2010 January : Packers Insider

Clay Matthews has Arizona Cardinals LT Jeremy Bridges’ respect

January 9, 2010 by  
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Jan 9, 2010 ~ By Tom Pelissero, Press-Gazette

~If there were any doubt in Jeremy Bridges’ mind that Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was an impact player, Matthews erased them with his performance last week.

Cardinals left tackle Jeremy Bridges, left, had his hands full with Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, trying to keep him away from quarterback Matt Leinart during last Sunday's game in Glendale, Ariz.

Cardinals left tackle Jeremy Bridges, left, had his hands full with Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, trying to keep him away from quarterback Matt Leinart during last Sunday's game in Glendale, Ariz.

Matthews drew two holding calls, one of which resulted in a safety, and had a career-high seven hits on the Arizona Cardinals’ quarterbacks. Three of those came on one drive against Bridges, a longtime rotational player at guard who took over at left tackle when the Cardinals put veteran Mike Gandy (sports hernia) on injured reserve on Dec. 23.

“He’s good,” Bridges said on Friday of Matthews, the first-round draft pick who has recorded 19 of his team-leading 35 QB hits in the past five games.

“He’s got a lot to learn, but as far as just ability, raw ability, the kid’s fast, quick, strong. He’s going to be one of the good ones.”

There’s a good argument to be made Matthews already falls into that category.

After missing most of the preseason with a hamstring injury, he took over as the starter at right outside linebacker in the Packers’ fourth game, ended up leading the team with 10 sacks, received a Pro Bowl invitation and only seems to be expanding his pass-rushing repertoire as the season goes on.

Look no further than the array of moves he used against the Cardinals in last week’s regular-season finale. He beat Bridges with speed moves off the edge, gave left guard Reggie Wells trouble on stunts and even displayed some uncommon power by flattening rookie running back Beanie Wells late.        Full article here

Rodgers, Packers hit their Stride

January 8, 2010 by  
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Jan 8, 2010 ~ By Jim Trotter, CNN-Sports Illustrated

~There is nothing in Aaron Rodgers‘ eyes or voice that leads you to believe he’ll be overwhelmed in his first career playoff start Sunday at Arizona. Why would there be? If he can hold his own in two showdowns against former Green Bay icon Brett Favre, continue to stand tall in the pocket after being sacked a league-leading 41 times through nine games, and rally his team from a dispiriting and seemingly back-breaking loss to then-winless Tampa Bay in November, what’s a little playoff game against an opponent he has torched for 55 points (including the preseason) in five quarters this season?

Rodgers: "When we started 4-4 there was concern. But I could see a light. After that game we just got on this roll."

Rodgers: "When we started 4-4 there was concern. But I could see a light. After that game we just got on this roll."

“He’s a gooooood quarterback,” said one defensive coordinator who game-planned for Rodgers this season. “He can do it all.”

In only his second season as a starter, the former Cal star threw for the second-most yards (4,434) in franchise history, posted the second-best passer rating (103.3) in Packers annals and had the second-lowest interception percentage (1.3) by a Green Bay regular. He also ranked fourth in the league with 30 touchdown passes.

The irony is that coach Mike McCarthy entered the season……   Full story here

Packers’ Woodson finally Reciprocating the Love

January 7, 2010 by  
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Jan 7, 2009 ~ By Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports

~Charles Woodson sat alone in his car. He looked out the window, and two strangers were clamoring for his attention.  

It was 2006. The Green Bay Packers were in the midst of a losing streak. His knee was hurting and his shoulder was in a harness. In the physical sense, he was all there – the prickly Wisconsin weather left little doubt about that. But mentally, he was alternating between pissed off defiance and wondering, “How the hell did I get here?” And now there were two people – true Wisconsin folks – sitting in another car, smiling at him. The look on Woodson’s face must have spoken volumes.

“Coming here, the way people have embraced me, the way they respect the way I play the game, community-wise, for me there’s a loyalty there,” Woodson says. “I wouldn’t want to leave these people. That’s coming from my heart. I would not want to leave them.”

