Answers to late failures are elusive

After an overtime loss at Chicago, the Packers have lost four straight games by four points or less. Coach Mike McCarthy tried to explain what happened during his day-after news conference.

Another late-game meltdown.

Another day-after postmortem with no concrete answers.

Quizzed yet again about the Packers' penchant for fourth-quarter collapses — Monday night's 20-17 overtime gut-buster was the team's fourth straight last-minute loss — Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he didn't see his team crumbling under the weight of these repeated failings.

"I do not see pressure as a problem for our football team in the fourth quarter," McCarthy said. "You look at the number of things that have gone right and the things that have not gone right. I wouldn't say it's individuals out there pressing or doing things outside of the scheme or doing things that are totally different than the way we operate. We've had some execution issues in some spots, and we've had some breaks go the other way. We've had opportunities to win games and we haven't converted them."

The problems, McCarthy pointed out, are across the board, so solutions aren't easy to find. On Monday, special-teams breakdowns were the chief issue, with a bad punt that bounded into blocker Jarrett Bush resulting in a game-turning turnover and Mason Crosby missing two field goals — including the potential game-winner in the last half minute getting blocked.

"It's about opportunities," McCarthy said. "Can your offense make the play that puts you over that hump? Maybe they did not one week. Is the special-teams unit going to make that play that puts you over the hump? If they did not, is it the defense? I understand statistically how we want to continue to break down the situations. We do the same thing as a starting point with the stats. But you have to look within the situation and correct and move forward. It's not just the defense is not doing this or the offense is not doing that."

Of course, it would help if the Packers made key plays earlier in the game. Before the Bush turnover after the first possession of the third quarter, the Bears trailed 14-3 and had barely 51 yards of offense. Chicago capitalized with a 27-yard touchdown drive to get back in the game. Then, early in the fourth quarter, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was under pressure and couldn't find a wide-open Donald Lee in the end zone. So, instead of a 21-10 lead, the Packers settled for a 17-10 edge.

"There's plays in the third quarter, frankly, that you can look at and say, boy, that had a very big impact on the game," McCarthy said. "You can take the first series in the second half. We come out of the locker room, we feel like we're in control of the football game, our defense goes out and goes three-and-out. They're not playing very well if you want to look at it from their end. The momentum is clearly on our sideline. Our sideline has a ton of energy, and we give them a big shot in the arm with the punt. So, there's plays like that that factor in the outcome of games, too, that didn't happen in the fourth quarter is my point."

One fourth-quarter play, however, kept the Packers from breaking their five-game losing streak: Crosby's blocked 38-yard field goal. McCarthy reiterated what he said after the game.

"Really, the protection had nothing to do with it," McCarthy said, noting he hadn't talked to Crosby or holder Matt Flynn. "I know Alex Brown got his hand on the ball, but he was actually falling inside from what I saw. It was a poor kick."

Extra points
McCarthy said he was "comfortable" with the decision to not challenge the spot of the ball on a fourth-and-1 run on the Bears' tying touchdown drive in the final minutes. The coaches in the booth didn't see the type of concrete evidence necessary to change the ruling. ... McCarthy blamed poor blocking on the back side of several runs in explaining how the Bears held the Packers to 2.2 yards per rush on 29 attempts. "We had a number of runs that, my goodness, I thought they were coming out time and time again," McCarthy said. ... The coach listed nine injuries but none of them seem serious. That includes a concussion for Greg Jennings and knee contusion for Donald Driver. McCarthy expects Justin Harrell (back/hip) and Korey Hall (knee) to return to practice this week.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com.


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