Reed Schreck: Packers get grip on growing up

Reed Schreck

When Packers rookie receiver James Jones lost his second fumble in Green Bay's first loss to Chicago this year, head coach Mike McCarthy benched him the rest of the game.

Saturday, with a win-now-or-go-home scenario, running back Ryan Grant fumbled the ball twice on Green Bay's first three snaps. He lost both, leading to 14 Seattle points.

Certainly, McCarthy had to consider a switch.

"No," McCarthy said. "He's a big part of our game plan. He's a big part of the way we approached the game."

That kind of decisiveness and calm demeanor helps explain how Green Bay eventually rolled to a 42-20 divisional playoff win over Seattle, finding itself one game away from the Super Bowl.

Grant bounced back. The Packers bounced back. The outlook for doing so might have seemed as bleak as trying to see a yard marker at snow-swept Lambeau Field.

The Packers, after all, are the NFL's youngest team.

Or they were. Looks like they grew up quite a bit in squashing the Seahawks, who have a veteran head coach in Mike Holmgren who still has a street named after him right near Brett Favre Pass.

"I wasn't worried," McCarthy said of his team's inexperience entering his first playoff game as a head coach. Thirty-six players on the 53-man roster never had participated in the postseason.

"It's nothing we could control. Our guys weren't going to grow up any faster this week. I think we really grew up as a football team. We are who we are. And we're here for a reason."

McCarthy never wavered, never blinked unless it was to try to keep a snowflake out of his eye. He kept focused on the task at hand, with a 14-0 deficit simply a hurdle that had to be cleared.

He not only stayed with Grant, he never scolded him.

"The mistakes were correctable," McCarthy said.

He never lost faith in him. Or in quarterback Brett Favre. Or in his defense. Or in his offensive line.

"I'm very proud of our team," McCarthy said, "after the start we had."

The finish was fabulous, or at least the immediate response. Green Bay drove to touchdowns on its next six possessions.

"You talk about guys with poise and composure, that's something we accomplished in the first half," McCarthy said.

Down 14-0, it only took 12:37 off the clock to own a 21-14 lead.

"It's a tribute to their maturity," McCarthy said. "There's a lot of talk about their inexperience. But they're a very confident team that talks about how they're going to win the Super Bowl."

Jay Leno could have used a line like that for his late-night show what with the writers' strike. The Packers winning the Super Bowl? Very funny stuff early in the year. Still a longshot, but they're a lot closer to getting there than anyone would have thought in preseason for sure.

"It says a lot," said defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who had 1 1/2 sacks of Matt Hasselbeck. "Being such a young team, I don't think a lot people expected that out of us.

"When things go bad, they say we don't have the experience. We went out and showed what we can do."

Reed Schreck is the NFL writer for the Rockford Register Star. Contact him at 815-987-1381 or