Mike McCarthy: What Went Wrong Against the Bengals

All the following quotes are from Mike McCarthy's Monday press conference. Although I'll skip the part about the injuries to LT Chad Clifton, S Nick Collins, and S Aaron Rouse. We'll know more about all three on Wednesday when they are listed on the injury list. 

Q:  How do you explain the issues up front with protection? 

A:  ...As we talked about as a staff today, we could have had nine-man protections on a couple of those where we flat-out just get beat, one individual gets beat fundamentally, and it causes a sack and a quarterback hit that we need to eliminate from our play. I'm not going to go overboard here, but four of those sacks in the last two weeks are totally uncalled for. They're unacceptable to get beat the way that we did and hit the quarterback. That's just something we have to correct on the field...

Back in 2008, the Packers were bad in pass protection. Clifton allowed a lot of sacks, but that could be excused because he battled a lot of injuries. LG Daryn Colledge also surrendered too many sacks, but his problems might have been a result of Clifton's struggles. Colledge was battling an ankle sprain, so he deserves some credit for playing through it, but if he wasn't ready to play, then the coaches and medical staff shouldn't let him play. The key part of the quote is that McCarthy said they could have gotten beat if they "had nine-man protections on a couple of those" sacks. He's not calling out any players, but the individual players are not getting the job done. 

Q:  Could you talk about your decision to keep Raji out again and what his prospects are?

A:  ... We just didn't feel he was 100 percent...

Q:  What about the defense's inability to stop the run. What's the issue there?
A:  It all fits into gap control and staying in your gaps. Tackling was an issue throughout the game yesterday...

Run defense was the achilles heel of the 2008 team, and it's showing it's ugly head again in 2009. 141 yards and almost 4.9 yards/carry was unacceptable against a running back who struggles to average over 4 yards/carry. I've been reading about blown gap responsiblity for months. This is not a one game problem; it was an all 2008 problem. But I'll let this one go for at least one more week. The defensive front seven was the same group last Sunday that struggled against the run for all of 2008, except LB Clay Matthews was playing. He should help. And NT B.J. Raji should be an improvement over NT Ryan Pickett, which should help the run defense. This is a danger area, something to watch closely in the future, but it might need a couple more weeks to adapt to Dom Capers's new 3-4 defense and await the addition of Raji.

One more thing on gap control; it looked like a problem on special teams too. If he wasn't to blame, I apologize in advance, but it looked like LB Jeremy Thompson blew his gap assignment on punt coverage and allowed a giant hole for WR Quan Cosby to return it to the Packers' 6 yard line. 

Q:  Are you seeing the hits Rodgers is taking affect the way he's playing? 

A:  ...You don't want him looking over his left shoulder and things like that. I don't see any of that going on, but Aaron has done a good job playing with his feet...

Maybe he should be looking over his shoulder. I thought he looked nervous against the Bears, but against the Bengals, he probably stayed in the pocket longer than he should've. His answer was a little odd; the hits aren't bothering Rodgers, but he's doing a good job running for his life! I'm sure he just meant it as a compliment; Rodgers's 4th quarter scrambles set up the final FG drive.

Q:  Your receivers work on the jugs machine all the time. Are you surprised by the number of drops in the first two weeks?

A:  ...We start the game with two dropped balls and then we go out on defense and let him run the ball down the field. That's not the way you start games at home...

Yep.

Q:  On Bush's second false start, were you ready to yell at him there and you just had to calm him down? 
A:  On the false start? Yeah, pre-snap penalties, there is no excuse, whether it's an offensive tackle or a gunner. It's all the same. This is the National Football League... 

I'm just going to stop here. It feels like more went wrong in this game then went right. If it weren't for the two huge INTs by CB Charles Woodson, the Bengals might have won that game 31-10, or 45-10. It might have been a blowout, but instead they were 10 yards away from forcing the game into OT. 

They've got a lot to prove. If the offensive line can't pass protect, and the defensive front seven can't stop the run, then they'll be lucky to win 6 games again this season. Turning it around next week against St. Louis will be a start.

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