In this week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," the head coach discusses the rainy weather in San Diego, the communication on defense, and the team chemistry, among other topics.
Three fan questions will be selected each week and presented to Coach McCarthy. Go to the Green Bay Packers' official Facebook page on Monday mornings to post your question.
Nick from Conneaut, OH
Q. When the weather conditions are rainy, such as they were in San Diego, does that change your game plan at all?
Yes, rain does change your game plan. However, what is most important is the wind and/or the amount of rain and how it affects the playing surface. I believe the offense has the advantage in bad-weather games because they know where they’re going and the defense is forced to react on potentially poor footing. The field in San Diego is Bermuda grass and is in excellent shape, and as a result, the footing didn’t change much. The biggest challenge in those conditions was the ability of our perimeter players to catch and secure the football. I thought our players did an excellent job of that throughout the game, particularly in the first half. You could see the emphasis of securing the ball with both hands and protecting it after the catch. As it relates to changing the game plan, you typically look to put more stress on the perimeter of the defense in bad-weather games. Anytime you can get the ball in space in those conditions, it definitely gives the advantage to the offense.
Justin from Coldwater, KS
Q. The Packers have a stretch of three games in 11 days coming up. Do you change how practices are conducted during a stretch like that to avoid the players getting burned out, injured or fatigued?
Absolutely. Fortunately, we benefitted from having our bye week prior to the San Diego game and an extra day before we play Minnesota on Monday night as we head into our stretch of three games in 11 days. We’ve been very smart with our players prior to these two games, giving them an extra day of rest because of the impending demands our schedule presents. Following the Monday night game, it’s a short week leading into the Tampa game. However, it is a home game so our players will be able to stay on their routine. The only change that week will be to the Wednesday practice because it will be a Tuesday to the players’ body clocks. You have to be smart with what you ask them to do physically, and you have to pay particular attention to the medical report before practice on Thursday. Following the Buccaneers game and leading into the Thursday game in Detroit, we’ll be especially cognizant of what we ask them to do physically. It’s primarily a mental challenge to focus on the game plan and turn it around in four days for the Detroit game.
Q. You talked about communication problems on Sunday. What does that mean?
Communication is the fuel that generates execution and action. There is a process for giving the play to the quarterback or the defensive call to the linebacker. Are you recognizing what the opponent is doing? How do you align to it? Is there an adjustment to their alignment? The process wasn’t as crisp as it needed to be against the Chargers. In terms of managing the game, the coaching staff has a high priority to ensure we put the players in a clean game. That was not the case in San Diego. Offensively, we burned two timeouts in the second half. You don’t want to be in the situation where you have two replay challenges available, but only one timeout remaining. Whether it’s the defense making the right adjustment to an opponent’s formation or the offense getting the play in quickly, proper communication is essential in boundary discipline to ensure clean pre-snap responsibility.
I don’t let individual records dictate the team’s preparation or performance. Now, if we’re in Week 15 or 16, we could have that conversation. I’m not going to call the game and Aaron’s not going to play the game based on an individual record. That’s not the way we’re wired. We know if the offense operates at maximum efficiency, those opportunities will continue to present themselves. We just have to take advantage of them. When you start playing for individual records, you’re offensive production will suffer and your opportunities will decrease. It’s a negative road to travel. If we’re sitting on the doorstep in Week 16, you can ask me that question again.
Q. What has to happen for the defense to improve?
On defense, our issue has been surrendering big plays. If you look at the breakdown of the big-play tape, a lot of it has been because of poor communication. That can manifest in a few ways, including the initial defensive call or getting to the correct adjustment. We need to keep the communication clean and make sure we’re focused and detailed. Additionally, we need to play with the right leverage and play to our help on defense. It comes down to focus. We have excellent players on defense and an excellent coaching staff. I look for us to gain confidence as we move forward and be a great defense down the stretch.
Q. Does it aid your preparation for the Vikings that you’ve already played against Christian Ponder?
Yes, I believe it does. Anytime you are facing an unfamiliar player, particularly a primary carrier of the football, it is beneficial to have film on that player and an understanding of their tendencies during preparation. Now that Christian has played in two games, including one against us, we feel we have a better understanding of him and how they want to use him in the offense. It definitely helps you when you’re not seeing a quarterback for the first time.
Q. What does it mean for you and the team to have the fan support you had in San Diego?
A lot has been said about our fan support in San Diego, and I don’t think you can say enough. It was a unique environment to experience on the road. It was exciting to come out in pre-game to see our fans in the green and gold and letting their team know they were there to cheer them on. Throughout the game we continued to hear the ‘Go, Pack, Go’ chants. The support is unique to the Green Bay Packers and it’s very helpful to our football team.
Q. How would you describe the character and chemistry of this team?
Our football team possesses high character and great chemistry, there’s no question about that. We’re also undefeated, so you would expect that. True adversity exposes character, and that’s something on the playing field I’ve been very impressed with. Through our first eight games we’ve repeatedly had adversity situations, and we’ve answered the bell at a very high level. In terms of performance, that says a lot about the character of our team. Also, off the field, it’s a very healthy locker room. The guys genuinely like each other and enjoy spending time together. There’s a lot of interaction and a lot of energy. It’s definitely a fun group to coach, and I think this group has a chance to be something special.
Q. Minnesota is coming off the bye week. Is that in their favor for Monday’s matchup?
It always helps to come off a bye week. It was no different for us in San Diego. The Chargers were coming off a Monday night game and we were coming off a bye week. We were the healthier team in San Diego, and that will probably be the case for Minnesota coming into this game. The bye week gives you a little advantage in preparation, but I don’t know how much advantage it will give the Vikings because we’ve each only played one game since our last game against each other. This is really just a continuation of our game a couple of weeks ago.
For last week's "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.