Packers look to win, even with shift in style

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Packers coach Mike McCarthy has long talked about the importance of a team establishing its identity

and playing to it.

The past two seasons, that's meant a prolific Green Bay passing attack led by NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, a running game that was

essentially an afterthought and a defense that was sometimes a liability.

So who were those guys playing against the Seahawks on Monday night, when the Packers ran in the second half and played tough

enough defense to lose 14-12 only on the most infuriating call of the year.

And will they be back when the Packers host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday?

"I think it's important to not just be so stringent on what your identity is," McCarthy said Friday.

"I think the most important part of identity

is playing to the strengths of your players and letting situations in

games and

matchups stay to the forefront of what your approach is. Frankly,

our last game didn't match our execution in the first half,

but our ability to adjust probably was our highlight as an

offense. It's something we can build on."

Or, as veteran cornerback Tramon Williams put it, "Obviously at some point, we know our offense is going to get to rolling.

"And I think the second half showed the adjustments that those guys can make. And I think those adjustments Mike made for

the second half may go a long way."

After calling 24 pass plays against the

Seahawks — resulting in 15 pass attempts, an eye-popping eight sacks and

one Rodgers

scramble — and just three running plays en route to a 7-0 halftime

deficit, McCarthy morphed into his old mentor Marty Schottenheimer

during the break and went heavy with the run to start the second


On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, McCarthy sent running back Cedric Benson and fullback John Kuhn out

in the I-formation, with tight ends Jermichael Finley and D.J. Williams on each end of the line of scrimmage and just one

wide receiver, Greg Jennings, split out. Benson ran for 6 yards. Out of the same personnel group on the next play, Benson

gained another 8 yards.

Benson would carry seven times for 34 yards

on the 13-play, 70-yard drive, which ended in a field goal. Out of the

same package

to start the Packers' next possession, Benson ran for 5 yards

before Rodgers hit Jermichael Finley for 31 yards on a critical

third-and-5 throw that led to another field goal.

While the Packers' lone touchdown drive

featured only three Benson carries — one of which was Benson's 1-yard

touchdown dive

— and seven completions from Rodgers, it still illustrated the way

the unit is being forced to play with patience. The team's

first three opponents have all successfully prevented the big-play

explosions that defined the offense last year, when the

Packers scored 560 points, second-most in a season in NFL history.

"We are going to have run the football

though, because teams are playing so much soft coverage," Rodgers said.

"The run game

has got to be an important part of it. It's nice having 'Ced' in

there; (with) James Starks coming back from (a toe) injury

and Alex Green, we have a lot of backs who can run the ball."

Rodgers, meanwhile, hasn't been the

do-no-wrong playmaker he was last season. He enters Sunday's game having

completed 78

of 115 passes (67.8 percent) for 745 yards with three touchdowns,

two interceptions and having absorbed a league-high 16 sacks

for a passer rating of 87.1.

Last year, he finished with an NFL single-season record passer rating of 122.4.

"I obviously haven't played as well as I

would have liked to, not as well as I was playing through three games

last year,"

said Rodgers, who on Monday night went without a touchdown pass

for the first time since Dec. 12, 2010, when he was knocked

out of a 7-3 loss at Detroit with a first-half concussion.

"I have a direct impact on how we play on offense. If I can figure out how to get this thing rolling, I personally think we

are going to do a lot better on offense."

While Saints quarterback Drew Brees has his own team to worry about at 0-3 and in disarray in the wake of the offseason bounty

scandal, Brees sympathizes with Rodgers' plight.

"Aaron played as well as you could possibly

play the quarterback position last year. You look at the numbers that

were put

up and the success of the team, I mean, it was phenomenal. It was

unbelievable," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said earlier

this week. "So there's this expectation level now."

On defense, after allowing 377 yards and 30

points in a season-opening loss to the 49ers, the unit held Chicago to

just 10

points and 168 yards of offense and Seattle to just 238 yards and

two touchdowns, one of which was the controversial fourth-down

heave that was either intercepted by M.D. Jennings in the end zone

or caught for the game-winning score by Golden Tate, depending

on your perspective.

"I said this since the day I was here: I understand my background is offense, but you win championships with great defense,"

McCarthy said. "That has definitely been our focus here throughout the offseason and our defense has responded."

NOTES: Of the eight players listed on the

Packers' injury report, only undrafted rookie free agent safety Sean


(hamstring) was ruled out for Sunday's game. . Cornerback Davon

House, who hasn't played since suffering a shoulder injury

on Aug. 9, worked all week in practice but is still listed as

questionable and may be another week away. . Running back James

Starks, who also hasn't played since an Aug. 9 turf toe injury,

practiced in full each day and is probable, but that doesn't

guarantee he'll be part of the running back rotation. . Right

tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), wide receiver Greg Jennings (groin)

and tight end Tom Crabtree (shoulder) are all probable.