2010 October : Packers Insider

Green Bay Packers’ thinned defense unit causing Dom Capers to be creative

October 26, 2010 by  
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Oct 26, 2010 ~ by Gary D’Amato

~Lambeau Field — C.J. Wilson slid off a block and met Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in the hole Sunday night. The force of the collision messed up something inside Wilson’s helmet and he started running to the sideline, pointing to his face mask.

There was just one problem: The Green Bay Packers had no one to replace him at defensive end.

“It was kind of funny,” said defensive line coach Mike Trgovac. “I could see a little white strip hanging down there (in Wilson’s helmet). He was trying to come off the field and I said, ‘You can’t. We’ve only got three.’ ”

A series of injuries has forced defensive coordinator Dom Capers to come up with creative adjustments all season, but the craziness reached new heights Sunday when end Cullen Jenkins – already playing with a broken hand – strained a calf muscle during pregame warm-ups and couldn’t play.

Then, early in the game, end Ryan Pickett aggravated a sprained ankle and could go just seven snaps before heading to the sideline for good.

That left Capers with three healthy defensive lineman, one of them (Wilson) a rookie seventh-round draft pick and another (Jarius Wynn) released Sept. 4 and re-signed one week later after Justin Harrell went down.

"Well, we always tell our guys if they're sitting in that meeting room they've got to be ready to go out there and play," Capers said. "They owe it to everybody in that room. We've certainly experienced that this year. We've had some guys go out and play well. I like the way our backup players have performed. They've had to."

Though the Vikings gashed the Packers for 196 rushing yards, including 131 by Peterson, Green Bay’s defense came up with three game-changing interceptions of Brett Favre in the second half and survived a late Minnesota drive to win, 28-24.

“When you plan all week and you have your plan in place and an hour before you take the field you find out you’re going to have to readjust that plan, in a game like last night. . . ” Capers said Monday. “This is 25 years in the league; I don’t think it’s ever happened to me before.

“Those three (ends Wilson and Wynn and nose tackle B.J. Raji) played an awful lot and I’ll give credit to those young guys. They fought their tails off in there.”

It’s also a credit to Capers, whose coordinating skills have been put to the test. He’s lost two starters and two key backups to season-ending injuries. Three other starters and two key situational substitutes have missed at least one game.

That list doesn’t even count former starters Atari Bigby (safety) and Al Harris (cornerback), who began the season on the physically unable to perform list and returned to practice just last week.

Full story HERE

Packers’ young defensive linemen deliver when elder statesmen Jenkins and Raji can’t answer the bell

October 25, 2010 by  
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Oct 26, 2010 ~By Brian E Murphy

~Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy presented AJ Hawk with the defensive game ball following the 28-24 win over the Vikings, and deservedly so.

But our official PackersInsider.com defensive game ball goes to the trio of BJ Raji, CJ Wilson, and Jarius Wynn as they were the only three guys to play beyond the first quarter on the D-line. AJ, BJ, or CJ, they all get straight A’s last night.

Oct 25, 2010

~by Jason Wilde

~Ryan Pickett could only shake his head. Having spent the better part of the night on the sideline – alongside another injured veteran defensive lineman, Cullen Jenkins – the Green Bay Packers elder statesman sounded like a proud papa. 

Down to only three healthy defensive linemen – second-year men B.J. Raji and Jarius Wynn, and rookie C.J. Wilson – after Jenkins pulled a calf in pre-pregame warm-ups and Pickett reinjured his sprained ankle during the Minnesota Vikings’ first touchdown drive, Pickett knew he’d watched something special during the Packers’ 28-24 victory over the Vikings at Lambeau Field Sunday night.

“It was just three of us,” Raji said. “I’m proud of C.J. and J-Dub. We’re three of the youngest D-linemen, and for us to step up and make some plays, I’m really proud of how we played tonight.

He’d seen the three youngsters come of age. 

“They stepped up,” Pickett, now in his 10th NFL season, said with a smile. “They played big when they had to. They had a huge load to carry – and they did it.” 

While Raji bore the heaviest load – by unofficial count, the unsung 2009 first-round pick played 61 of the Packers’ 66 defensive snaps – Wynn and Wilson delivered the most memorable plays. 

The Packers thought they went into the game with five active linemen, only to learn that Jenkins had pulled his calf “about an hour or so before the game,” according to coach Mike McCarthy – or about half an hour after the coach had turned in the inactive list, which included injured defensive end Mike Neal (shoulder) and recently added backup Mike Montgomery.

