Mission accomplished: Packers hit bye week as winners of four straight
GREEN BAY – When Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy took the podium for his postgame press conference following his team's 24-15 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 28, buried in the middle of his opening address was an interesting nugget.
"Part of our message leaving the locker room before I came in here was we need to be 6-3 at the bye," he said.
A simple word, yet its power set the tone of the week of practice leading up to the Packers 31-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday which met that goal and gave the team a fourth straight win heading into the bye week.
"Coach has been saying it – 6-3 – non-negotiable," guard Josh Sitton said. "He set the goal, he set the tone for us. It's huge, man. It's a huge confidence booster. Anytime you win four in a row, and we won games in different ways with big days on defense, big days on offense, special teams played great. We've done it all. It's just a confidence booster. Hopefully we can get a little bit healthy this week and enjoy the bye and come back refreshed."
The players said their preparation wasn't any different last week than in the previous seven, but there was a sense of urgency to meet McCarthy's edict.
Part of that urgency was selfish on the player's part, though.
"Everybody knew coming in we wanted a whole week off," linebacker Erik Walden said through a smile. "With a loss we would've had to work 'til Wednesday, so he made a major emphasis that it's non-negotiable, get a win, get the whole week off. Everybody was like 'Yeah, we need to get this win at all costs because we need the whole week off.'"
The bye week is important for McCarthy in that he allows himself to look back at the first nine games, but only in the context of moving forward.
"Six-and-three is the position we are in and that's what we're focused on," McCarthy said. "That's the last thing I told the team. I think it's important for everybody to take a step back, look at why we're at 6-3, the things that we did to get us here at 6-3, pro and con, and more importantly be ready to commit to get after the things we need to get after to improve and come back.
"We've got a four-game winning streak, we've done this before, it's important for everybody to step away from it. Family time is highly encouraged. Everybody thinks it's just a time to get healthy, but it's a time to get healthy mentally, spiritually and get yourself ready for the grind, and the grind starts in Detroit (on Nov. 18)."
As far as the players are concerned, it couldn't be better timing for a bye. The Packers lost several more players to injury on Sunday, including key starters like linebacker Clay Matthews and offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga. Randall Cobb injured a shoulder but returned to action while Jordy Nelson injured an ankle after missing a game with a hamstring injury.
Receiver Greg Jennings has missed nearly the entire season with a groin injury and running back Cedric Benson hasn't played since Week 5. Fullback John Kuhn has also missed time.
Yet, the team sits at 6-3 with five division games remaining over the final seven weeks.
"We kind of control our own destiny here," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We have a chance to make a run at the division title which is always our first goal when we start the season, get a home playoff game and kind of go from there. We know we'd like to get to 10 wins as quickly as possible and we start talking about the postseason."
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