On the master list of things the Green Bay Packers have had to worry about over the past few years, letting success go to their heads probably ranked somewhere in between not selling enough No. 4 jerseys and running out of cheddar.
Until now, that is.
After their 35-13 road victory over the New York Giants on Sunday, the Packers are off to a surprising 2-0 start after losing four of their first five in each of the past three seasons.
Now second-year coach Mike McCarthy is trying to keep his young players from getting caught up in their first taste of success in games that really matter - a task he called ``the toughest hurdle to handle in football.''
Especially with San Diego coming to town on Sunday.
McCarthy said Monday that most of the professional-caliber athletes he has been around have a natural ``survival mentality'' that helps them overcome adversity. Success, he said, actually can be harder to handle.
``My problems I've had with individuals as a position coach and as a coordinator have been handling success,'' said McCarthy, a former offensive coordinator in New Orleans and San Francisco. ``That may be a big game, getting a national TV interview, a big contract. We were very conscientious of that, and we talk to our team about that a lot.''
So despite opening the season with victories over two playoff teams from last season, the Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, McCarthy is going out of his way to keep players' egos in check.
``I keep telling them they're not very good, don't believe what you guys write,'' McCarthy said.
``Things like that.''
McCarthy doesn't want anybody to hurt an elbow trying to pat himself on the back - but he doesn't want to throw a wet blanket on the energy and confidence he sees, either.
``The offseason program, through training camp, and really now with the two wins, I just see the confidence building,'' McCarthy said. ``I think it's real confidence. It's not manufactured, and I think that's important. Our guys believe. They know they can improve. They believe in the work week and what it takes to get ready for a football game. It's growing, a lot of energy in the building.''
As expected, the defense has provided most of the energy behind the Packers' hot start.
After giving up only 13 points to the Eagles in their opener at Lambeau Field, the Packers allowed Eli Manning and the Giants to make a few big plays early and take a 10-7 lead into halftime on Sunday.
But the Packers defensive coaches appeared to make successful adjustments at halftime and stop the big plays - something they struggled to do last year.
The Giants managed only a field goal in the second half.
``Have we been perfect? Certainly not,'' defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said. ``But I think our guys are playing with a lot of confidence, playing physical and trying to do what we ask them to do. But it's only two games - every week's a new week. With another excellent football team coming in here this week, we've got to be ready to go.''
The Packers are deeper on the defensive line and made two important moves in their secondary going into this season: Atari Bigby replaced Marquand Manuel at safety, and Jarrett Bush has established himself as the No. 3 cornerback.
The improved defense has made up for a somewhat sporadic offense that has been missing running back Vernand Morency and wide receiver Greg Jennings because of injuries.
The Packers' offense didn't score a touchdown in Week 1, but the passing game was better against the Giants. Brett Favre ran an efficient short passing game in the second half, hitting his first 14 passes after halftime.
Still, the Packers haven't been able to run consistently in either game.
``It certainly wasn't as dramatic or as improved as we would have liked it to be,'' Philbin said. ``I think we played physically up front. There's things we have to work out, recognition-wise, communication-wise, we've just got to execute better. There's no magic to it, we've just got to do a better job.''
Despite scoring 35 points and running their record to 2-0, McCarthy said there's plenty of room for improvement.
``We had way too many mental errors in a very straightforward game plan,'' McCarthy said. ``We have to get to the bottom of that. We scored 35 points, I'm aware of that. But there are a number of things on that film we need to get fixed.''
By: Staci Richards - theSpread.com - Email Us
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