Offense-minded McCarthy wants Packers' D to lead
GREEN BAY Despite his reputation as an offensive strategist, Mike McCarthy would rather see his Green Bay Packers win with a strong defense leading the way.
Going into Sunday's playoff game at Philadelphia, that's exactly what they're doing.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and McCarthy's aggressive multiple-receiver formations might be the first things that come to mind when most people think of the Packers, but Green Bay made the playoffs primarily because of the way its defense held up after key injuries.
"I think it's important for your team to be noted for great defense," McCarthy said Monday, a day after Green Bay clinched a playoff berth with a grinding 10-3 victory over Chicago. "That's always been the goal in my tenure here, and I think we definitely have reached that."
For all the angst in Green Bay about the Packers' poor record in close games under McCarthy — all six of their losses this season came by four points or fewer — they also haven't really been blown out since defensive coordinator Dom Capers arrived last season.
"We've lost some games here, but we've been in every single contest," McCarthy said. "I've always referred to (the defense) as the thermostat. They control the temperature, they control what's going on every time we compete. It gives us an opportunity to play offense the way we do."
Capers' crew gave up only 15 points per game this season, second only to Pittsburgh.
Given the fact that the Packers can score 45 points one week and 10 points the next, being able to lean on a steady defense is critical. With the offense struggling in the must-win game against Chicago, the Packers' defense held the Bears to a field goal.
McCarthy conceded that the offense has been "a little bit up and down at times," but said he was confident they would play well in the playoffs.
"We did not execute at the level we're capable of, but we're 10-6, we're in the playoffs, we're a damn good offense, and we need to get ready for Philadelphia," McCarthy said.
The Packers sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler six times, two by outside linebacker Erik Walden, a midseason pickup who was out of football after being cut by Miami.
Walden had 11 total tackles Sunday.
"Our defense, you have to account for everybody," he said. "We've got great players all across the board, even with the injury circumstances. We've got some great guys who are passionate about what they do."
Walden is one of four players to start at right outside linebacker this season, and his breakout game is another sign that the defense hasn't fallen apart in the wake of injuries.
"They do a great job, just with the number of players that have played," McCarthy said of his defensive coaching staff. "You can talk about the rookie free agents that have started, you talk about the guys we've acquired at midseason. There's been some excellent coaching going on this year without a doubt through our staff."
Capers is impressed with the way lesser-known players have stepped up.
"I think they're very professional, and you have to be when you think about how we picked up some of those guys," Capers said. "If you put 150 defenses in in training camp, they're starting from scratch. So you have to decide how much they can do and how much they can do effectively."
Now the Packers could get a few injured players back against the Eagles.
McCarthy said defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins (calf), safety Atari Bigby (groin) and outside linebacker Frank Zombo (knee) — along with fullback Korey Hall (knee) on the offensive side — will go through testing Monday and Tuesday with a potential return to practice on Wednesday.
Jenkins, who said he has a "pretty good shot" at returning, has been impressed with the way the defense is playing despite so many injuries.
"You have to realize how well the defense is doing," Jenkins said. "We're on a roll right now. You don't want to do too much. The way we're playing, we can play with anybody."