2010 September : Packers Insider

Packers, Refs giftwrap game & division lead to Bears

September 28, 2010 by  
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Sept 28, 2010 ~ by Kevin Seifert

~The Green Bay Packers’ fall from grace can be boiled down to a pair of plays midway through the third quarter Monday night at Soldier Field.

On a third down from the Chicago Bears’ 15-yard line, quarterback Aaron Rodgers rifled a pass past two defenders and into the arms of tight end Jermichael Finley in the end zone. Touchdown? Nope. A whistle. Right tackle Mark Tauscher was holding.

Nick Collins sees his would-be interception late in the fourth quarter negated by a pass interference call against rookie Morgan Burnett. The penalty led to the winning field goal by the Bears. Collins dropped an easy interception earlier on the drive.

Two players later, on fourth down, Bears defensive lineman Julius Peppers burst through a hole in the Packers’ protection to block Mason Crosby’s 37-yard field goal attempt.

“That was a big change there,” Rodgers said after the Bears’ 20-17 victory. “When you lose by three points, you have to look at plays like that.”

Full story here

Packers need to contain Julius Peppers

September 26, 2010 by  
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Sept 26, 2010 ~ by Tom Silverstein

~Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is as familiar to Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher as arthritis is to retired linemen.

Peppers has been more of a pain to the veteran Green Bay Packers tackles in their latter years, but for the most part they have been able to protect their well-being, holding him to three sacks and a forced fumble in five meetings with his former team, the Carolina Panthers.

Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford gets sacked by Chicago Bears' Julius Peppers in week one. Peppers knocked Stafford out of the game with a shoulder injury, with Stafford expected to miss up to two months. The Packers cannot allow Peppers to get any free shots at Aaron Rodgers.

Prior results aren’t always an indicator of future earnings, but in this case, the Packers can go into their Monday night showdown with the 2-0 Bears with some confidence Peppers won’t rampage through their backfield like Godzilla through telephone wire.

Assuming Clifton’s balky knee allows him to play – and there were signs Friday that it would after he practiced in pads – the Packers need not fear Peppers. They simply need to respect him the way they have since they first faced him in 2002.

“He’s a big guy,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “Obviously, (Philadelphia’s) Trent Cole is a different type of leverage rusher, huge motor. Peppers has some of the qualities a lot of coaches (like): great length, the initial burst is outstanding and he’s got size.

“He’s hard to move in the run game, too. He’s a big body and he’s got some excellent skills.”

On the other hand, Tauscher, who has spent more time blocking Peppers than any other Packers lineman, has not allowed a sack against him in the four games against Carolina he was the starting right tackle, one of which he played with a hamstring pull and another with a bad ankle sprain.

“I think he has played (solidly),” Philbin said. “Overall, I think he’s been very competitive against him, held his own. We’re going to need more of the same this week, no question.”

Full story here

Packers-Bears I: The pass-rushers

September 25, 2010 by  
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Sept 26, 2010 ~ by Kevin Seifert, ESPN

~The rule is simple and time-tested. In the NFL, it’s all about the quarterbacks. They generate most of the blame, attract the majority of the credit and get all of the girls. We paid our respects at the quarterback altar last week, noting the new relevance of the “JayRod” rivalry in anticipation of Monday night’s matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.

So enough already with the pleasantries. What if we suggested that the two best players at Soldier Field won’t be the Bears’ Jay Cutler or the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers? What if we cast our gaze to the other side of the ball and recognize the two men charged with stopping said quarterbacks?

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews leads the NFL with six sacks entering Week 3. Bears defensive end Julius Peppers has been among the league’s top pass-rushers since arriving in 2002, enough to have elicited a $91.5 million free-agent contract from the Bears in March.

When Green Bay and Chicago meet on Monday night, the offenses will be focused on handling pass-rushers Clay Matthews (left, Packers) and Julius Peppers (Bears).

Quarterback play might ultimately decide this showdown of 2-0 teams, but no players are in better position to impact their performances than Matthews and Peppers. With that dynamic in mind, I pulled together thoughts from a wide variety of sources on both players. Let’s break them down from every angle as the clock ticks toward Monday night at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Full breakdown here

Packers-Bears Preview: Black & Blue all over

September 24, 2010 by  
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Sept 25, 2010 ~ by Kris Burke

~Now THAT was more like it.

Despite getting off to a sluggish start in the first half and after a fiery speech by a supposed red-faced Mike McCarthy, the Green Bay Packers ran over the Buffalo Bills 34-7.

This week, the Packers won’t be afforded the luxury of a slow start as they head to Soldier Field to face the Chicago Bears Monday night with first place in the NFC North on the line.

