injury, Rodgers had completed 14 of 19 passes for 298 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 133.1. After the injury, he was 14 for 20 for 120 yards with no TDs, two INTs and a rating of 45.8. He saw his interception-less streak end at 212 consecutive pass attempts, the longest of his career and the second-longest in Packers history.
Against the Saints, Green Bay's offense finished with 491 yards, led by running back Eddie Lacy's 182 yards of total offense (123 receiving, 59 rushing) on 21 total touches. But Rodgers' two interceptions -- both of which went off receivers' hands -- and a failed fourth-and-1 attempt from their own 40-yard line resulted in empty possessions in the back-and-forth game.
McCarthy bristled at a question Monday about why Lacy, who was averaging 17 touches per game before Sunday night.
"I don't understand what you don't like about our offense the last couple weeks. I'm very comfortable," said McCarthy, whose team ranked 19th in total offense, 24th in rushing offense, 12th in passing offense and seventh in scoring following Sunday's games. "I don't know the number of touches that Eddie has, but I'm very comfortable with the number."
What McCarthy isn't comfortable with, however, is where his team stands. At 5-3, the Packers are a game behind NFC North-leading Detroit (6-2) and have the fifth-best record in the conference.
"I wouldn't say satisfied. I think you have to be realistic," McCarthy said. "I'm realistic with our strengths and continue to work at the things we have to do better. I think you definitely identify yourself as a team after six, seven, eight games. . . . We had some very unusual games earlier in the year, but I think the last four weeks we identified who we are.
"We need to stop the run. We can be explosive on offense, take care of the football, take the football away. We've established that."