Packers coach says team will learn from wrenching loss

Associated Press

January 29, 2015

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy answers a question after an NFL football NFC Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 28-22 to advance to Super Bowl XLIX.

GREEN BAY Mike McCarthy promised Wednesday to evaluate, make changes and learn from his team's gut-wrenching NFC Championship game loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Green Bay Packers coach also delivered another promise.

"Every game you compete in is a unique experience, and the only way you benefit from that experience is you have to be able to learn from the victories and defeats. That's the mindset of a champion," McCarthy said during his season wrap-up news conference, which was delayed a week after the death of his younger brother, Joe. "That will never change. (But) the 2015 football team will not bear the burden of what happened in 2014 or before that. That's not the way we operate."

McCarthy's 30-minute session was light on specifics and devoid of any major announcements or staff shakeups. Assistant coaches are off this week, and if McCarthy does plan on making changes - after two major special-teams gaffes contributed significantly to the season-ending loss, special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum's job security could be tenuous - he will do so after meeting with coaches starting next week.

McCarthy conducted exit interviews with players on Jan. 19-20 and was set to begin his meetings with coaches on Jan. 21 when he learned of his brother's death. McCarthy returned from Pennsylvania on Tuesday after his brother was laid to rest Monday.

"It's important to evaluate. I obviously haven't had that opportunity," McCarthy replied when asked about Slocum's job status. "We'll look at everything. We'll look at every job description, every job responsibility, performance - mine included - and we'll look to make changes."

Among the mistakes the Packers made while squandering a 16-0 halftime lead: A 19-yard third-quarter touchdown pass by Seahawks holder Jon Ryan to tackle Garry Gilliam on a fake field goal for Seattle's first points of the game, and tight end Brandon Bostick ignoring his assignment to block on a Seattle onside kick with just over 2 minutes left in regulation. Bostick mishandled the ball and Seattle recovered, setting up a go-ahead touchdown.

"Special teams, definitely a tough performance for us," McCarthy said. "Anytime you give up seven points and have a turnover, it's very difficult to overcome that, especially when it occurs in the second half like it did."

Asked specifically about the fake field goal, and whether Slocum and the coaches should have been more ready for a fake in that situation, McCarthy hinted that a "safe" call rather than an all-out "block" call was in order.

"Your call in that situation is what Seattle benefited from," said McCarthy, whose team also allowed the Seahawks to overcome a second-and-30 and third-and-19 to keep that drive alive. "After that particular series, the third-down conversion they had, the second down and third down conversion they had, walking out of there with a field goal, 16-3 is fine. Creating the opportunity for them to make a big play is where we erred."

Errors came on more than just special teams, however. From an offense that had two three-and-out possessions in the fourth quarter while trying to protect a lead, to safety Morgan Burnett heeding outside linebacker Julius Peppers' advice to lie down after an interception with just over 5 minutes left in regulation, to a defense that collapsed after dominating most of the game, there was plenty of blame to go around.

Now, McCarthy's focus is on taking those mistakes and making sure they lead to growth.

"Our fans, I understand your disappointment. We're right there with you," McCarthy said. Later, he added, "We're going to create another opportunity to build the best football team that we can in 2015, and we're going to go for it."