x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Packers keep their focus on big prize - a Super Bowl title

Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers do not like talking about going undefeated for the season, but talk of winning back-to-back titles is just super.

Aaron Rodgers, right, credits his head coach, Mike McCarthy, for keeping the team on a regular schedule from week to week, so that they don't look past any game.
Aaron Rodgers, right, credits his head coach, Mike McCarthy, for keeping the team on a regular schedule from week to week, so that they don't look past any game.

For Mike McCarthy, it is still too early.

The Green Bay Packers coach has spent the past few weeks swatting away any talk about the possibility of a perfect season. Green Bay are 12-0 and less than a month away from running the table in the regular season, but McCarthy does not want to hear about it.

Anything beyond what the Packers need to do to win Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders at Lambeau Field is off limits, with one notable exception.

It's never too early for McCarthy to talk about the Super Bowl.

"I'm very impressed with what we've accomplished so far, but there's so much more out there for us and frankly we just came off of a Super Bowl victory," McCarthy said this week, after his team clinched the NFC North.

"So we look at this as a step, we look at this as one of the mile markers on our journey to Indianapolis. We make no bones about it, winning the Super Bowl is what this business is all about. Winning your division, home-field advantage is the best path to get you there. It's the preferred path. But like I said, there's so much more in front of us to accomplish, and that's why we continue to stay focused."

In one sense, there's no real secret why the Packers have been able to back up last year's Super Bowl victory with a 12-0 start. The combination of Aaron Rodgers, the league's deepest group of receivers and McCarthy's hyper-aggressive offence has simply been unstoppable at times.

But other teams have good players, coaches and tactics - and they do not come anywhere near winning 18 games in a row, as Green Bay have done dating back to last year.

There must be something else happening that other teams are missing.

Players say the team's ability to balance the bigger picture, winning the Super Bowl, with the idea of never skipping the things they have to do to prepare each week. Rodgers says that attitude and atmosphere is nurtured by simple, small details.

Even keeping a consistent schedule makes a difference.

"I think it's just the way we're ingrained to stay focused on the week at hand," Rodgers said. "Mike does a great job with our schedule, making sure we stay on a similar schedule with our bodies and how much time on the field and how much time in the meeting rooms, how much time he allows us to get away from the game and relax.

"When you're on the same schedule and a creature of habit, it's hard to look past that week."

That is not to say players are completely ignoring the possibility of going 16-0.

Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews and a few others have openly embraced it.

For the Packers, the point is that talk of going undefeated will never overshadow winning the Super Bowl.

"If you're 14-2 or 15-1, at least from ourselves, we're still going to expect to win the thing," said Jordy Nelson, the wide receiver. "It'll be the same pressure to win the Super Bowl, so you might as well do it with a 'zero' in the loss column."

Given his blue-collar Pittsburgh roots and the relatively anonymous way he climbed through the coaching ranks, McCarthy is not inclined to take credit for success. His belief in the Packers' ability to win another Super Bowl comes from the confidence he has in his players.

"My personal feelings on this team, I feel they're special," McCarthy said. "And more important, I think they have an opportunity to achieve greatness. And greatness is really calculated [by] 'did you win the Super Bowl?'

"That's the goal. This group has that in them."

To get back there, though, McCarthy wants players to concentrate not on going 16-0, but on finding a way to raise their level of play as the post-season approaches.

"This is a tough business," McCarthy said. "We know how important it is to play your best football in December, and that's what we're working on. But I definitely feel this is a special group of men, just the way they go about their business, their ability to be accountable."

And whether they end the season perfect or not, the Packers are earning admiration around the league.

"Nobody's beat them, and deservedly so, because they play to win and have a mindset and a belief that no one can beat them," said Hue Jackson, the Raiders coach. "When you get that kind of attitude and the organisation supports you, great things happen. That's what happened there in Green Bay."


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