Then, after a pair of three-and-outs by the Vikings’ offense, Pickett reinjured the ankle he sprained at Washington on Oct. 10. Pickett was still on the field for Percy Harvin’s 17-yard touchdown run with 1:11 left in the first quarter, but he said afterward that he’d injured the ankle several plays earlier. 

“Heading into the game, we’ve had enough problems,” said defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who resorted to his “psycho” package (five linebackers, one lineman) on the Vikings’ final drive and had to improvise with offensive tackle T.J. Lang playing defensive tackle on short-yardage plays and outside linebacker Frank Zombo playing defensive end on others. “We had already turned our active list in and I thought we were going with five linemen and we end up with four, with ‘Pick’ coming off an injury. And then ‘Pick’ didn’t last very long, either.” 

Fortunately for the Packers, the kids were all right. 

“I just can’t say enough of our three young defensive linemen. They played huge today,” McCarthy said. 

Wilson’s big moment came midway through the third quarter, with the Packers leading, 21-17. When quarterback Brett Favre dropped back, pulled the ball down and stepped up, Wilson, a rookie seventh-round draft pick who was among the last players to make the 53-man roster coming out of camp, stayed at home and was there to pressure Favre, putting his helmet into Favre’s belly as he threw. The ball went straight to linebacker Desmond Bishop, who intercepted it and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. 

“I grew up a lot. I’d say from 2 years old to about 10,” said Wilson, who found out 20 minutes before kickoff, upon going back in locker room after warm-ups, that he would be starting for Jenkins. “I think that’s the best way to grow up fast – like teaching a kid how to swim, you throw him in the water and then once they get where they’re not afraid of the water no more, it’s a good thing. I grew up pretty fast today, but I’ve still got a long ways to go in this game.” 

Then Wynn, who was cut on the final roster reduction and only brought back after Justin Harrell’s season-ending knee injury, delivered his biggest hit, on the Vikings’ final drive. 

Favre had just picked up a fourth-down and moved the Vikings to the Packers’ 35-yard line with 1:10 to play when he beat center John Sullivan and left guard Steve Hutchinson for a 6-yard sack – the first time the Packers had sacked Favre in three games, dating back to last year’s two sack-free losses to their former teammate. 

While Favre and the Vikings still had a chance to win it at the end, Wynn’s pressure helped lead to a pressure by linebacker Clay Matthews, who drew a 15-yard facemask penalty when he beat right tackle Phil Loadholt for what would have been a sack.

Full story HERE

Packers’ Aaron Rodgers: “A Big Win For Us”

October 25, 2010 by  
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Oct 25, 2010 ~ by Jason Wilde, ESPN Milwaukee

~Afterward, the Lambeau Field faithful lingered in the concourse, as if they didn’t want to leave. The roar was almost deafening, and they filed out chanting “Go Pack Go!” seemingly all the way to their cars parked in the front yards of Ridge Road. 

Their beloved quarterback – not the one they once worshipped, but the one most of them have slowly but surely come to embrace – chose not to let the emotion out in such an obvious way. 

Maybe when he got to his Toyota Tundra pickup truck in the players parking lot, or maybe as he turned it onto U.S. 41 headed for home, maybe then he blared the stereo and let out a loud Woo-hoo! for his ears only. 

But in the wake of the Green Bay Packers’ thrilling 28-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings – and, yes, over Brett Favre – Aaron Rodgers kept it all in. Other than a wide smile as he left the field, and another as he sat in his locker, he did his best to act as if it had been just another game.

It wasn’t, of course. But was he going to confess to such a thing? Of course not.

“We knew it was going to be a grinder, character, gut-it-out type of performance,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who had lost three in a row to the Vikings after starting his career with five straight wins against them. “And our guys stepped up big.

“It’s a big win for us,” he said when asked what the win meant to him. “I think with the way we were playing the last three games, it was important to come out here and have a better performance. Other than my careless turnovers, I think we moved the ball very effectively. We ran the ball maybe better than we had hoped. And our defense bailed us out with a big touchdown and played great.” 

Pressed on what his personal feelings were after the win, Rodgers – whose career 1-11 record in games decided by four points or fewer had been a hot topic all week after back-to-back three-point overtime losses – remained elusive. 

