Thursday's news conference is supposed to be a 5-minute update on injuries. About 6 minutes into the session, one of the writers for the Packers' Web site asked about the difference between Indianapolis running its no-huddle offense from the quiet comfort at home and the raucous environment of a road game.
"That's why we need the fans to crank it up when (Colts quarterback Peyton Manning) is under center," McCarthy said. "That's a planted question, too, I think, because Mike (Spofford) is on our staff. I was counting on one of you guys to ask me. Thanks."
McCarthy's response drew laughs, but the coach no doubt was serious about asking the 72,000 expected to fill Lambeau Field on Sunday to challenge Manning's ability to direct the Colts' attack from the line of scrimmage.
"Definitely, crowd noise is definitely a factor," McCarthy continued. "I think it has something that we have learned to do very well. We have taught them from Day 1 the verbal and nonverbal communication. They do a great job, but definitely on the road it is a bigger challenge, so we need to get them to scream all the way through the 40-second clock."
The Packers' defense could use the help, because Manning is a maestro with his combination of experience running the no-huddle, his extensive preparation (he has reams of notebooks about previous opponents), a superior memory (he rattled off memories of the 2000 loss at Lambeau like it happened yesterday) and a practically unmatched football IQ.
The Colts implemented a no-huddle scheme in 2000 as a change of pace. Defensive-minded Tony Dungy became coach in 2002, and not long thereafter, the no-huddle had become the staple of Colts' high-flying offense.
"What we found," Manning said in a conference call on Wednesday, "is that we would kind of come out and huddle up and if we went out and punted a couple of times, we'd say, ‘Let's go to the no-huddle.' We found that it just sort of lifted everybody up. Everybody kind of got into it, and we started moving the ball better, so we got to the point where, ‘Why do we have to wait to punt twice before we have this change of tempo?'"
It helps that the Colts' offensive coordinator, Tom Moore, has been with Indy since Manning's arrival in 1998. Manning credits Moore for allowing him to grow as a quarterback and showing the trust that allows Manning unparalleled freedom among NFL quarterbacks. Not surprisingly, Moore and Manning are almost always on the same page.
"There's not many times that a play call comes in that I can't cut him off halfway because I know what it's going to be," Manning said. "As many times as I've changed a play, audibled or called my own play that Tom doesn't have a pretty good idea what it's going to be."
Even with teams lucky enough to have stability with their coaches, there's a tendency to continually tinker with the playbook, sometimes to the detriment of what had worked in the past.
While Moore and Manning certainly have added some new wrinkles, Manning says the core of the offense has remained the same during their 11 years. Manning and Co. strive for "perfection" with their bread-and-butter plays, and it's up to the players to discipline themselves to practice the old plays with the intensity they did when they were young.
It's a philosophy Vince Lombardi would have loved.
"The one thing that Tom talks about a lot is a professional football player, you do have to fight boredom," Manning said. "Sometimes, you get caught in this philosophy that you have to change, that you have to add this and you have to do that, when if these plays worked in this year, there's no reason they shouldn't work again next year as long as you're doing them the right way."
Of course, it helps to have a talented supporting cast, and Manning certainly has had that. He's been throwing passes to Marvin Harrison for his entire 11-year career. Reggie Wayne has been making big plays with Manning for eight years. It's been a dream scenario at running back to go from Edgerrin James to Joseph Addai, though Addai will miss Sunday's game at Lambeau. Center Jeff Saturday has been calling the shots up front since 2000. Even offensive line coach Howard Mudd has been in Indy for all 11 of Manning's seasons.
"It's still about executing the plays," Manning said. "You can go no-huddle all you want, but if you don't know how to get open or run block or pass block, it doesn't really matter."
Maybe not, but a no-huddle offense causes headaches for defensive coordinators, who can't use their specialty packages, and leaves defenders gasping for breath because they're trapped on the field.
"We like to keep people in the same personnel group," Dungy said. "Not let them substitute and bring pass rushers in on third down and then get their run players in on first down. We like to get to the line early and see what the defense is in. That really makes people work on disguising. We're only going to be in one or two formations, so they don't have to really work on different things that we're going to do, and we try to get a feel for what the defense is. It's kind of a chess match that maybe is a little different style than other teams play. We don't do a lot of motioning and shifting around and different formations to give people problems. We try to line up and, based on what the defense does, execute."
Big Packers defensive tackle Ryan Pickett laughed when asked about the challenge of facing a no-huddle offense, but he knows it's no laughing matter.
"That no-huddle is a killer for the D-line," Pickett said. "I've played Peyton before, and when they run that no-huddle, you can't even jog. You can't get off the field."
So, planted question or not, McCarthy wants the crowd to make life miserable for Manning on Sunday. More importantly, he needs his defense to be supremely prepared.
"The most important thing is to make sure we are aligned properly and that our signals are intact," McCarthy said. "When we make a defensive signal call, we want to make sure the front and the coverage is intact and we're doing what we're supposed to be doing. He's going to try to keep his offense in the best play available based off what he thinks he is getting from the shell of our defense or a certain look based on the matchup. So, it's our responsibility to A, keep him disguised from that, or just make sure we are aligned properly to do our job. That's why you play the game."
Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com