“Coming here, the way people have embraced me, the way they respect the way I play the game, community-wise, for me there’s a loyalty there,” Woodson says. “I wouldn’t want to leave these people. That’s coming from my heart. I would not want to leave them.”

“We don’t want anything from you,” a man behind the wheel said after rolling down his window. “We just want you to know that we really respect the way you play.” 

With that, the window rolled back up, and the car pulled away. 

There are a lot of moments that have delivered Woodson to where he is now – in Green Bay, back amongst the league’s elite cornerbacks, and likely on the verge of the NFL’s defensive player of the year award. But Woodson punctuates this one with a toothy, 100-watt grin. 

“That,” Woodson said of the brief encounter, “meant everything to me.” 

Looking back, the ego has healed and the darkness has lifted. Woodson is no longer locked into mortal combat with his surroundings. The city he once couldn’t fathom playing in has now come to define the next phase of his life – the one that has put his raucous days with the Oakland Raiders behind him, and made the sourest points of his reputation seem more relic than reality. 

Four years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find an NFL executive outside of Green Bay who would have believed that was possible. Fresh into the first free agency of his career, Woodson was nothing less than radioactive. He spent two months as an NFL orphan, holding out for something, anything better than Green Bay. All the while, his agent would shrug, and Woodson would stare at the ticker at the bottom of his television, cursing when his name was never mentioned amongst the best available free agents. Eight seasons into his NFL career, his Heisman Trophy, All-Pro credentials and reputation as a lethal shutdown specialist had been cast into the abyss. And that’s precisely where Woodson thought he was going when Green Bay was his one and only option. 

“It was tough to watch,” said Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who remains one of Woodson’s closest friends in the game. “… I’m not gonna lie. Green Bay was a head-scratcher. The amount of money he signed for [$52 million over seven years], you thought ‘Oh good, at least he’s well-compensated.’ But then you thought ‘Green Bay? This doesn’t even fit Charles’ personality. It doesn’t seem like a place where he can be himself.’ 

“But you ask Charles now, and he’ll tell you it was the best thing that could have happened.”
FULL STORY HERE

Cardinals-Packers: Switch to 3-4 fueled Pack’s defense

January 7, 2010 by  
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Jan 7, 2010 ~ By Bob McManaman, Arizona Republic

~As good as quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been this season for the Green Bay Packers , one of the main reasons they have had so much success has been their transformation on the other side of ball by implementing the 3-4 defense.

 In the off-season, the Packers hired Dom Capers as defensive coordinator and brought in several new assistant coaches to teach the new scheme, which has worked wonders.

Kurt Warner on the Packers defense: "Not only are they athletic, not only do they have a good scheme, not only are they smart. But when the ball is in the air, they're great at going and getting it."

Kurt Warner on the Packers defense: "Not only are they athletic, not only do they have a good scheme, not only are they smart. But when the ball is in the air, they're great at going and getting it."

The Packers finished the season as the second-ranked defense overall in the league. They are first in the NFL in rushing defense, fifth in pass defense and lead everyone with 40 takeaways.

It was a work in progress that head coach Mike McCarthy said his players probably didn’t fully reach their potential until the off week in mid-October.

“It was definitely something that you build,” he said Wednesday. “You come in, put a new staff together, meet with the players and then you go to training camp but you don’t have enough time to do everything.

“You try to do as much as you can in the preseason games, but there’s still nothing like regular-season games to get you ready.”

The Cardinals have been as impressed as anyone – especially quarterback Kurt Warner.
Full story here

Cardinals-Packers: Cards have injuries, questions

January 7, 2010 by  
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Jan 7, 2010 ~ By Kent Somers, Arizona Republic

~The last thing the Cardinals needed this postseason was to enter it with one starter wearing a cast, another sporting sweats, a third leaving practice early with back spasms and two more doing the Tour de Sideline on stationary bikes at practice.

And in case there is any confusion, Arizona is the team that tried to rest its starters this past Sunday, while the Packers played most of theirs through three quarters.