“It was a little more special, I think, because of the significance of where we’re at in the season – 3-3 coming in, division opponent, our biggest rival, the close score, the way it ended,” Rodgers said. “Definitely a special night for us.” 

But more special for him, as those closest to him would attest afterward.

Ask defensive end Ryan Pickett. 

“You have to understand, he went through a lot, and he handled it great,” Pickett said, recalling the circus of Summer 2008, when the iconic Favre was traded to the New York Jets following his unexpected unretirement. “The whole thing that happened, it just hangs over him. Brett beat us two times last year. He’s a great quarterback. All the stuff that happened, all the attention, it was all about Brett. 

“So you know it means a lot to him.”

 Or ask backup quarterback Matt Flynn. 

“It means a lot to him. Obviously it’s a big game for us as a team, the way the season has gone. But personally, I think this was definitely one he had circled that he wanted to win,” Flynn said. “I’m happy for him. I’m happy he got it.

“I don’t know how much he tells you all, but this is definitely one he wanted.” 

Or linebacker Clay Matthews. 

“I think honestly, it does mean a great deal to him. We might see it as any other game, but for him, there’s certainly a little something special,” Matthews said. “For him, sitting behind Favre, then coming out and putting together two fantastic seasons and losing to him twice, for him to come out against the guy who – whatever you want to call it, the quarterback who was in front of him – it means a great deal to him. 

“We treat it like any other game, but for him personally, I mean, it’s always gratifying when you can get the best of someone you have history with. I know for me personally it would. You want to show why you’re the guy, why they chose you, why they picked you. I’m sure it’s gratifying for him.”

Barely, and with some luck: Packers Defense Makes A Stand

October 25, 2010 by  
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Oct 25, 2010 ~ by Tom Fanning, Packers.com

~With all three of Green Bay’s losses this season coming on late field goals, the Packers once again saw the outcome of their game decided in the closing seconds.

After having to stomach back-to-back losses in overtime each of the past two weeks, this time it was Green Bay that made the key plays down the stretch on the way to a critical 28-24 victory over the division-rival Minnesota Vikings.

“Obviously it was a gut-check time,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “We have pretty much been in this situation and have been coming up on the short end of the stick, so we knew we had to get the job done today, and guys just had the mentality to go out and get it done, and we did it.”

After the Green Bay offense failed to convert a third-and-3 from its own 44 with 6:14 left, Minnesota took back possession of the ball at its own 17-yard line with the Packers holding a 28-24 lead. After four straight carries by running back Adrian Peterson for a total of 19 yards, the Vikings faced a third-and-7.

Quarterback Brett Favre found rookie running back Toby Gerhart on a screen pass that picked up 6 yards, with linebacker A.J. Hawk making a nice tackle to stop Gerhart short of the first-down marker. Minnesota went for it on fourth-and-1 at its own 42, and Peterson blasted up the middle for a 5-yard gain.

Four plays later, the Vikings found themselves facing another fourth-down situation, this time needing to pick up 5 yards. But they converted again, with Favre humming a 13-yard completion to wide receiver Randy Moss between Williams and safety Nick Collins, and the Vikings looked to be in business at Green Bay’s 35 with 1:19 remaining and two timeouts left.

For a Green Bay team that hadn’t sacked Favre at all in two games last year and had yet to sack him on Sunday night, second-year defensive end Jarius Wynn put an end to that drought by fighting off a double team to sack Favre on first down for a 6-yard loss. Wynn was seeing significant playing time, as was rookie C.J. Wilson, with the Packers down to just three healthy defensive linemen with Cullen Jenkins (calf) and Ryan Pickett (ankle) both out.

The spark that sack provided was quickly extinguished on the next play when the Packers brought pressure and Favre found Peterson on a screen that he took across the field for 26 yards to the Green Bay 15.

After a false-start penalty on first down on tight end Visanthe Shiancoe pushed Minnesota back 5 yards, Shiancoe bounced back to make a 10-yard reception over the middle. But the gain was wiped out by a personal foul on tackle Phil Loadholt, who pulled linebacker Clay Matthews to the ground by his face mask. Instead of a second-and-5 for Minnesota at the 10, the Vikings now were pushed all the way back to their 35 as they faced a first-and-30.

That next play looked like it might provide for a heartbreaking finish for the Packers. Favre had plenty of time in the pocket, pump faking to buy even more time before finding a leaping Percy Harvin with three defenders nearby in the back of the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown that set off a wild Minnesota celebration.

