“(We) can’t really concern myself with the performance of the officials. We took the same approach with the replacement officials,” McCarthy said. “We had conversation about approaching the game differently as far as the rules, pushing the envelope, being aggressive. We chose not to, we felt it was important to continue to work at playing the game the right way with the fundamentals and technique and the approach to the rules. We’ll continue to take the same approach.”
Tight end talent: While Packers fans continue to wait – in some cases, not so patiently – for tight end Jermichael Finley to realize his potential, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham offers a vision of what a player reaching that potential can do. Last season, Graham caught 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Finley finished with 55 catches for 767 yards and eight scores. It’s hard to see a significant talent gap between the two players, and while Finley plays in a spread-it-around offense where he isn’t the clear go-to guy, he still could take a thing or two from watching Graham, who has 17 catches for 172 yards and three touchdowns in three games.
Interestingly, McCarthy made a comment about the Graham-Brees relationship during the week after seeing the two of them together at the Pro Bowl last year. It was hard not to wonder whether he might’ve been hinting at the difference between their relationship and the one Finley has with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“Jimmy Graham, I would definitely say he’s a dynamic football player watching him from afar,” McCarthy said. “Like I’ve said before about other Pro Bowl players, when you have a chance to be around a player at the Pro Bowl, just to see his personality and his work ethic up close, he’s a very impressive athlete. You can see the detail in his approach to the game of football. You can see the relationship that Drew Brees and Jimmy have and how they’re really on the same page just in the preparation leading up to that game. I was obviously impressed with them before we had an opportunity to coach those guys in Hawaii, and my appreciation was higher after I left.”
Pickett of the litter: They don’t get more unsung on the Packers defense than Ryan Pickett, the wily old 12-year NFL veteran who quietly stuffs the run, clogs lanes and occupies blockers to allow the linebackers behind him to flow to the football. But quietly, he’s having one of his best seasons, according to McCarthy.
“Ryan’s really playing some of the best ball of his career here. He’s really been a good fit for us in ability,” McCarthy said. “I think people realize what kind of athlete Ryan Pickett is. His foot speed and his balance, his athletic ability for a big guy is unique. He’s off to a good start. He’s a very consistent guy. (He) doesn’t get a lot of attention like a lot of the big guys do. (But) Ryan’s always been a quality player but he’s such a steady force in our locker room. I just love the way he goes about his business. Very consistent, and he’s playing very consistent.”
There’s a reason they play on a DD Grassmaster natural/artificial hybrid and not on paper. On the stat sheet, the Saints’ 32nd-ranked defense should be just what the doctor ordered for what ails the Packers’ scuffling offense. But there’s no guarantee that the Saints’ D, which is allowing more than 477 yards per game and 215 yards a game on the ground, will cooperate. On the flip side, the Saints’ offense remains potent, even though Brees and his guys aren’t dominating the way they did last year. Still, the guess here is the highly motivated Packers, in the wake of the “Inaccurate Reception,” will come out inspired and replicate what the game looks like on paper. Packers 38, Saints 28. (Record: 1-1.)
– Jason Wilde