Offense playing to its strengths

McCarthy, players have firm grip on scheme, including occasional twists

Head coach and play-caller Mike McCarthy was left with little choice but to stick to the basics in getting his offense ready for its second game in five days.

While McCarthy has publicly said the Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit is not the time and the place to do anything imaginative, don't put it past him to cook up something other than a turkey on the sideline.

McCarthy's wily, unorthodox schemes since the start of the season have quarterback Brett Favre playing at an unbelievably high level, a mostly young receiving corps making big play after big play and the Packers' sitting in the driver's seat in the NFC North at 9-1.

"If I'm a defensive coordinator, I don't know who you stop," Favre said. "For us, that's a good thing because we have enough diversity that it can present its own set of problems (for opposing defenses)."

After frequently employing a five-receiver formation in the Nov. 11 rout of Minnesota, leaving Favre by his lonesome in the backfield, McCarthy cut across the coaching grain Sunday against Carolina.

Lo and behold, there was 38-year-old Favre split out as a receiver to the left side in the first quarter. Top receiver Donald Driver set up in shotgun for his indoctrination to quarterback. It was a designed run for Driver, who took the snap and gained five yards, never getting to the second level where Favre was to deliver a block.

"It was a little quirk that coach wanted to put in there," receiver Greg Jennings said. "You know Brett, wherever he's at on the field, he's going to get some attention. They probably thought we were going to do some type of double pass or something. It's a great play. It should've actually went for six (touchdown), but a few missed blocks cost us. Just another great play that coach drew up, and it was successful."

McCarthy wasn't so quick Tuesday to dismiss the possibility of again getting Favre out of his comfort zone behind center and putting him face to face with a defensive back.

"You never know," McCarthy said with a sly smile.

"I wish we had blocked it better," the coach said of Driver's five-yard gain on the play. "It had a chance. We had a block that broke down and Brandon Jackson had to clean it up. We were able to get the defense we thought we would in that situation."

As much as some of McCarthy's bold decision-making is predicated on a week-to-week basis by matchups, Favre said the offense is playing more to its own strengths. He added that the key to making things work, as screwy as they look at times, is to not "outscheme yourself."

"The big challenge for me is not only to lead this team week in and week out but to handle the style of offense we're running right now," Favre said. "Up to this point, I've risen to the challenge."

Favre has been on a tear since the bye week, leading the team to four straight wins while completing 73 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. It's his most efficient four-game stretch since he had a completion percentage of 74.2 with 14 touchdowns and one interception in the second half of the 1995 season, which ended with the first of his league-high three MVP awards.

Favre has just eight interceptions this season, putting him on pace to finish the season with 13, which would match his career-low total for a full season in both 1995 and '96.

"He's definitely improved his consistency since our time here together, along with our offense is improving," McCarthy said. "It starts up front. To block that defensive line, their four rushers a lot with what we refer to as scat protection with just only five offensive linemen (for protection) gives us the opportunity to be as wide open in the passing game and spread defenses out."

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