With there being less than two minutes remaining, the play went to a booth review, and the ruling on the field was overturned as the replay showed that Harvin had failed to get his right foot in bounds.

BJ Raji: “I couldn’t tell whether he was out,” nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “I was just like, No, please God.’ That is just one of those plays where you are just hoping it goes your way and it did.”

Now facing a second-and-30 with 48 seconds left, Favre found Peterson on a dump-off pass to pick up 15 yards and put the Vikings in a more manageable down-and-distance situation. On third down, Favre rolled out to his right to avoid pressure from Raji, but his pass intended for Moss in the back of the end zone sailed way over the head of the veteran wideout.

With one last chance on fourth down, Favre slipped and fell to the ground as he dropped back before quickly getting back up to avoid pressure from linebacker Frank Zombo. He moved up in the pocket to heave another pass intended for Moss in the back of the end zone, but the throw sailed high once again as linebacker Desmond Bishop put a hit on Moss to break up the play.

Full story HERE

Takeaways Loom Large In Packers Win over Vikings

October 25, 2010 by  
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Oct 25, 2010 ~ by Tom Fanning, Packers.com

After Green Bay’s defense got off to a fast start, the Vikings began to find their stride offensively on the way to 17 first-half points. But a pair of third-quarter takeaways by the Packers over a four-minute span changed that.

Green Bay forced three-and-outs on the Vikings’ first two possessions on Sunday night, but Minnesota started to find its rhythm after that. Quarterback Brett Favre led Minnesota’s offense as it converted four of its final five third-down opportunities in the first half on the way to a three-point lead at the break.

The Packers began the second half with a three-and-out of their own, and Favre quickly led Minnesota’s offense out to midfield on three plays. Facing a third-and-4, at the 50, linebacker Brad Jones got pressure on Favre, putting a hit on the veteran signal-caller as he threw a short pass over the middle intended for wide receiver Bernard Berrian. But linebacker A.J. Hawk was there to make the interception, which he returned 21 yards to the Minnesota 41.

Hawk: “I actually had one of the easier jobs on that play, just to wait basically for a receiver to come back. Berrian came back and then got across my face and then Brad hit him and made him throw the ball behind the receiver.”

 “They had kind of a different formation lined up against us,” Hawk said. “They had four guys to one side of the ball, and when you do that you are always going to have one or two guys coming back. So I was one of the inside guys.

“I actually had one of the easier jobs on that play, just to wait basically for a receiver to come back. Berrian came back and then got across my face and then Brad hit him and made him throw the ball behind the receiver.”

The Packers quickly took advantage of the field position, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers connecting with wide receiver James Jones on a 17-yard pass over the middle to convert a third-and-5. Two plays later, Rodgers found wide receiver Greg Jennings for a 14-yard score to give Green Bay the 21-17 lead.

But the defense wasn’t done, and once again it was a linebacker coming up with the big play. Just two plays later on second-and-6 at Minnesota’s 25, Favre pump faked to avoid pressure before taking a hit from rookie defensive end C.J. Wilson on a pass thrown to wide receiver Randy Moss. The pass went into the waiting arms of linebacker Desmond Bishop right in front of Moss, and Bishop easily returned his first career interception 32 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.

Packers' linebacker Desmond Bishop gets ready to take off into the crowd on his Lambeau Leap following his touchdown from his interception of Brett Favre.

“I had coverage on Moss, so I was thinking, ‘Oh, man,’” Bishop said. “I just played out my technique, stayed poised, and he did a route that I had seen in film over and over so I just naturally reacted to it when he broke out. I looked back at Favre and he pumped. I knew he wanted to go there. Then he started feeling a little bit of pressure.

Full story HERE

Game Review: This Time, Close One Goes Packers’ Way

October 25, 2010 by  
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Oct 25, 2010 ~ by Mike Spofford, Packers.com

~Back-to-back overtime losses will sap any team’s resolve, but in another down-to-the-wire finish on Sunday night, the Packers somehow found enough deep down inside to reverse their fortunes.

Holding off what in all likelihood was Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre’s final drive at Lambeau Field, the Packers hung on for a 28-24 victory over the Vikings as Favre came up 20 yards short of the potential game-winning touchdown in the final seconds.

