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Packers 7-0 despite an imperfect defense

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Chris Jenkins
October 25, 2011
— The Green Bay Packers are 7-0, and coach Mike McCarthy sees plenty of room for the defending Super Bowl champions to grow.

With most Packers players leaving Green Bay for some time off during the team’s bye week, McCarthy will get his assistant coaches together this morning for self-scouting sessions intended to identify areas for improvement.


And while McCarthy says his players generally are playing above average, according to coaches’ grades, that doesn’t mean they’re above being critiqued.


“I think that’s very exciting, because we feel strongly as a football team our best football is in front of us,” McCarthy said Monday. “So my sense of accomplishment is we’re 7-0 but we have a lot of room for improvement. And it’s clearly evident when we go through the grades and corrections week in and week out. So that’s where I’m at.”


It’s difficult to identify a glaring weakness on the NFL’s last remaining undefeated team, but the reigning champs acknowledge they’re giving up too many big plays.


“That’s really going to be the conversation (today) as a coaching staff when we go through our self-scouting meetings,” McCarthy said. “A lot of it’s going to be review. It’s more going to be about the direction we’re going to go. We’re not going to make big changes. We’re in tune with what needs to be done. Defensively, we’re giving up too many big plays, and that’s the bottom line.”


Those defensive difficulties continued in Sunday’s victory at Minnesota. Despite making a switch to rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, the Vikings made enough big plays to stay in the game until the end.


“It felt kind of weird around here today,” Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop said Monday. “I mean, we’re 7-0, but it didn’t quite feel like that. I think it’ll never be right. We could be


16-0. The defense, if we don’t play up to our capabilities, we’re never satisfied.”


According to STATS LLC, the Packers have given up 36 plays of 20-plus yards—second-most in the NFL, trailing only


New England’s 40. The Packers are missing Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins, who is out for the season because of a neck injury, but they aren’t using that as an excuse.


“I do think we can play a lot better,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “That’s an encouraging thing to me. We’re 7-0. We’re doing some things well but we aren’t as consistent as we need to be. There are segments when you’ll see us play for a couple quarters, and we’ll play like we want to look, and then we’ll have a quarter in there where you don’t want to give up the big plays that we’ve had.”


Bishop expects the Packers to get their problems sorted out.


“That’s the best thing about it, to be 7-0 and haven’t even come close to really reaching our peak and reaching our full potential,” Bishop said. “It’s a good thing. It’s something we’ve got to work on, and when we do reach that (potential), it’s going to be scary.”


Now McCarthy wants his players to take a few days away from the game to recharge.


“The only two priorities that I gave them in the meeting was spend time with your family and get rest,” McCarthy said. “They have strength and conditioning responsibility, that’s been covered with them from our strength staff. But it’s important to get away. We plan on playing a lot of football here.”


McCarthy did have one other request for his players: keep quiet.


“We don’t need any big dramatic quotes or anything,” McCarthy said. “We’re on a bye week. Let’s be not seen, not heard, and get healthy, recharge ourselves, and when we get back, let’s get ready for San Diego.”


Players are expected back in Green Bay on Sunday, and will be back at work at 6:30 a.m. Monday.


Wide receiver Jordy Nelson said he will use that time to get away from football, although he was thinking about returning to Kansas State to watch the Wildcats play Oklahoma on Saturday.


“I’m not taking my playbook with me,” Nelson said, laughing.


But Nelson won’t exactly be relaxing the rest of the time. He’ll visit his family’s farm this week, and seemed pretty sure that they will put him to work.


“It’s free labor,” Nelson joked.


Nelson said most Packers players leave town during the bye, although family situations keep some players in town.


“Some people stay, with families, they’ve still got school and stuff like that,” Nelson said. “It’s all based on what your situation is. But I would definitely say 90 percent or more is out of here.”


Green out for season

Packers rookie running back Alex Green is out for the season after injuring his knee during Sunday’s game.


McCarthy calls Green’s injury “very unfortunate,” saying his play had been improving and the team expected him to make an impact this season. Green will have surgery, although no timeline has been established.


Green appeared to sustain the injury on a first-quarter kickoff against the Vikings.


Green was a third-round draft pick out of Hawaii and had seen time mostly on special teams. He missed some time earlier in the season with an Achilles’ injury.


It is unclear when the Packers will place Green on injured reserve, and McCarthy said he and general manager Ted Thompson were discussing potential additions to the roster.



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