With two weeks of the 2010 NFL season now in the books, some trends are beginning to emerge. The Packer offense is every bit as potent as expected and the defense, despite some occasional shakiness, looks to have rebounded from the debacle that was last year’s playoff loss in Arizona.

Clay Matthews continues his torrid pace recording his second consecutive three sack game, a first in Packers history.

Jay Cutler is 0-3 in his career against the Packers, including a nightmare last year in Green Bay. But it's a new Cutler this year. Can the Packers stop the Bears from going to 3-0?

Aaron Rodgers recovered nicely from a shaky game against the Philadelphia Eagles and the offense didn’t seem to miss a step without running back Ryan Grant who is out for the season on injured reserve.

The Chicago Bears enter this game as one of the biggest surprises of this young season. The Bears sit at 2-0 after a win over what could be a worse than expected Dallas Cowboys team and an incredibly lucky Week 1 win over the Detroit Lions when Calvin Johnson’s obvious touchdown catch as time expired was overturned by the officials.

With first place on the line and a potential three game lead over the Minnesota Vikings hanging in the balance, this is a very important game for both teams despite it being only Week 3.

Breaking Down Da Bears

I can’t believe I am typing this sentence, but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is actually playing sound football. Thus far he has meshed nicely with new offensive coordinator Mike Martz and both men have been able to keep their bigger than average egos in check. Cutler has thrown only one interception thus far which is much lower than what he was at this time last season.

Cutler, to the surprise of no one, has found a reliable target in….. rest of story here, including the 3 keys to the game

NFL Quarterbacks can’t hide from The Clay

September 24, 2010 by  
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Packers’ Clay Matthews can no longer be ignored

Sept 25, 2010 ~ by Peter King

~It seems so ridiculous now — or maybe it’s a sign that the USC football team should actually have been the 33rd NFL franchise in the Pete Carroll years.

But how odd is it that Clay Matthews, who is playing football with the pursuit ability of Ray Lewis, started only eight games in five years at Southern Cal?

Matthews, Green Bay’s pass-rushing outside linebacker, enters Monday night’s showdown in Chicago between the twin 2-0 Bears and Packers leading the NFL with six sacks.

Clay Matthews III leads the NFL in sacks with six already. Matthews, son of 19-year NFL veteran Clay Matthews and nephew of 19-year NFL veteran Bruce Matthews, had no Division I scholarship offers coming out of high school in Southern California

He had three apiece against the Eagles and Bills. He’s 17 away from setting the NFL single-season record. (“Come on,” he told me from Green Bay. “It’s two weeks.”) According to the redoubtable Bob McGinn‘s film study in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Matthews has been double-teamed on 42 percent of Packer defensive pass plays so far. And he’s still killing it.

I’m not a big fan of comparing young players to guys who’ve done it for years. And I don’t mean that you shouldn’t say, “The way Matthews chases down players reminds me of Lewis,” or, “I see some Emmitt Smith when I watch the Heisman winner, Mark Ingram.”

I mean it’s silly to say Matthews is going to turn into the next Ray Lewis in pursuit, because we need to see a much larger sample size. As Matthews says, “Come on. It’s two weeks.” I’d say, “Come on. He’s playing his 19th NFL game Monday night.” Greatness in the NFL is so much about staying power.

Full story here

Packers’ Atari Bigby looks forward to return

September 24, 2010 by  
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Sept 24, 2010 ~ by Jason Wilde

~Atari Bigby doesn’t know what his role in the Green Bay Packers’ defense will be once he’s finally able to return to action, but the veteran safety does know that both he and Pro Bowl cornerback Al Harris should provide a welcome lift to what is already a good football team when they come off the physically unable to perform list in a few weeks. 

Bigby, who was placed on PUP after Aug. 6 ankle surgery, and Harris, who is still recovering from his career-threatening left knee injury last November, still have three more weeks to wait before they’re even eligible to start practicing. Both players, along with rookie running back James Starks (hamstring), can begin practicing after the Packers’ sixth game, against Miami on Oct. 17. 

The team has a three-week window in which to start the clock on each of them by having them participate in a practice. Once they do, it opens a new three-week window at the end of which the team must activate the player, put him on season-ending injured reserve or release him. 

With rookie third-round pick Morgan Burnett having started all four preseason games and both regular-season games at strong safety in his place, Bigby expects to be activated during that window but has no idea what he’ll be doing.

Atari Bigby: “I’m hoping (to give the team a boost). For me, for us not playing our best football (so far this season) but we’ve been winning, that’s a good sign. Hopefully when we come back, we can only be plusses to the equation, whatever the role is.”