“An excellent team win and an excellent character win,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “And it was definitely something that we needed.”

That’s for sure. The consecutive overtime defeats the past two weeks had dropped the Packers to 3-3, and as the former Green Bay legend drove Minnesota from its own 17 as far as the Packers’ 15-yard line, it looked as though Favre might overcome his three second-half interceptions, pull off one last miracle in front of a sold-out Lambeau (71,107), and drop the Packers below .500 with their third straight last-second defeat.

NFL sack-leader Clay Matthews didn't register any sacks of Favre, but he did cause problems, and a final drive penalty.

But a false start followed by a facemask penalty on right tackle Phil Loadholt as he was trying to block linebacker Clay Matthews cost the Vikings 20 yards, pushing them all the way back to the 35. Ultimately, after replay correctly reversed a typical Favre rocket of a touchdown pass to Percy Harvin with 48 seconds left – Harvin’s second foot was out of bounds in the back of the end zone – the game came down to two throws intended for Randy Moss on third and fourth downs from the 20.

But both sailed high and incomplete, out of the back of the end zone, and with a huge sigh of relief the Packers not only had beaten their former quarterback for the first time in three tries but had pulled into a first-place tie in the NFC North with the Chicago Bears at 4-3. Minnesota dropped to 2-4.

“All the stuff we’ve been going through, these guys show so much heart, so much dedication just to go out there and fight, fight fight ‘til the end,” safety Nick Collins said. “This team can battle through anything.”

Including more injuries on defense, as if that even seemed possible. The Packers got Matthews back from his hamstring troubles but defensive end Cullen Jenkins strained a calf muscle during warm-ups about an hour before the game and couldn’t play. On top of that, defensive end Ryan Pickett re-injured the ankle that forced him to sit out last week, and he was out again early on.

But the defense overcame all that and was able to slow down the Vikings after they got on a roll in the first half.

The Packers had grabbed a 14-7 lead on the strength of some big plays by receiver James Jones (four receptions, 107 yards), a 1-yard touchdown run by Brandon Jackson and a 9-yard TD catch by tight end Andrew Quarless. But the Packers had squandered other chances to score in the half, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw two interceptions in scoring territory, one to defensive end Jared Allen on a screen pass, and the other to safety Madieu Williams, who snagged a bullett into the end zone intended for Greg Jennings that had been deflected by cornerback Frank Walker.

In the meantime, Minnesota’s big-play guys were starting to take over as the Vikings grabbed the lead by halftime.

Receiver Percy Harvin, who had 106 yards from scrimmage (65 receiving, 41 rushing), took an inside handoff and scored from 17 yards out for Minnesota’s first touchdown, tying the game at 7. Then, running back Adrian Peterson (28 carries, 131 yards) scored from a yard out to tie the game at 14 and Ryan Longwell’s 28-yard field goal gave Minnesota scores on three straight possessions for a 17-14 advantage.

But the Green Bay defense shifted the momentum back in a big way in the second half.

On Minnesota’s first possession, linebacker A.J. Hawk intercepted Favre as he was being pressured from behind by linebacker Brad Jones. The offense took advantage of the turnover and drove 41 yards for the go-ahead score, as Rodgers (21-of-34, 295 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 84.8 rating) connected with Jennings from 14 yards out to make it 21-17.

Then just two snaps into the Vikings’ next drive, Favre was trying to avoid pressure again as he threw a short pass right to linebacker Desmond Bishop, who returned the pick 32 yards. Suddenly, with two scores less than a minute apart, the Packers led 28-17.

“It’s huge to get the momentum in a game,” Hawk said. “We came out on fire as a defense (in the second half). They were really rolling against us, running the ball well, completing big third downs and scoring touchdowns, so we needed something, and luckily we got that.

“It’s crazy how fast it can switch, though.”

It did, as Favre and the Vikings answered with a 58-yard TD drive, capped by a 4-yard pass to Moss, to get within 28-24 with 4:12 left in the third quarter.

Strangely enough, there would be no more scoring in the game, but not for a lack of trying.

The Packers drove all the way to the Minnesota 34-yard line early in the fourth quarter, only to have running back John Kuhn stuffed on fourth-and-inches. Then the Vikings countered by getting all the way to the Green Bay 35, but Collins made an incredibly athletic play, jumping over and around Harvin to intercept a third-down pass for Favre’s third interception in a span of four drives.