“You never want to go into games like this not 100 percent and not with your top players,” quarterback Kurt Warner said.

Boldin said an MRI revealed a high left ankle sprain and a sprained left MCL. Boldin missed a game earlier this year with a right ankle sprain.

Boldin said an MRI revealed a high left ankle sprain and a sprained left MCL. Boldin missed a game earlier this year with a right ankle sprain.

Over the past two seasons, the Cardinals have been remarkably successful and/or lucky at staying healthy. Last month, left tackle Mike Gandy became the first starter in two seasons to be placed on injured reserve. Even a guy who suffered facial fractures, receiver Anquan Boldin, missed only two games because of it.

A fatalist would say the odds finally have caught up with the Cardinals. Rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee contusion) and Boldin (ankle, knee sprain) spent part of Wednesday’s practice riding exercise bikes.

Right defensive end Calais Campbell is trying to play while wearing a cast to protect a fractured thumb. Free safety Antrel Rolle has been in sweats instead of pads the past two weeks because of a thigh bruise. And guard Deuce Lutui left practice Wednesday with back spasms.

All are regular starters.   Full story from the AZ Republic here

Cardinals-Packers: Key matchup – Dansby vs. Grant

January 7, 2010 by  
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Jan 7, 2010 ~ By Bob McManaman, Arizona Republic

~Cardinals inside linebacker Karlos Dansby vs. Packers running back Ryan Grant.

Why it’s important
Grant is just the third back in Packers history to record consecutive seasons of at least 1,200 rushing yards, and since bursting on the scene midway through the 2007 season, his 3,385 yards are the second most in the league behind only Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (3,814). Grant has had at least eight runs of 20 or more yards this season, and Dansby, the Cardinals’ leading tackler for three years in a row, will have to wrap him up every chance he gets.

Ryan Grant (left) has had at least eight runs of 20 or more yards this season, and Karlos Dansby, the Cards' leading tackler, will have to wrap him up every chance he gets.

Ryan Grant (left) has had at least eight runs of 20 or more yards this season, and Karlos Dansby, the Cards' leading tackler, will have to wrap him up every chance he gets.

 Dansby is in his contract year but even by his own estimation, he has yet to play his best game. He hasn’t had a truly dominating performance like he did last year in the playoffs. If Grant gets a healthy dose of carries, Dansby will have to rise to the occasion. When Grant gets 22 or more handoffs, the Packers are 10-1.

Full story here

Packers Primed for a Deep Playoff Run

January 5, 2010 by  
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Jan 6, 2010 ~ By Tommy Ziemer, Madison.com

Mike McCarthy was a man with few complaints Monday, a day after his Green Bay Packers finished up the regular season by thrashing the Arizona Cardinals 33-7.

And why would he have many gripes?

Charles Woodson will have to cover Larry Fitzgerald again on Sunday and will be doing it with Kurt Warner slinging it instead of Matt Leinart.

Charles Woodson will have to cover Larry Fitzgerald again on Sunday and will be doing it with Kurt Warner slinging it instead of Matt Leinart.

 His team enters the NFC playoffs having won seven of its past eight, with no major injury concerns and fresh off a blowout victory over the team it will open the postseason against Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

“I feel very good about our football team,” McCarthy told reporters in Green Bay during his day-after-game news conference. “It’s like anything you’re trying to build as far as the vision, the plan. I like the way our football team looks right now. I like the energy they’re playing with, I like the way they prepare, and I like the way they’re focused.”

They’re also the NFC’s best team – at least by record – over the second half of the season. Philadelphia has the second-best mark at 6-2 since the midpoint, but lost its regular-season finale to Dallas, which carries a three-game winning streak into the postseason.

Not many saw a 7-1 finish coming after an eye-opening 38-28 loss at Tampa Bay left the Packers at .500 and any thoughts of a playoff run seeming a bit far-fetched.    Full story here

Despite familiarity, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals promise surprises

January 5, 2010 by  
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Jan 6, 2010 ~ By Rob Demovsky, Press-Gazette

~The Green Bay Packers have seen the Arizona Cardinals as often this season as their NFC North rivals from Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota — teams they know inside and out, backwards and forwards.

