GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy is more worried about his team’s health and performance in close games than with his relationship with his quarterback.
While McCarthy wasn’t asked Monday about his sideline clash with Aaron Rodgers, the coach did acknowledge concern with the Packers’ rash of hamstring injuries and troubling trend of close losses.
At 1-2 following Sunday’s 34-30 loss in Cincinnati, the Packers are 21-24 in games decided by eight points or fewer since 2008, when Rodgers became the starting quarterback. The Packers are 6-18 in games decided by four points or fewer with McCarthy as the coach and Rodgers as the quarterback.
“We have examined it. We looked at it in the offseason,” McCarthy said. “But I think you have to be very careful when you take studies that have a lot of different teams, different circumstances, different variables, players involved. Let’s be honest. (Sunday’s) game was one of those different games. The way it started, the way the second, third quarter went, some of the officiating, some of the injuries, there’s a lot that goes on there.”
The Packers started the game in a 14-0 hole after the Bengals scored on their opening possession and return man Jeremy Ross fumbled the ensuing kickoff to set up another touchdown. On Monday, the Packers cut Ross, who also muffed a punt to set up a momentum-shifting touchdown in their NFC playoff loss to San Francisco in January.
“Jeremy was a very good professional when he was here and we appreciated his hard work,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said, adding that the coaches haven’t decided how they’ll replace Ross on returns. “What happened to him yesterday was unfortunate and we’ve got to be better than that.”
After that 14-point deficit, Green Bay forced four turnovers and scored 30 straight points to take a 30-14 lead before the game turned on rookie running back Johnathan Franklin’s fourth-and-inches fumble, which the Bengals returned for the go-ahead touchdown.
“We feel like we’re in tune with what we need to work on and the things we need to get better at,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also acknowledged that a recent spate of hamstring injuries is worrisome. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who has a history of hamstring injuries, left Sunday’s game with one. The Packers have also been without starting safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Casey Hayward for the first three games, while fullback John Kuhn missed Sunday’s game as well.
“It’s definitely a valid question,” McCarthy said before cracking a joke about the “Wisconsin diet” being a factor. “Every injury’s different. That’s why the trainers and the strength and conditioning staff view each and every injury on film. Today’s athlete, I know particularly, our football team, these guys do a great job of taking care of themselves. You factor everything in. You try not to overreact to the numbers and just stay true to the specifics. Do I have an answer for you? No.”
The Packers also lost running back James Starks to a knee injury and tight end Jermichael Finley to a concussion Sunday. Franklin missed time late in the game with a foot injury, which temporarily left the Packers without a healthy running back with starter Eddie Lacy inactive with the concussion he suffered the previous week against Washington.
McCarthy wasn’t asked during an 11-minute, 28-second press briefing about his sideline disagreement with Rodgers, which was caught by Fox Sports’ cameras. The argument occurred after Rodgers appeared displeased with the play-calling during a sequence in which the Packers settled for a 19-yard field goal. The two argued on the sideline and it appeared defensive tackle B.J. Raji and wide receiver Randall Cobb tried to calm both men down before things escalated.
McCarthy said after the game that Rodgers was frustrated by a play call.
“He’s competitive, man,” McCarthy said Sunday. “That’s what I love about him. I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal, frankly.”
Rodgers said after the game that the two talked afterward and moved on. After going 41 consecutive regular-season games without throwing two interceptions in a game —the longest such streak since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger — Rodgers threw a pair of interceptions during the second half Sunday and had his lowest passer rating (64.5) since the 2010 NFC Championship game against Chicago.
“We’re both passionate about the game and competitive. We want to win very badly,” Rodgers said. “I went over and talked to him after that and just got on the same page. We needed to talk and we did and we moved on.”