Taking over with 9:18 left, Green Bay could only kill three minutes on the clock and punted, with Minnesota taking over on its own 17 for what turned out to be the final, nail-biting possession.

“Obviously it was a gut-check time,” said cornerback Tramon Williams, who was the primary reason Moss had just three catches for 30 yards on the night. “We’d pretty much been in this situation all year and been coming up on the short end of the stick.”

Full story HERE

Vikings’ coach Childress bad mood rising after loss

October 25, 2010 by  
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Oct 25, 2010 ~ by Judd Zulgad, StarTribune

~GREEN BAY, WIS. – Brad Childress was upset by Brett Favre’s decision-making on Sunday night as the now-injured quarterback threw three interceptions in a 28-24 loss to Green Bay at Lambeau Field, but the Vikings coach reserved the majority of his ire for the officiating job done by referee Scott Green’s crew.

"That's the worst officiated game I've seen." -Vikings head coach Brad Childress

Childress clearly wasn’t happy when he spoke to the media in the postgame news conference, but he was seething during an earlier interview on Vikings flagship station KFAN (1130 AM).

“That’s the worst officiated game I’ve seen,” said Childress, whose team fell to 2-4 after losing four games in the entire 2009 regular season. “That referee came over and apologized to me for not calling a hold on the scramble by [Packers quarterback Aaron] Rodgers. And I’ll tell you what, that’s his job. Protect the quarterback and look at the left tackle. Look at the left tackle hold his tail off.”

Childress’ concerns will go well beyond the officiating this morning. Favre reinjured his surgically repaired left ankle in the third quarter when he was hit by linebacker Brad Jones as he threw a ball that was picked off by A.J. Hawk.

Vikings QB Brett Favre re-aggravated his ankle on a hit by Packers linebacker Brad Jones on this play. AJ Hawk picked off the errant Favre pass, which set up one of the Packers touchdowns. After the game, Coach McCarthy awared the defensive game ball to a well-deserved and unsung Hawk.

Favre had trouble moving after the game, and it has to be considered questionable whether he will be able to extend his NFL-record starting streak next week at New England.

The Vikings had three touchdowns taken away by reviews, including a potential 35-yarder to Percy Harvin with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter that would have won the game, but that wasn’t the one that upset Childress. The replay showed Harvin came down with his right foot out of bounds. That drive ended with Favre falling down, getting up and throwing incomplete for Randy Moss in the end zone on fourth-and-15.

Full story HERE

Does Aaron Rodgers have what it takes to win big games?

October 23, 2010 by  
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Tickets to the Green Bay Packers vs Minnesota Vikings game at Lambeau Field are red hot despite the chilly weather and the chilly record Aaron Rodgers has in close games in his career.

~Oct 24, 2010 ~ by Lori Nickel

~Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others. – Jack Welch, former CEO of GE and top-selling author

The first 24 years of Aaron Rodgers’ life were about becoming the man he was meant to be. There were no doubts in his mind about who exactly that was.

Rodgers knew all he needed was time and tests to mold himself into an athlete, competitor and quarterback.

Years 25 and 26 have been about something more, something bigger.

The point wasn’t to play the position. The point was to lead a team.

Aaron Rodgers has won a lot of games with Green Bay, but critics point to Rodgers and the Packers being 0-5 in overtime games and 1-11 in games that have been decided by four points or fewer.

He’s won respect for his arm, his discipline and his demeanor.

The next challenge awaits: Sunday night at Lambeau Field against the Minnesota Vikings and their legendary field leader, Brett Favre.

This particular test comes at a tough time. Rodgers is playing with fewer weapons because of injuries to key players, is throwing more interceptions than he’d like, is just two weeks removed from a concussion and is leading a Packers team that has dropped three of its last four games.

But that’s what leadership is about, he said – lifting the people around you.

In a preseason interview at his home in San Diego, before he knew what challenges he would face in the 2010 season, Rodgers said moments like this are exactly what he has been preparing for his entire life.

Moments to lift a team.

“I expected to be here,” he said.

Full story HERE

Al Harris, Atari Bigby not active for Vikings game

October 23, 2010 by  
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Oct 24, 2010 ~ by Rob Demovsky

~Green Bay — The Green Bay Packers did not activate any of their players off the physically unable to perform list on Saturday, according to an NFL source

Despite the Packers saying Al Harris looked great and was ready, neither he, James Starks, or Atari Bigby will be in uniform versus the Vikings Sunday night.