BJ Raji & his mates won't be wearing the green anymore this season, unless they make it to Dallas in what would be the NFC Championship game

BJ Raji & his mates won't be wearing the green anymore this season, unless they make it to Dallas in what would be the NFC Championship game

But how much do they really know about their wild-card playoff opponent?

Considering they saw Arizona play a vanilla preseason game back in August, and they walloped a stripped-down version of the Cardinals in this past Sunday’s regular-season finale, Packers coach Mike McCarthy and his staff will have to prepare for a bit of an unknown even though the teams are meeting this coming Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium for a third time in less than five months.

“We’ve watched them a good bit,” Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “We prepared hard (for Sunday’s game), as we would for any team that we played. Do they have certain other calls in their playbook? I’m sure that they do.”  Full story here

Packers Set NFL Record

January 5, 2010 by  
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Jan 6, 2010 ~ By Lori Nickel, Journal-Sentinel

~

Sacks, dropped passes and penalties? As if they mattered one bit. Apparently nothing was going to stop the Green Bay Packers from rewriting the records this season because this offense went on a tear.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers became the first quarterback in the NFL to pass for more than 4,000 yards in his first two years as starter.

The Packers also had a 1,200-yard rusher in Ryan Grant and a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Donald Driver and Greg Jennings to go with Rodgers’ 4,000 for the second straight season. It’s the first time in NFL history any team has done that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

And they could have had one more record for Rodgers.

At Arizona, he was just 25 yards from breaking Lynn Dickey‘s Packers single-season passing record of 4,458 yards from 1983.

Rodgers had 4,434 yards before he was pulled late in the third quarter with the Packers leading, 33-0.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers became the first quarterback in the NFL to pass for more than 4,000 yards in his first two years as starter.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers became the first quarterback in the NFL to pass for more than 4,000 yards in his first two years as starter.

“I knew I was short by the time I came out,” Rodgers said after the game. “But I would definitely take a repeat of this season and the way we’ve played for the rest of my career – that would be great.”

Perhaps Rodgers will take some consolation in this because he cares so much about those interceptions: He threw just seven interceptions and 30 touchdowns. He did not throw an interception in 12 games this season, which jumped ahead of Bart Starr‘s franchise record of 11 games set in 1964 in a 14-game season.  Full Story Here

Staying in the Groove

January 5, 2010 by  
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Jan 6, 2010 ~ By Lori Nickel, Journal-Sentinel

There was a very good, very clear, very obvious reason that led coach Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers to push the pedal to the floor in the 16th game of the season at Arizona on Sunday:

To keep the momentum. 

Mike McCarthy and the Packers have won seven of their last eight games.

Mike McCarthy and the Packers have won seven of their last eight games.

After the Packers began the year 4-4, they have won seven of their last eight games, with the only loss coming in a one-point shootout at Pittsburgh. They did not hold back in the season finale at Arizona, playing most of the starters and competing as if their very playoff lives depended on it.

Riding that wave is important to Green Bay for reasons beyond establishing a winning atmosphere and a justified confidence among the players. A day after the Packers dismissed Arizona with a 33-7 victory in Arizona, McCarthy explained that the momentum could help in the one area he cannot control, and that’s lack of experience.

The Packers are still young. Several of them, like Mason Crosby, Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Daryn Colledge, to name a few, can only draw upon their experience on the 2007 playoff team.

Twenty Packers, including the contributing rookies like Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji, and key individuals such as Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finely, Jordy Nelson, Josh Sitton and Jeremy Kapinos, have no playoff experience at all.

In contrast, the Arizona Cardinals are loaded with veteran players with postseason experience.

“They’ve won their division two years in a row,” said McCarthy. “They have experience. They’re coming off of a Super Bowl run. They have playoff experience, pretty much their whole football team. Those are the things that play to their strengths.  Full story here

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