Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy was worried about an uninspired performance last Sunday due to an imminent week off and a lackluster opponent in Arizona. He expressed his concern with this entertaining, metaphor-mixing quote.
"Any time you're on a long journey," McCarthy said in an interview with Milwaukee's WTMJ radio, "you have that one pit stop in the middle of the trip, when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you take your eye off the ball."
Right, coach. No pit stops in tunnels or you'll lose the ball. Got it. Thanks to guidance like that, the Packers have arrived at the bye week at 6-3 after overwhelming the Cardinals, 31-17.
Much of the credit for the win goes to an inspired rushing attack that generated 176 yards of offense, 114 from the running back duo of James Starks and Alex Green. After running for a paltry 154 yards on 64 carries in the Packers' three previous games, Green was used just 11 times Sunday, but doubled his production to 4.8 yards per carry. Starks, who had seen limited action so far this season, broke out with 17 carries and a 3.6-yard average.
The efficient running game allowed the Packers to set up their longest passing play of the season. With 50 seconds left in the third quarter, Aaron Rodgers handed off to Green for a six-yard gain. On the next play, he executed a play-action fake, drawing the defense in, and dropped a pass over the middle to tight end Tom Crabtree, who sprinted 55 yards for a touchdown.
Last season, the Green Bay Packers ranked 27th out of 32 NFL teams in rushing yards, averaging 97.4 yards per game. They're up to 99.7 so far this year, but Sunday's performance proved they can do better. They'll have to if they hope to make another Super Bowl run.