That means that neither cornerback Al Harris (knee) nor safety Atari Bigby (ankle) will play Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field. Those two, along with running back James Starks (hamstring), began practicing this past week after sitting out the first six weeks of the season.

The Packers would have needed to activate them by the close of league business on Saturday in order for them to play Sunday night.

Starks had no chance of being activated, but it appeared that either Bigby or Harris — or both — had a chance to play against the Vikings. Instead, the Packers decided to wait at least another week. Bigby had ankle surgery on Aug. 6, and Harris had reconstructive surgery after blowing out his knee last Nov. 22.

After Harris and Bigby completed a full week of practice on Friday, both indicated that they were ready to play this week.

“I feel good, but I don’t know what’s what,” Harris said on Friday. “However the process goes, I’m for it. If it’s this week or next week or however the process goes, I’m ready for it.

“Of course, I would love to play, am eager to play, but at the same time I’m respective of the process and the decision making. They’ve been good to me. They told me to get well and however long it takes, just get better. As un-loyal as this business is, I thought that was a pretty heads-up move by them.”

Safeties coach Darren Perry indicated on Friday that Bigby might not be ready when he said Bigby is “still probably not quite there yet in terms of being back 100 percent.”

Said Bigby: “I’m a football player, so I want to play. Any time there’s a game going on, any time there’s practice, I want to be in there. But the final decision is going to come down to the coaches and the medical staff. I prepared myself to be the starter. I prepared myself mentally to be a backup.”

Packers not looking so Super

October 22, 2010 by  
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Oct 22, 2010 ~By Mike Tanier, NBCSports.com

~For 45 minutes each week, the Packers are one of the best teams in the NFL. Unfortunately, for the Packers football games are 60 minutes long.  

The Packers have been tied or led in the fourth quarters of all six of their games this year. But opponents have outscored them 52-24 in the fourth quarter and overtime, handing the Packers three losses by field goals, two of them in overtime. When the Packers aren’t losing tight games in the final period, they are letting the Eagles and Lions get back into the game, turning what should have been blowouts into nail-biters. No lead is safe for the Packers, especially with Brett Favre and Randy Moss in town on Sunday night.

Many people think injuries are the Packers’ main problem, but they’re no more banged-up than other teams. They have bigger issues. Here’s a breakdown of the the Packers’ issues and the ways the Vikings can exploit those late-game mistakes:

No rushing consistency
Green Bay’s running game looks good enough on paper: 101.8 yards per game, 16th in the NFL. But 113 of the 611 rushing yards are from Aaron Rodgers scrambles and sneaks, and 71 more of them came on one Brandon Jackson run. Trim the fat, and the Packers average just 71.2 yards per game and 3.8 yards per rush.The Packers’ rushing woes have been especially pronounced in the fourth quarter, when their backs have rushed 32 times for 102 yards (3.4 yards per carry) with just four first downs and a fumble. With Ryan Grant injured, plodders Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn have tried to carry the load, but neither has been effective at chewing up the clock. The Packers’ best fourth quarter runner — by a landslide — has been Rodgers, with seven carries for 73 yards and two touchdowns on scrambles and sneaks. Ideally, you don’t want your quarterback to be your leading fourth-quarter rusher.

The Vikings can capitalize because
Minnesota’s run defense is better than the numbers: 102.2 yards per game, 3.8 yards per rush, and two touchdowns are darn good figures after facing hard-running opponents like the Jets and Dolphins. The Pat Williams-Kevin Williams-E.J. Henderson interior defense is playing as well as ever. Once the Vikings stymie the Packers running game, they’ll be able to exploit problem number two.

Expect a heavy dose of #28 Sunday night.

Strange play calls
Aaron Rodgers has dropped back to pass 23 times in the fourth quarter with the Packers leading. The running backs only have 21 carries in the same circumstances. Balance is all well and good, but you’re not supposed to be balanced while winning in the fourth quarter. You’re supposed to be eating the clock.

It gets worse — the Packers ran 15 plays from the shotgun while leading in the fourth quarter, turning in 12 passes, one handoff, one Rodgers draw, and one Rodgers scramble. The Packers use a shotgun-heavy offense, but c’mon coach, we’re trying to put the Redskins away, here. Let’s get Rodgers under center, where he’s in better position to hand off.

Full story HERE

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