“I’m just focused on playing football and getting my ankle where it needs to be to perform. I don’t think I’m in a position right now to worry about my role because I haven’t been playing,” Bigby said during a rare visit to the locker room Thursday, as his teammates prepared for Monday night’s showdown with the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. “When I get to that bridge, I guess we’ll cross it.”

Rest of story from Wilde here

How Good is the Green Bay Packer Roster?

September 24, 2010 by  
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Sept 24, 2010 ~ by Rolfe Lindberg, Guest Columnist

~Many football experts have commented on the solid job that Ted Thompson has done in building the Green Bay Packer roster. Aaron Rodgers is now among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL and Clay Matthews is turning a lot of heads with his eye-popping start this season.

The team went 11-5 last year (7-1 in the second half) and Thompson has been proven to have made the correct decision on the Favre/Rodgers controversy.

I decided to try to quantify the strength of the roster and look into the future to see how good we might be.

I took the roster at the beginning of the year ranked 1 through 53 per Bob McGinn (Ranking the 2010 Packers from September 9, 2010) and placed them into three groups (group 1: rank 1 through 18; group 2: rank 19 through 35; group 3: rank 36 through 52).

I excluded Justin Harrell because he will probably never play for the Packers again. For those of you who haven’t read the article, the ranking was based on how important each person is to the Packers in 2010 (performance, position, and how big of a fall the team would take it the player went down with injury (Aaron Rodgers was ranked 1 and Nick McDonald was ranked 53).

I then applied a trend to each player – trending up for a player that is in the improvement part of his career (like a Jermichael Finley); stable for a player that should continue to perform at about the same level for the next few years (middle career guys like a John Kuhn); trending down for a player whose performance is likely to drop off over the next few years (like a Chad Clifton or Brett Favre).

Experts from around the NFL, and fans of the Packers, see a bright future for the team that GM Ted Thompson has assembled.

Best-case scenario would be a team with a good record in 2009 and most of their players on the rise (better yet if their best players are on the rise). Worst-case scenario would be a team with a poor record in 2009 with most of their players in the stable to down portion of their careers.

For the Packers, their top tier players (group 1) break out as follows:

Trending up (9):
Rodgers, Matthews, Finley, Collins, T Williams, Sitton, Raji, Burnett, Neal

Stable (4):
Jenkins, Jennings, Wells, Barnett

Trending down (5):
Woodson, Grant, Clifton, Driver, Tauscher

Overall, I pegged the players as follows:

Trending up (29)

Stable (15)

Trending down (8): the five players listed above plus Pickett, Donald Lee, Poppinga

In the top 14, nine players are trending up, while only two (Charles Woodson and Ryan Grant), are players that I would consider to be on the downside of their careers. Contrast that with a team like the Vikings where many of their top players (Brett Favre, Pat Williams, Steve Hutchinson) are clearly on the downside of their careers.

Conclusion
Not only do we have a strong roster today as evidenced by the team’s 9-1 regular season record over the past 10 games, but we also have an abundance of players on the upside of their careers.

More importantly, half of our top-tier players are in the improvement phase of their careers. For those players that are trending down, we already have solid replacements in place for all except potentially Ryan Grant.  (Even though I have Woodson as trending down, he should perform at a high level for the next few years).

And, Ted Thompson has accomplished this without mortgaging the future. We have all of our draft choices in 2011 and will probably get a compensatory pick for Aaron Kampman. With a break or two, a Super Bowl Championship in the near future is well within reach.

Preview: Packers at Bears

September 22, 2010 by  
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Jay Cutler leads the NFL is passing through two games, including an impressive game at hostile Dallas last year. Rodgers has not had as much success versus Dallas in his two starts.

Do you have your tickets to the Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears game on Monday Night at Soldier Field?

Are you ready for some Football!?

Sept 24, 2010 ~ From PackerInsider

~When: 7:30 p.m. Monday. Where: Soldier Field. Television: ESPN.

Radio: AM-620 in Milwaukee metro area. Wayne Larrivee will call the play-by-play action for the Packers Radio Network with Larry McCarren providing the analysis.

Line: Packers by 3 1/2. Series record: Bears lead, 90-82-6.

Last time they met: Packers 21, Bears 14, on Dec. 13, 2009.
Ryan Grant broke off a season-long 62-yard touchdown on the Packers’ first play from scrimmage and scored the go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter after Nick Collins intercepted Jay Cutler, who was trying to give the Bears the lead late in the game.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1. WE MEET AGAIN: The Packers-Bears rivalry is football’s longest, with Chicago holding a 90-82-6 advantage over their neighbors from the north. Packer coach Mike McCarthy is 4-4 against the Bears, including two wins a year ago. Chicago’s Lovie Smith is 7-5 against the Packers. The teams have met nine times on Monday night, and Green Bay is 5-4 in those contests.

