GREEN BAY, Wis. — Coach Mike McCarthy has put blinders on the Green Bay Packers
The focus is squarely on looking ahead and finishing strong — not looking back on the improbable desperation touchdown pass that beat the Detroit Lions last week.
And not even on the track record of success that Green Bay has had this late in the calendar; the Packers are 14-6 in the last four games of the season since 2010, tied for the third-best record in the league in the season’s final month.
"We’re an 8-4 football team that needs to do better at the little things," McCarthy said before practice on Wednesday. "We’re not as detailed as we’d like to be right now."
Heading into the regular season’s final four games, the Packers have the same record as Minnesota but have the edge in winning the NFC North after beating the Vikings last month. The division title and a home playoff game could be at stake in the season finale against Minnesota on Jan. 3 at Lambeau Field if both teams have the same record.
But that game is way too far off for Green Bay. The Packers would just like to get past the Dallas Cowboys first on Sunday.
"It’s December football," said McCarthy, whose teams are 17-3 at home in the month. "Everybody’s playing for something."
The Hail Mary against Detroit overshadowed some familiar problems for the offense. If Aaron Rodgers’ long touchdown pass fell incomplete, the Packers could be in full-blown panic mode after starting the season 6-0.
"We’ve been up and down most of the year with our play. So we need to strive for more consistency," Rodgers said.
The running game, once again, needs more production out of the beleaguered Eddie Lacy. The third-year back at least has made amends with McCarthy and his teammates after getting demoted before the Lions game for missing curfew at the team hotel the previous night.
McCarthy has said that Lacy looked rejuvenated at practice, "so he’s off to a good start." Asked what he took away from the mistake, Lacy said, "Just be aware of the time, honestly. But you know, it’s a life lesson, it’s a lesson learned."
Lacy was coming off two straight 100-yard games when he was replaced by James Starks in the starting lineup. But his bullish running style seems perfectly suited for cold-weather games in December.
"Without a doubt we have a confidence in Eddie," Rodgers said.
There is hope that the extra few days of rest from a long weekend will help a banged-up offensive line; every starter and the backup center had been hurt or playing through injuries last week.
There weren’t many explosive plays against the Lions by the receivers, though a bright spot emerged with tight end Richard Rodgers, who caught the 61-yard prayer on an untimed down. Richard Rodgers finished with eight catches for 146 yards, by far the best game of his career.
McCarthy has divided this season into three phases. The Packers went undefeated in the first phase, and lost four of six in the second phase.
"And now we’re into the final stage, and the final stage is really the return, the return to the initial commitment of why we’re all here, what we started," McCarthy said.