Packers look to overcome woes away from home
GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy isn’t going to do anything out of the ordinary. No drastic change to the travel schedule, no extra meetings, no menu change for the team’s night-before-the-game snack, no last-minute switcheroo with the lodging accommodations.
All the Green Bay Packers coach really wants to change is his team’s inability to win away from home.
“We’re going to stay in the hotel we planned on staying at,” McCarthy said with a wry smile Monday as the Packers (4-5-1) prepared for next Sunday’s game against the NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings (5-4-1) at US Bank Stadium.
“Sleeping in a different hotel, I don’t think that’s going to help us. That’s not an option. We’re going to spend a little more time (working) on third down as an offense, things like that. We’re just going to focus on football.”
Whatever the Packers do, they have to figure out how to win a game on the road — something they have yet to do in 2018 — or their season might as well be over.
Thanks to disappointing road losses at the Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks in the past month — despite having been tied or leading in the fourth quarter of all three games — the Packers are 0-5 away from Lambeau Field this season. And yet, the Vikings enter the week holding the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC, with the Packers a game back of them.
If the Packers defeat Minnesota, both teams will stand at 5-5-1, but the Packers will hold the head-to-head tie-breaker with the Vikings after the teams fought to a 29-29 tie on Sept. 16 at Lambeau Field.
“Absolutely, we fully understand where we are. We understand what our record is, and you can break it down even tighter than that — we need to win on the road. That’s something we haven’t done,” McCarthy said. “(US Bank Stadium) is a tough place to play over there. We know what we need to do.
“This is all about beating the Vikings. We clearly understand where we are in our season in the big picture. But we have to win this division game.”
While the Chicago Bears took control of the NFC North at 7-3 with their 25-20 win over the Vikings on Sunday night, a six-game winning streak to end the season – like the one the Packers went on to close out 2016, after quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ “run the table” rallying cry – would include a victory over the Bears at Soldier Field on Dec. 15 and give the Packers a 10-5-1 record at season’s end.
Considering that, in addition to their winless road trips, the Packers have yet to win back-to-back games this season, such a run might be asking too much of this team. The wild card route might be more realistic, as the Packers’ remaining five opponents after Sunday’s showdown with the Vikings have a combined record of 20-30: Home games against Arizona (2-8), Atlanta (4-6) and Detroit (4-6) and road games at the Bears (7-3) and the New York Jets (3-7).
The Packers would also have to pass the Seahawks (5-5, with a head-to-head tie-breaker advantage) and the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) to earn the wild card berth.
“I’m optimistic. I’ll just say that. I’m optimistic that we can still get it done. That could be just the competitor talking, but I think we can get it done,” defensive back Tramon Williams said. “We just haven’t gotten it done (on the road) this year. I don’t understand it, I don’t know why. I’m just going to come in and be optimistic each week that we can get it. I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Tight end Jimmy Graham suffered a broken thumb in Thursday night’s loss, but he wants to play against the Vikings.
“I know he intends to try to go. That’s his intention,” McCarthy said.
Graham broke his thumb while blocking during Thursday night’s loss in Seattle. Graham ranks second on the team in receptions (34) and receiving yards (452) and tied for second in touchdown receptions (two).
Asked how effective a tight end can be catching the ball with a broken thumb, McCarthy replied, “There’s going to be a transition through the practice week and (Graham will try) different splints and things like that. That’s why you have to work through it. Every injury’s different.”
From the infirmary
McCarthy confirmed that defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who left Thursday night’s game with a foot injury, will be sidelined for “a couple weeks.” Daniels was seen in the locker room Monday on a scooter with his foot in an orthopedic boot.
Having already lost defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson for the season to a leg injury in Week 3, the Packers will likely have to add defensive line help this week. McCarthy said he and general manager Brian Gutekunst discussed the situation Monday.
McCarthy said the team won’t decide on roster moves “until we get down there and get going (at practice this week). We’ll probably have more news for you in the next 48 hours.”
Meanwhile, wide receiver Randall Cobb spoke about the hamstring injury that has sidelined him for five of the team’s last seven games.
“I’ve never had hamstring issues like this,” Cobb said. “I’ve done everything that I’ve been asked to do. I brought in a (physical therapist) that I work with in the offseason. I’m doing everything I can to get back on the field. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to be able to go out and play and be confident and be able to be myself. If I’m not myself, then I’m hurting this team.”
Cornerback Kevin King, who has missed four games and parts of two others with groin and hamstring injuries, said he hopes to play.
“I hope so. I feel good. We’ll see,” King said.
Like Cobb, King didn’t make the trip to Seattle because of his injury. He said Monday he went to Chicago for the weekend and wound up watching his team while eating at a steakhouse.
“It’s crazy because I tried not to do too much (yelling) but it’s hard,” King said. “There were a whole bunch of Chicago fans there, and everybody was kind of looking at me weird, But, oh well.”