2. HE’S ROLLING NOW: Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler threw 19 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in his first 14 games as a Bear. In his last four games, Cutler has 13 touchdowns and two interceptions.

This year, Cutler has been particularly impressive with five TDs, one pick and a 121.1 passer rating. The strong-armed, extremely athletic Cutler appears to have bought into Mike Martz’s aggressive offensive scheme. For now, the high-risk, high-reward approach is working like a charm.

3. SLOWING DOWN JULIUS: The Bears gave standout defensive end Julius Peppers what is essentially a three-year, $40.5 million deal in March specifically for games like this. Peppers has recorded double digit sacks in six of his eight NFL seasons and has 83 for his career. Peppers, the No. 2-overall pick in 2002, has rare athleticism. Whether the Packers are playing Chad Clifton or Bryan Bulaga at left tackle, they have to get Peppers blocked.

4. QUITE A WEAPON: Bears running back Matt Forte rushed for 1,238 yards in 2008 but is averaging just 39.5 per game this year. But Forte is excelling in the passing game, and he’s drawn comparisons to former Rams star Marshall Faulk, another Martz disciple. Through two games, Forte has 188 receiving yards and three TDs. He’s not nearly as fast or shifty as Faulk was, but he’s been equally productive.

5. AERIAL CIRCUS: Green Bay features one of football’s top passing offenses. The Bears are mediocre in the secondary and have allowed 273 passing yards per game through the first two weeks. Look for Aaron Rodgers and the Packer offense to do plenty of damage through the air.

Full article, with much more analysis and matchup breakdowns  here

Clay Matthews takes down Bears' QB Jay Cutler in last year's game at Chicago. Will Matthews get to Cutler again Monday night?

Packers’ kick return game hits stride with Jordy Nelson

September 22, 2010 by  
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Sept 23, 2010 ~ by Kareem the Dream Copeland

~Certain players thrive in specific schemes.

But as dull and ordinary as that sounds, a fairly simple offseason tweak has paid off already for the Green Bay Packers on special teams.

Jordy Nelson ranks No. 2 in the NFL in kickoff return average among players with at least three attempts.

Nelson broke off a 51-yard return and a 40-yarder in the 27-20 win over Philadelphia in the season opener. It was the first time a Packer had two 40-plus yard returns in the same game since Koren Robinson in 2007.

His 31.0 yards per return trails only New England’s Brandon Tate, whose 34.1 average is aided by a 97-yard touchdown.

Nelson ranked No. 11 in 2009 among returners with at least 20 returns with a 25.4 average.

“Our kickoff returns are more suited for Jordy Nelson’s return style, too, and I think that is part of the adjustments I felt that we made in the offseason,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Jordy has been making very good reads with the football, and I think we are doing a much better job fundamentally of blocking in the return game than we did last year.

Full story here

Packers RB situation has no workhorse

September 22, 2010 by  
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Sept 22, 2010 ~ by Jason Wilde

~There was no missing the excitement in Brandon Jackson’s voice last Wednesday afternoon.  

The Green Bay Packers No. 2 running back certainly wasn’t rejoicing in the misfortune of starter Ryan Grant, his teammate and friend who had been placed on season-ending injured reserve with a right ankle injury suffered in the Sept. 12 regular-season opener at Philadelphia.

McCarthy said this week that he won’t be making Jackson the primary ballcarrier, neither Monday night against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, nor beyond that game.

Virtually every backup says that he doesn’t want to get his opportunity because of an injury to the starter, and while it is sometimes mere lip service, Jackson clearly felt bad for Grant, who ruptured a ligament in his ankle that would require surgical repair. 

“My prayers go out to RG,” Jackson said, “but we’ve got to keep moving.” 

And having earned the starting running back job as a rookie second-round pick in 2007 – only to lose it three games into the season because of a shin injury, then return to action after Grant had staked his claim to the job – Jackson was downright thrilled with the chance to be the every-down back again for the team. 

Or so he thought. 

“Coaches always say, if you’re not the starter you’re always one play away. It took two-and-a-half, three years for that to happen again. I’m prepared,” Jackson said. “It’s exciting, knowing that you’re going to get 18 to 20 carries.” 

Except Jackson didn’t get 18 to 20 carries in Sunday’s 34-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills – he got 11, for a whopping 29 yards (2.6-yard average) including a 1-yard touchdown. And according to Packers coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, Jackson shouldn’t expect an 18- to 20-carry game anytime soon.

Full story here

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