In unusual spot at 4-4, Packers face pivotal road stretch
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) Mike Daniels' angry voice could be heard from a far-off corner of the Packers locker room in the bitter minutes following a disheartening loss to Indianapolis.
A .500 record doesn't cut it in Green Bay, not for a team with perennial Super Bowl aspirations.
On Monday, after the Packers (4-4) dissected their 31-26 defeat to the Colts, Daniels spoke with intensity that matched his no holds barred-style of play.
''Nobody in this locker room should go home and have a good night's rest tonight or for the rest of this week. That's flat out,'' Daniels said when asked about if the Packers can turn things around. The barrel-chested defensive tackle agreed with teammate Julius Peppers' assessment that it can be done.
''I feel like we have people in this locker room, this whole locker room, that nobody's going to be getting any good sleep tonight,'' Daniels said.
Green Bay is at .500 after eight games for the first time since 2009. That year, the Packers finished 7-1 to make the playoffs as an NFC wild card.
This season, the Packers must play five of their last eight games on the road, starting with three straight trips in a stretch that could define their season. Green Bay goes to Tennessee next weekend, followed by night games at Washington and Philadelphia.
The Packers have had injuries hit primarily two positions this season: running back and cornerback. The injuries at running back, in particular, have forced the Packers to make major adjustments. Regardless of depth concerns, the Packers are looking to get off to better starts. They're also looking for more consistency.
Green Bay allowed a 99-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff to Jordan Todman, a jolt that left the Packers playing catch-up the rest of the day.
It wasn't until the fourth quarter that the Packers regained momentum with two quick touchdowns to cut into an 18-point deficit with 9:35 left.
But Green Bay came up short. A few players, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, spoke about a lack of energy earlier in the game.
''We didn't play with enough juice tonight, especially in that first half,'' right tackle Bryan Bulaga said after the game. ''We've got to find a way to right it, come in (Monday) clean it up, and keep working at it and getting better.''
The Packers weren't as sharp as coach Mike McCarthy would like them to be when the going gets rough. In some situations, that might mean playing with a little more speed; in others, it could mean getting a little more physical.
Whatever the root of the issues, the Packers must fix the problems quickly. Leadership is not one of them.
''I tell you what, you know I think our players did a good job of leadership,'' McCarthy said. ''There (are) a lot of things that's said in the locker room, particularly at halftime, particularly after the game. A big focus of my message was about energy.''
The team, McCarthy said, ''played with a lot of energy, but we were not clean in a number of different situations and (Indianapolis) took advantage of it.''
The good news for Green Bay is that no team has pulled away in the NFC North. Minnesota (5-3) remains in first but has lost three straight.
Detroit (5-4) is surging with four wins in their last five games, though there are questions are about whether the Lions are a true playoff contender. Chicago (2-6) is in last, but both their wins have come against division opponents.
Daniels hopes the anger and frustration of a second straight close loss becomes evident in how the Packers respond against Tennessee.
''It's got to be a violent one. It has to be noticeable, like this team is'' angry, Daniels said. ''That's what it's got to be when you step on to that field. It has to be noticeable, and if it's not then we're not getting it done.''
NOTES: LB Clay Matthews (hamstring) missed a second straight game after suffering a setback on Friday, McCarthy said. ... RB James Starks (knee) had a good week of limited practice and could be in line for more work this week, according to the coach. ... The Packers signed rookie FB Joe Kerridge from their practice squad on Monday and released S Jermaine Whitehead.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL