2012 November : Packers Insider

Injured LB Clay Matthews revels in watching Packers defensive ‘superstars’

November 20, 2012 by  
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By Jason Wilde, ESPN Wisconsin

~DETROIT – Clay Matthews did his best. He made a bee-line for the Ford Field visitors’ locker room door the moment reporters were allowed in Sunday afternoon, and he tried to sell those giving chase on the fact that he hadn’t done anything during the Green Bay Packers’ 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions. 

Clay Matthews (52) reacts after sacking San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis.

“Superstars are in there!” the Packers’ three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker shouted, pointing inside.

Perhaps, but in truth, what happened defensively Sunday was this: The replacements came through in a big way with their true superstar – the guy with the flowing blonde locks and host of commercial endorsement deals – standing on the sideline with a hamstring injury.

The Packers registered five sacks on Matthew Stafford (two by Erik Walden, one each by Morgan Burnett, Davon House and Dezman Moses), overcame a couple of big Calvin Johnson plays, got the requisite stops late in the game, “held” the No. 2 offense in the NFL to 362 net yards and forced three turnovers, including one of the game’s biggest plays when second-year safety M.D. Jennings returned an interception 72 yards for a touchdown.

All without Matthews.

“It shows that they’re probably going to get rid of me,” Matthews said, keeping a straight face.

“It was a great opportunity for the young guys,” Matthews said when choosing to answer the question seriously. “Moses really rose up to the occasion, put constant pressure (on Stafford), especially battling against their No. 1 draft pick for the majority of the game (tackle Riley Reiff). They did a good job overall. Obviously there were a few plays they’d like to take back, but I thought we did a good job. So we’re going to look for that to continue. I really think trial by fire really helps them out, in the coming weeks and in the playoffs.”

As for what the coming weeks hold for Matthews, he wouldn’t say. He danced around questions about a timeline – “We’ll see, I really don’t know,” he said several times – and wouldn’t say if next Sunday’s game at the New York Giants is a possibility. When it was pointed out to Matthews that he missed one game in 2009 with a hamstring injury and came back the next game, he wouldn’t bite.

He did acknowledge that the fact that he traveled to the game was a good sign, and he did confirm it’s his left hamstring, which had not publicly been confirmed before Sunday.

“We’ll see the timeline after this week as far as rehabilitation, see where we’re at, especially tomorrow, what the timetable is then,” Matthews said. “With the bye week, that obviously helped out, getting an extra seven days, but we’ll see. Honestly, guys, we’ll see where we’re at.”

Full story here

Youngsters in secondary stepping up for Packers in 2012

November 20, 2012 by  
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By Gary D’Amato, Journal-Sentinel

~DETROIT – M.D. Jennings returned an interception for a touchdown. Casey Hayward broke up five passes and intercepted another. Davon House had a sack and a tackle for loss. Jerron McMillian recovered a fumble.

Average age of those players: 23.2. 

Safety M.D. Jennings picks off Stafford Sunday, then takes it back 72 yards for a touchdown.

They’re young. They make the occasional mistake.

They’re also making a lot of big plays.

The Green Bay Packers’ secondary, still missing starters Charles Woodson (collarbone) and Sam Shields (ankle), once again rose to the occasion Sunday in a 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

“They’re some ballers,” linebacker Erik Walden said. “You just give credit to them and to their position coaches who prepare them to play. Any guy that’s in our defensive room is expected to make plays when they’re called upon.”

The biggest play of the bunch was Jennings’ 72-yard interception return in the third quarter.

The Lions faced third-and-10 from the Packers’ 44-yard line and were trying to add to their 10-7 lead. Quarterback Matthew Stafford dropped back and saw Tony Scheffler open for what would have been about a 12- to 15-yard gain.

But House undercut the tight end’s route, forcing Stafford to deliver the ball high and a bit behind Scheffler. It glanced off his hands and into the arms of Jennings, who is filling in for Woodson.

Jennings veered to his right, picked up some blocks and sprinted down the right sideline.

“I was just playing the defense,” he said. “We always talk about tips and overthrows, and the ball was tipped and I was in position to make a play on it.”

Coach Mike McCarthy called Jennings’ return “probably as big of a play or as exciting a play that I’ve seen in my time in Green Bay.”

“It was huge,” said cornerback Tramon Williams. “We needed to get points wherever we could get them and however we could get them.”

Without arguably their top two defenders – Woodson and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) – the Packers still made it tough on Stafford. He was sacked five times, completed just 17 of 39 passes (43.6%) and threw two interceptions for a rating of 54.0.

“That’s a credit to the guys who stepped up,” said safety Morgan Burnett. “All the backups are tuned in and focused.”

Lions receiver Calvin Johnson did catch five passes for 143 yards and a touchdown, and his 53-yard reception in the first quarter put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. 

Rookie cornerback Casey Hayward has played well, but Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks will be toughest test yet this season.

But no other receiver had more than 35 yards, and Scheffler caught only two of the 10 passes thrown his way.

On Detroit’s final two possessions, Stafford was a combined 1 for 7. His only completion was a 33-yarder to Johnson on the last play of the game, with the Packers in a prevent defense.

As he was being tackled, Johnson tried to lateral the ball to a teammate but his desperation pitch landed in the arms of McMillian, a rookie safety.

The Lions went into the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in passing yards (307.3 per game) and No. 1 in total offense (406.1).

“We weren’t clicking,” said coach Jim Schwartz. “We had a couple times where we misfired on passes. A couple times we had chances (and we) dropped balls and a couple times we had miscommunication of route adjustments.

“We didn’t do a good enough job of pass protecting, either. So, yeah, our passing game definitely wasn’t clicking. I’ll give some credit to the Packers.”

Late in the game, Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson appeared to argue on the sideline.

“I’d rather not go into it,” Schwartz said.

The Packers’ defense finished with nine pass break-ups, seven quarterback hits in addition to the five sacks, five tackles for loss and four takeaways.

Hayward, filling in for Shields, made his fifth interception of the season in the second quarter. He leads all NFL rookies.

“Guys got their hands on a lot of balls,” Williams said. “Some of them we made plays on and some of them (Stafford) might have missed. But at the end of the day guys played their technique, guys were in the right position and we made the plays we needed to win the game.”  

"We're still improving," Walden said. "The sky's the limit."

When the Packers get Woodson and Shields back for the stretch run, they’ll have perhaps the deepest secondary in the NFL.


Ugly win is as good as a pretty win; Packers win fifth straight

November 19, 2012 by  
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Missing Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, and Sam Shields, in addition to Desmond Bishop and DJ Smith, the Packers defense still carried the team Sunday.

Associated Press

~DETROIT — The Green Bay Packers are winning again, and they aren’t too concerned about how they look doing it.

Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes, including a 22-yarder to Randall Cobb with 1:55 left, and the Packers pulled out a 24-20 win over Detroit Lions on Sunday for their fifth straight victory.

ROdgers and Finley celebrate their touchdown. It was J-Mike's first score since week one.

“When our best was needed,” Rodgers said, “we were able to come through.”

The Packers (7-3) moved within a half-game of first-place Chicago in the NFC North after losing three of their first five games. The Bears play at San Francisco on Monday night.

“Early on, we were trying to find the identity we had last year when we had an attitude that no one could stop us coming off our Super Bowl,” receiver Donald Driver said. “Now, we got our groove back and we’re ready to roll.”

The Lions (4-6), are struggling. They have dropped two in a row to make their goal of playing in consecutive postseasons very challenging. They begin a difficult schedule run on Thanksgiving against AFC-South leading Houston.

Lions center Dominic Raiola bristled when asked about the team falling short of expectations.

“That’s how we got in trouble earlier in the season,” Raiola said.

Matthew Stafford couldn’t put the Lions ahead on either of their last two drives in a game he’d like to forget.

Stafford threw two interceptions and lost a fumble. One of the interceptions was returned 72 yards by Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings for a go-ahead score in the third quarter.

“I have to play better than that to give us a chance to win,” he said.

Rodgers acknowledged he wasn’t at his best, but the fifth-year starter was good enough.

He was 19 of 27 for 236 yards with two TDs and an interception. His first TD pass was a 20-yard connection with wide open Jermichael Finley early in the second quarter that gave Green Bay its first lead.

Cobb had nine catches for 74 yards and the game-winning TD, a twisting grab in the end zone on a lofted pass across the field.

“We just buckled,” Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy said. “Even that last touchdown late in the game, we had a chance to make a play on it, we just didn’t make the play. That’s kind of been the theme for us this year, being in position and not finishing.”

On Green Bay’s next possession, Mason Crosby made a 39-yard field goal with 19 seconds to go after missing two field goals earlier in the game.

Finley had three receptions for 66 yards and a score for the Packers, who were able to strike somewhat of a balance with James Starks running for 74 yards.

Stafford completed just 17 of 39 passes — missing many receivers badly — for 266 yards with a 25-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson that put Detroit ahead 17-14 late in the third quarter. Stafford also lost a fumble near midfield in the second quarter one drive after throwing a pass directly toward rookie cornerback Casey Hayward, who started for the injured Sam Shields.

The Lions also had some drama on the sideline with receivers coach Shawn Jefferson screaming at offensive coordinator Scott Linehan late in the game.

Johnson had five receptions for 143 yards and caught a TD pass from Stafford for the second straight week after they failed to connect for a score in the first eight games of the season.

Mikel Leshoure had 84 yards rushing and a 1-yard TD run that gave Detroit a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter.

The Lions settled for field goals after driving inside the Green Bay 10 early and late in the game and those missed opportunities proved to be costly against a team that is building momentum.

LB Vic So’oto returns to Packers and is excited for ‘opportunity’

November 13, 2012 by  
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By Jason Wilde, ESPN Wisconsin

~All things considered, Vic So’oto would have preferred to have never left. Nevertheless, the Green Bay Packers outside linebacker was just happy to be back in the fold Monday, and returned a little wiser in the ways of the NFL as a business.

“This has all been an educational experience,” So’oto said after filling the spot on the Packers’ 53-man roster created when right tackle Bryan Bulaga was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a hip injury. “Understanding you’re only as good as your last play and you’re only as good as what you put on film.”

“Knowing the defense and coming in ahead of the curve, it’s a good thing to be back here,” So’oto said

Green Bay Packers' Vic So'oto reacts after intercepting a pass for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

So’oto, who made the team as an undrafted free agent from BYU last year and was one of the best storylines of the 2011 training camp, was one of coach Kevin Greene’s star pupils as a rookie, seeing action in seven games (one sack, seven tackles). But So’oto wasn’t able to replicate that magic this summer.

While a new undrafted free agent OLB – Dezman Moses – stole the show, So’oto was on the roster bubble entering the last preseason game, in which he suffered an ankle injury. He was placed on injured reserve at the final roster reduction, then released with an injury settlement Sept. 25.

“I don’t know what (the Packers’) intentions were (with IR), I just know when I signed the injury settlement, they said, ‘You know, we can get you back at some point,’” So’oto said. “So that was what I was always shooting for, and here I am.”

And not a moment too soon. With first-round pick Nick Perry on season-ending IR following wrist surgery and star Clay Matthews sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered Nov. 4 against Arizona, the Packers were thin at outside linebacker. Only Erik Walden, Moses and Frank Zombo were available at the position before So’oto arrived midway through Monday’s practice.

“It’s good to have him back,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “It looked like he’s in good shape. Anytime you have one of your guys leave and still have the opportunity to come back, it’s great to see him. He’s a good fit for us. He knows how we operate. It’ll be a seamless transition for him and he definitely gives us depth at the outside linebacker position, which in my opinion you never have enough of those guys.”

So’oto spent four games with the Oakland Raiders – Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was with the Packers when they signed So’oto – before being released Nov. 6. So’oto said “a series of teams” called after his release, including the Packers, who were the obvious choice.

“Knowing the defense and coming in ahead of the curve, it’s a good thing to be back here,” So’oto said. “Again, it’s an opportunity. There’s a lot of guys out there on the street right now. I’m just one of the lucky ones to have played well enough to get some opportunities other places and play well enough to get another opportunity here. I’m just excited to be with KG again and with Clay and all the boys and get after it.”

Full story here

Packers WR Greg Jennings is pain-free but return uncertain

November 13, 2012 by  
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By Jason Wilde, ESPN Wisconsin

~Greg Jennings has an itch, but he won’t be able to scratch it for a while yet.

Although the Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl wide receiver is pain-free, he isn’t ready for game action – and isn’t saying when he’s targeted for his return.

Speaking in the locker room Monday after the players returned to practice following the bye, Jennings said he isn’t allowed to run yet – although he says he tried anyway – and that he’s been told he’ll be able to run full speed once he’s three weeks removed from surgery.

Greg Jennings should be able to return at full strength sometime in December, but he also has his focus on the future, and his next contract. His current contract is up after this season.

Jennings underwent a procedure to repair what used to be termed a sports hernia – his doctor, William Meyers, is the leading authority in the field and has coined the phrase “Core Muscle Injury” instead – after damaging a lower abdominal muscle against San Francisco in the Sept. 9 regular-season opener. Jennings has missed the last five games and acknowledged he won’t play Sunday at Detroit

Three weeks removed from the surgery would be Nov. 22. The Packers play at the New York Giants on Nov. 25 and at home against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 2.

“I have a target in my own mind. I do. It’s in my mind; I’m going to keep it right there,” Jennings said. “What Dr. Meyers told me was, three weeks and I’ll be able to run full-speed. I’ll be able to open up, run full-speed. He didn’t say I’d be pain-free in doing so, but I’m pain free, so …

“I’ve developed an itch. It’s like a little kid you let taste a piece of candy. Now you try to feed him vegetables again, it’s not really going to happen. They’ve experienced the candy, they want candy. I’ve experienced working out, now it’s like, ‘Just let me go.’”

Jennings said missing a game at Detroit isn’t any more disappointing than missing any other – although for his career he’s caught 41 passes for 702 yards and five touchdowns in 10 games against the team he grew up following in Kalamazoo, Mich. In 2008, Jennings had a career-best 167 receiving yards at Detroit in Week 2.

“I’ve been doing this all year. It is what it is. Missing a game is missing a game, whether it’s going back home or here (at Lambeau Field),” said Jennings, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this spring. “It’s always tough to stand on the sideline and watch. But I’m here to support my teammates. They’ve been doing a great job and hopefully we can keep it rolling.

“(By having surgery), I was thinking long-term. This potentially could be the end after the surgery. Everyone knew that going in. With the guy we went with, he assured us – he didn’t really assure us that we could get back on the field, but his track record of putting guys back on the field of play was rather impressive. With that being said, we went that route and we have a shot.

“Everyone’s been great – (the team) not putting me on IR, giving me an opportunity to come back. My goal is to get back out there and perform. Our goal, I should say, is to get me back out there.”

Full story from Jason here

Packers continue to be punished by the “injury god”

November 13, 2012 by  
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By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider.com senior editor

~When the Packers placed starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga on IR earlier this week, it meant that the Packers last three first round draft picks had all been IR’d for the season.

Bryan Bulaga's season is over, joining a long list of Packers, and former first rounders, in the trainers room and not the football field.

In 2010, GM Ted Thompson drafted Bulaga in the first round to become a bookend anchor for the Aaron Rodgers era.
The next year, 2011, Thompson added another offensive tackle in Derek Sherrod from Mississippi State. Of course Sherrod had his leg broken in two places last December in the nightmare loss at Kansas City.

2011 first round pick, OT, Derek Sherrod left the field last December, 2011, with a double break in his leg. I would not expect him back until 2013.

He hasn’t been back since. Now Bulaga joins him in the sideline.

This season, Ted Thompson added OLB Nick Perry to the team with is first round pick, which like the others was a solid pick and a guy who could instantly upgrade the team and make it better.

Well last week Perry was put on IR, his season over.

This year's first rounder, Nick Perry went down with a knee in week six at Houston, but it was his wrist that he injured in the opener that caused him to need surgery and be shelved for the year.

Add to that list of most-recent first round picks, you have former top-ten pick Cedric Benson, who has been out since week five.
Charles Woodson, another former first round pick and an indispensable one, broke his collar bone in week six and hasn’t been back since.

Second round picks Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson, the teams starting wide receivers, also have missed games with injuries. Jennings has hardly played at all this season.

In addition to them, former second round pick Nick Collins career was ended last season on a fluke play in which he was just sitting down essentially and had a guy try to leap over him, bumping Collins’ helmet with the runners’ butt.

Nick Collins was wheeled off on a stretcher here in Carolina last year, his playing days over.

 In the meantime, there are many head-hunting safeties out there, and cornerbacks (see Seattle and San Francisco) who lead with their heads into heads, shoulders, and they haven’t gotten injuries to their necks like Collins did doing nothing dangerous or illegal.

Don’t forget while the inside linebacker tandems in San Fran (Patrick Willis, Novarro Bowman) and Chicago (Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs) continue to hum along in good health, the Packers have had starting 

Aug 9, 2012; San Diego, CA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop (55) season ended in the first quarter of the first preseason game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

 ILB Desmond Bishop get lost for the season before it began, in preseason game one at San Diego, and then his replacement at ILB D.J. Smith was lost for the season back in week six from a late hit by the Texans left tackle.

Now even All-Pro OLB Clay Matthews has gone down, leaving the last game with a hamstring as he missed a sack on Cardinals quarterback John Skelton. Matthews hasn’t been back since, and is expected to miss at least the Lions game this Sunday, and perhaps longer. Knowing the Packers luck, this will turn into a long-lasting, even possibly season-ending one like so many are.

At least with the hamstring, they aren’t career-enders like Collins’ fluke injury was.

I failed to mention starting cornerback Sam Shields, who hurt his knee a few weeks ago and still isn’t back. He took Woodson’s place at starting CB when Woodson moved to start at safety in place of Collins. So there are three “starters” in the backfield gone, along with the two ILB’s and the rookie OLB in Perry, with the other starting OLB Matthews now nursing the hamstring as well.

Unfair: Nick Collins career ended on this play, right here.

The only positive note to all these injuries (Matthews, Woodson, Bishop, Perry, Smith, Collins, Bulaga, Benson, Jennings, Nelson), is that was the theme of 2010, and we all know how that turned out in the end.

Even if this path does have the same end as that 2010 path did, it’s still a shame that these great players and fine men won’t be along and able to be out there during the journey.

Injuries to Matthews, Perry raise questions entering bye

November 5, 2012 by  
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By Worldwide Wes Hodkiewicz, Green Bay Press-Gazette

~Nick Perry has joined Greg Jennings in the growing list of Green Bay Packers’ players seeking a second opinion for their injuries.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy confirmed the rookie outside linebacker is in the process of getting another take on the knee injury he suffered against Houston on Oct. 14, which has sidelined him for the Packers’ last three games.

During his weekly interview with 1250 WSSP in Milwaukee on Monday, Perry said it’s a lateral collateral ligament injury. The length of the rehab varies dependent on the severity of the sprain, but it can be anywhere from three-to-eight weeks.

Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry (53) lays on the ground after being injured against the Houston Texans in the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Dave Einsel)

Former Packers quarterback Brett Favre suffered a similar injury in 2002 prior to a bye week and he returned in time to continue his NFL-record starting streak of 297 games.

McCarthy said the team hopes to know his condition within the next 48 hours, but with Monday’s revelation that three-time Pro Bowler Clay Matthews could miss a couple weeks due to a hamstring injury, it doesn’t appear Nick Perry is going to be back in time to relieve him.

At least not immediately.

“The nice thing is we are getting Zombo back, so that gives us another guy that gets into the mix of things,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “We were very pleased with the way Erik Walden played yesterday. He had an outstanding game, made some big plays for us. (Dezman) Moses played probably the most plays that he’s played. That’s the one good thing about getting these young guys all the repetitions that we have. You saw all of them play yesterday, basically, and they all contributed to the win.”

In the interim, the Packers will need to count on veteran workhorse Erik Walden, undrafted free agent Dezman Moses and returning outside linebacker Frank Zombo, who activated was activated from the physically unable to perform list after being sidelined for the first nine weeks with a hamstring injury.

McCarthy said Zombo could have played during Sunday’s 31-17 win over Arizona after taking some backup snaps in practice last week, but was still one of the team’s inactives come game time.

That’s bound to change with the current injury outlook for the Packers, who could be without both Matthews and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip) coming out of the bye week.

