Rodgers’ play draws McCarthy’s scrutinyAfter seven games, Aaron Rodgers led the NFL in passing and was widely credited with keeping the Green Bay Packers upright during their wobbly start to the season. After the Packers’ 38-28 loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the eighth game Sunday, that changed.
By: By Tom Oates, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
TAMPA, Fla. — After seven games, Aaron Rodgers led the NFL in passing and was widely credited with keeping the Green Bay Packers upright during their wobbly start to the season.
After the Packers’ 38-28 loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the eighth game Sunday, that changed.
Rodgers took his usual physical beating as the no-name Buccaneers defense sacked him six times. But he also threw three interceptions — one more than he had thrown in the first seven games combined — and saw his decision-making publicly questioned by coach Mike McCarthy for the first time.
Surprisingly, McCarthy seemed more concerned with the sacks than the interceptions. Rodgers has already been sacked 37 times — three more than he was sacked in 16 games a year ago.
“It has to stop,” McCarthy said. “You can’t sit here and keep taking sacks. ... That’s a reflection of coaching and playing. It’s something that’s been coached, it’s something that’s been trained, and it keeps showing up on Sundays. (Look) at Tampa Bay’s quotes all week. That’s all they talked about, was sacking the quarterback and it happened again today. It has to end. We cannot continue to have the numbers that we have in sacks.”
But McCarthy didn’t stop there. Although poor pass protection by the injury-riddled offensive line has been the team’s Achilles’ heel, sacks are a shared responsibility.
At times, the line has made mental and physical mistakes. At times, Rodgers has held the ball too long. Sunday, McCarthy seemed to suggest that Rodgers was indecisive, that receivers were open at times and he wouldn’t deliver the ball.
“I thought he had plenty of time to throw,” McCarthy said. “I’m real curious to see the film because either they’re doing a hell of a job covering us ... I mean, there was time and time again that our receivers on crossing routes versus that coverage ...”
His voice kept trailing off, but his message was clear: He thought the Packers had receivers open and they weren’t getting the ball.
That begs the question: Is the heavy pass rush by opposing teams getting to Rodgers?
On the first one, Rodgers tried to hit Donald Driver on a deep crossing route but the opposite side cornerback, Elbert Mack, fell back at the last minute and picked off the pass.
On the second interception, Rodgers tried to hit Greg Jennings among four defenders in the deep middle and the ball bounced to cornerback Aqib Talib after hitting either Jennings’ hands or the hands of safety Corey Lynch.
Rodgers’ final interception came on high pass to Driver on a fourth-and-12 heave with the Packers trailing by three with less than a minute to go. The ball caromed off Driver’s hands and was intercepted by safety Tanard Jackson, who returned it 35 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
“The first one, I didn’t see (the cornerback),” Rodgers said. “Tried to kind of put it in there against the wind. Feel good about the second ball, which I got a little deflection there. And then the third one ... it was desperation. I still feel good about the throw. Might have been a little bit high.”
McCarthy called the first pick a “minus decision” and said the next two were contested throws that receivers got their hands on.
As for Rodgers’ apparent indecision, wide receiver James Jones backed his quarterback, who has been under siege all season.
“As a receiver, you always feel you’re getting open,” Jones said. “But you don’t know what the quarterback’s seeing, you don’t know how he’s seeing it.”
Kampman still groggy
Aaron Kampman is still feeling the effects of a concussion he sustained on the fourth play from scrimmage in Sunday’s 38-28 loss to Tampa Bay.
“I’ve been better,” Kampman said.
The play seemed innocuous. Bucs TE John Gilmore pulled from the opposite side of the formation on a run by Carnell Williams and popped Kampman on the left side of his jaw with his helmet.
Kampman continued to play a good portion of the game.
The pass Kampman gave up from Josh Freeman to running back Derrick Ward happened six plays after Kampman got the concussion.
Kampman said it’s “been a while” since his last concussion, which happened early in his career.
“Just a little sore,” Kampman said. “We’re just kind of taking it as it comes.”
Coach Mike McCarthy said Kampman’s status for the week of practice is “up in the air.”
Here are the highlights from coach McCarthy’s press conference Monday in Green Bay:
Tackle Mark Tauscher suffered a knee sprain, the same knee he had surgery on in ‘08. Team doctor said he doesn’t think it is a serious long term injury; at the most a few weeks, said McCarthy, if Tauscher can’t go this week.
Aaron Kampman suffered a concussion. His availability is up in the air. Packers had planned to rotate Kampman in heat in Tampa; he did not come in and out due to a concussion suffered early on.
“Our passing game was not as productive as it had been in the past.” McCarthy said he was OK with the pass to Greg Jennings in heavy coverage by goal line that was intercepted: “I was OK with the decision. ... I thought Aaron (Rodgers) threw a catchable ball.”
Were Green Bay receivers open? “We were challenged by the secondary. You can take that for what it’s worth.”
He was asked how he will keep the team on board with everyone outside the building in an uproar: “This is definitly a challenge. This will be a challenging day. ... Even more so when you lose in the fashion that we did in Tampa.”
On the kick coverage breakdowns last two games: “The timing is the biggest thread.” Green Bay give up a lead by letting them run back on special teams. “It’s lane integrity, nothing more than that. ... We did a poor job. You can classify it as technical, mental (mistakes)...”
Surprised not better on special teams? “Disappointed the last two weeks. I thought our coverage units played very well before the last two weeks. ... It’s something we need to make sure we’re ready for Dallas. The momentum, field position swings have definitely been a factor.”
Would he consider changing coaching responsibilities at offensive line or special teams?: “I’m very confident in our structure. Offensive line, the way we’ve built our staff is structured by design. We have a high level of experitise. ... On special teams, Shawn Slocum has done a good job,” and likes his philosophy.
“I take full responsibility.” But disappointed that they are 4-4.
Any other options at punt return? Other than Tramon Williams: “He’s been put in some tough spots.”
As for correcting them giving up sacks and how the team approaches that correction now mid-season, he sounds confident in his staff and his team. “It’s obvious what is going on. ... We don’t need wholesale change. We need to adjust things. ...I’m very confident that they are correctable.”
He said the team was productive against the Bucs but a couple of “impact” plays cost them a road win. Mentioned twice that last two series and fourth quarter play was devastating.
Does he need to get a pass rush to survive, he is asked? Stopping the run is still top priority, said McCarthy — you have to do that in order to pass rush, said McCarthy. Liked his quarterback pressure for the first three quarters. “But in the fourth quarter we did not apply the pressure.”
After the game Sunday, McCarthy said on his radio interview that the Packers didn’t take the Bucs lightly because of their then 0-7 record. He said, in fact, that they may have worked too hard. Asked again about that today, McCarthy said he didn’t think the Packers had the adequate energy level that was needed in the fourth quarter. He made an error, he said. “I’ll stand by what I said, an error was made as far as our schedule.” Meaning, their work-week schedule and preparation leading up to the game. Might have been too demanding...
And that’s it. McCarthy didn’t look pleased, as you might imagine/can relate.
— Copyright (c) 2009, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services