GREEN BAY – Back in June, Mike McCarthy described his offensive philosophy using a boxing metaphor.
“I want to play as fast as I can and throw as many punches as I possibly can and beat you as bad as I can,” the Green Bay Packers coach said after an organized team activity practice. “That's the way we play."
No wonder McCarthy likes the offense first-year Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has brought with him from the University of Oregon.
“It’s a challenge. (But) I appreciate the mind-set of how their team wants to play and so forth. I think it’ll be a great game,” McCarthy said Thursday of the matchup between his Packers (5-3) and Kelly’s Eagles (4-5) at Lambeau Field Sunday. “They play fast. I’m a believer in that. They challenge your defense from the ability to match up to the ability to substitute. And they have good players. You can see they’re getting better each week.”
And that’s why Packers veteran linebacker A.J. Hawk knows the members of the Packers' defense have their work cut out for them Sunday.
“They have a lot of weapons, especially on offense,” Hawk said. “They have so many guys that can hurt you. They’re all playing at a very high level, too, coming off a big week last week. I think they can get you in every aspect.”
The Eagles are coming off a 49-20 victory in Oakland, where quarterback Nick Foles threw seven touchdowns, before being pulled from the game with 9 minutes 23 seconds left to play. Since taking over for an injured Michael Vick (hamstring), Foles has thrown for 1,028 yards and 13 touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception. Add in the numbers from wide receiver DeSean Jackson (823 receiving yards, six touchdowns) and running back LeSean McCoy (777 rushing yards, three touchdowns), and on paper, the Eagles’ offense is daunting.
And on the grass, the Eagles’ up-tempo, no-huddle offense is daunting, too.
“(The no-huddle is) a tool in the toolbox,” Kelly said in a conference call with Wisconsin media earlier this week. “It’s not something we do all the time. It can put (pressure on) the defense and make them line up quicker and make them have to play at a different speed than they normally practice at or play at. I think it’s a weapon, just like a three-tight end offense is a weapon, just like a five-receiver offense is a weapon, just like empty formations are a weapon. It’s just something that adds to the scope of your overall offense.”
That fast-paced offense is something that cornerback Tramon Williams and his defensive teammates have been studying this week on film, which Williams said has allowed him to see the specific challenges it presents.
“You have to know what you’re doing out there,” Williams said. “You have to get your play calling in. You have to do some of those things and the challenge is, the film that you watch, can you put it to use with their tempo. They’re going to get things, they’re going to run plays fast and hopefully you don’t (fail to) recognize some of the things they do.
“We’ve got to hold our composure, make sure we’re on the same page and play ball. It’s going to be fast, so we’ve definitely got to be on the same page.”
Along with watching film, Williams said the practices for the defense this week have been a little different, to help them prepare for what they will see on Sunday.
“We haven’t faced that challenge from anyone yet, so it’s going to be a little different week,” Williams said. “A little energized, more at practice, and things like that. We’ll be prepared. We’ll try to emulate it as much as possible.”
Hawk, however, focused on stopping Foles, and proving that the defense is better than what it showed in the Packers' 27-20 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night.
“He had an amazing game,” Hawk said of Foles. “I’ve seen the film, obviously and he looks good. He can do it all, especially with how their offense is rolling right now. What better test that this, for us? I think, especially coming off the loss to the Bears. We need to have a good showing as a defense.”
The defense will have some help because it should have linebacker Clay Matthews, who has missed four games after breaking his right thumb in the Packers’ 22-9 victory over Detroit on Oct. 6.
But while the Packers will be gaining Matthews on Sunday, they will not have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a broken left collarbone against the Bears. Sunday will mark only the second time Rodgers will miss a game due to injury since taking over the starting job from Brett Favre in 2008. (He missed the 2011 regular-season finale when he was a healthy scratch with nothing to play for.) Rodgers was injured on the first possession of the game and replaced by backup Seneca Wallace, who struggled.
Though Wallace will be under center again on Sunday against the Eagles, Williams insisted that the defense didn’t feel any added pressure to score more points to help the offense out.
“We don’t need to talk about it,” Williams said. “As a personal thing, guys sit back and look at it, and we may feel that we need to make an extra play here or there, but at the same time, it’s no pressure. It’s no pressure at all. We’re going to do what we’ve been doing. We've been playing good defense. Evidently, there’s always a bump in the road. But we’ll be back to playing like we want to play. We’re going to prepare well this week and come out and try and put together another good game.”
Hawk agreed, adding that the focus was not on compensating with for Rodgers being out, but simply playing better than the defense did on Monday night.
“I don’t think we feel added pressure but I think we definitely, as a defense, didn’t get it done last week,” Hawk said. “We take pride in being a defense that can hopefully take over a game and win games for us and we had every opportunity to do that last week, and we didn’t, so that’s very disappointing when it comes to that but we just need to find a way for sure.
“The thing is, whether it’s one play here or there that we could have found a way to turn the tide. This week, we definitely need to do that.”
Sarah Barshop covers the Packers for ESPNWisconsin.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/sarahbarshop.