Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers were able to hush their critics — for one day, at least — with a convincing road win against previously unbeaten Houston. Next they'll try to win consecutive games for the first time this season.
"Our team has a lot of pride. They have never lost any confidence. I haven't seen that. I think after (Sunday) night's win, it's even stronger," coach Mike McCarthy said a day after beating the Texans 42-24.
Now, the Packers (3-3) turn their attention to the Rams (3-3), whom they'll face Sunday in St. Louis in the last of three consecutive road games.
"But you just turn the page and you get up and you come into work today and you put on the St. Louis Rams tape and you see a team that had almost 500 yards of offense versus (Miami on Sunday) and they lose the game. So it's tough every week in this league, and you're foolish not to think so.
"We need to do all the little things that we did a better job of leading up this game and into this game this week as we did (Sunday) night. And that's the facts."
Another fact: Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP, plays better when he feels he has something to prove — and he certainly felt that way against the Texans, who watched him complete 24 of 37 passes for 338 yards with a franchise record-tying six touchdowns and no interceptions (133.8 passer rating).
After the game, Rodgers was asked what he thought he told critics with the team's performance against Houston.
"Shhhhhhh," Rodgers replied before smirking and walking away.
There were certainly plenty of critics for Rodgers and the Packers to answer, both nationally and locally. In his postgame news conference, Rodgers didn't specifically address any of the criticism but acknowledged he was aware of it.
"Of course, I heard it," Rodgers said. "It wasn't like I paid a lot of attention to it, but people, whether it's good stuff or bad stuff, friends of mine, they like to tell me what's being said out there. I'm not somebody that watches a ton of TV or puts a whole lot of worth into some of those comments, but I feel like I've always played with a chip on my shoulder. It helps when people give me a reason to have that chip."
Meanwhile, McCarthy took issue with the idea that, before Sunday night's victory, there had been something "wrong" with his team. After dropping the regular-season opener to San Francisco at home, the Packers' next two losses came under unusual circumstances: Sept. 24 at Seattle on a contested desperation touchdown pass on the game's final play that was ruled a catch and not an interception by the NFL's replacement officials working the game; Oct. 7 at Indianapolis in which the Packers frittered away a 21-3 lead against an emotional Colts team that was playing its first game after head coach Chuck Pagano had been diagnosed with leukemia.
"There's such a fine line between winning and not winning. I think that sometimes gets lost in the conversation that the players and the coaches go through and when it doesn't go your way," McCarthy said. "I think sometimes when you give honest answers to questions . things get skewed and strong opinions are made about individuals or how we're playing.
"We're 3-3, and I know exactly why we're 3-3. But I (also) know how to continue to improve. Maybe that gets old, but that's the way we operate. It's about fundamentals, it's about having the proper mindset and energy. Teams have to work and improve throughout the year at practice, we're doing that. Those are things we're focused on. That's not what's wrong with our team."
NOTES: The Packers announced that both starting inside linebacker D.J. Smith and reserve running back Brandon Saine had been lost for the remainder of the season to knee injuries they sustained Sunday. Saine was placed on injured reserve on Monday to make room for ex-Buffalo Bills running back Johnny White, whom the team claimed on waivers. Saine played in all six games this season, but did not carry the ball and worked almost exclusively on special teams. . The team did not make a roster move with Smith, but defensive coordinator Dom Capers said he has a number of options at the position. Smith became a starter when standout inside linebacker Desmond Bishop had a season-ending hamstring injury in the Aug. 9 preseason opener at San Diego. . McCarthy indicated that injuries to two other starters — rookie outside linebacker Nick Perry (knee) and cornerback Sam Shields (shin) — were not season-ending and said more information would be available about each player on Wednesday after further medical testing.