GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy and his staff have this bye-week thing figured out.
In his career, McCarthy has an 8-1 record in games after the bye, matching Marv Levy for the best record by an NFL coach in post-bye games (minimum of eight).
Just like he did last season, McCarthy gave his players bonus time off during last week’s bye. The collective bargaining agreement requires four days off; McCarthy gave his players nearly twice that. They were free to leave after the 27-20 win over the San Diego Chargers and didn’t have to be back in town until Sunday night for a Monday afternoon practice that he said will focus on fundamentals with an eye toward Sunday’s showdown between two 6-0 teams in Denver.
“This game is about trying to improve continuously, and staying true to fundamentals is something that we do each and every day,” McCarthy said last Monday as the bye week began. “I guarantee you as I stand here today, [when] we get together as a staff, it's going to go back to fundamentals. We're going to spend more time on fundamentals next week with the extra day getting ready for the Broncos.”
Last year at the bye week, McCarthy made one of the boldest moves of his tenure with the Green Bay Packers when he and defensive coordinator Dom Capers moved Clay Matthews to inside linebacker.
In the first game that followed, Matthews recorded 10 tackles and a sack in the Packers’ 55-14 blowout of the Chicago Bears. Including that game, the Packers have outscored their opponents 203-84 in the past six games after the bye, all wins. The streak also includes a 22-9 win over the Detroit Lions in 2013, a 31-3 win at the Minnesota Vikings in 2010 and a 26-0 win over the Lions in 2009.
What bold move will McCarthy make this year?
If there is one, it might be on the offensive side of the ball, where the Packers have struggled to replace deep-threat receiver Jordy Nelson since his preseason knee injury.
Perhaps it will be as simple as the return of receiver Davante Adams, who has missed the past three games because of an ankle injury. In those games, Aaron Rodgers and the offense have averaged just 20.3 points per game (not including the Packers’ defensive touchdown against the St. Louis Rams).
“We’re going to be happy to have him back, obviously,” offensive play-caller Tom Clements said last week. “We try to each week come up with a plan that we think is going to be effective against the defense that we’re playing, and we try to utilize the abilities of everyone who’s available. Davante has a lot of ability and we’re going to try to take advantage of that.”
With a week to prepare, perhaps Clements and McCarthy came up with a way to utilize Adams’ ability to stretch the field.
“I think the biggest thing is that it gives the players and the coaches a time to get refreshed because the season can become a grind, and to get a few days off and prepare for the next opponent, you have a little bit more time and it’s not at such a hurried pace,” Clements said. “That, combined with the health of the players, usually results in a good performance.”