The team is a little more optimistic about the outlook for fullback John Kuhn, who has missed two games with a hamstring injury but could be back for the Packers’ next game against Detroit on Nov. 18.

They also seem to have dodged a bullet with wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Already playing through a hamstring injury that had him listed as a game-time decision, Nelson exited during the Packers’ second series with a sprained ankle, but McCarthy said he should be OK.

“Jordy kind of got his feet twisted up under him because as he came out of the break the ball was low,” McCarthy said. “ That’s the normal area you throw that route, but it’s something game-plan wise we felt was obviously there. That’s why we did it. It was kind of an awkward play. We had a couple of awkward plays yesterday. Guys just got their bodies in awkward positions.”

Full story here

Packers Playmaker Randall Cobb chases NFL record

November 5, 2012 by  
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By Bob McGinn, Journal-Sentinel

~GREEN BAY – Randall Cobb is well on his way to shattering the Green Bay Packers’ record for most all-purpose yards.

With a strong closing burst, the electrifying second-year man from Kentucky could break the National Football League mark that was set last season by Darren Sproles of New Orleans.

Randall Cobb has been playing at a Pro-Bowl level the past month or so for the Packers, at multiple positons.

Cobb amassed 202 yards – his third-highest total of the season – on Sunday in a 31-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field. It gives him 1,363 yards in nine games, including 96 rushing, 500 receiving, 211 on punt returns and 556 on kickoff returns.

“Randall Cobb is a playmaker,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “That’s how we view him. And playmakers need the ball in their hands.”The club record of 2,250 yards was set by running back Ahman Green in 2003.

The top five includes Green, 1,981 in 2001; Roell Preston, 1,918 in ’98; Billy Grimes, 1,896 in ’50; and Dorsey Levens, 1,798 in ’97.Presently, Cobb is averaging 151.4 per game. At that pace, he would finish with 2,423.Sproles owns the NFL record with 2,696 yards.

 He had 603 rushing, 710 receiving, 294 on punt returns and 1,089 on kickoff returns.Cobb would need to average 190.6 in the last seven games to break Sproles’ mark.Tennessee wide receiver Derrick Mason (2,690, 2000) and New Orleans return specialist Michael Lewis (2,647, 2002) rank just behind Sproles.

Given the strides that Cobb has made in the last month or so, there would seem to be no limitations on his production.

“He gives you great flexibility where you can play him,” McCarthy said. “He’s continued to get better as a receiver week in and week out. Once again, we have to be smart how many times he gets the ball, but we’re making a conscientious effort to do that.” Randall Cobb has been playing at a Pro-Bowl level the past month or so for the Packers, at multiple positons.

Cobb has been making plays from a variety of positions for the Packers.

Cobb was at his breathtaking best on the opening touchdown Sunday. On third and goal from the 13, the call was an alley screen to the right with Cobb moving down from outside and following blocks by Jermichael Finley on Paris Lenon and Donald Driver on William Gay.

As Cobb burst between blocks, Pro Bowl strong safety Adrian Wilson was unblocked and in his path at the 4. Cobb juked and, as he began a full spin to the right, Wilson ducked his head and only got in a grazing blow as Cobb crashed into the end zone.

“They do that when they sense it’s a blitz,” Wilson said. “It’s like a run for them. I missed the tackle. He spun, but I had terrible technique.”

It was 7-7 early in the second quarter when McCarthy decided to probe Arizona with the ground game.

He put Cobb in the shotgun next to Aaron Rodgers on first down, and the 192-pound Cobb followed a pulling T.J. Lang for 11 on a toss. A play later, Cobb was back in the backfield and slammed for 12 off right tackle.

“I don’t know many guys like that,” defensive end Vonnie Holliday said. “For a receiver to go down in the box and run the ball with those pit guys in there . . . most receivers want to stay away from that kind of action . . . it’s a different kind of mentality and toughness that he has.”

Both Holliday and Lenon compared Cobb to Minnesota’s Percy Harvin.

“Real quick guys,” Lenon said. “Stronger than they look. They have balance almost similar to a running back.”

Although it's tempting to put the ball in Cobb's hands every play, the Packers have to be careful not to put him in harm's way too often.

Cobb capped the 80-yard drive that he started, but this as a wide receiver. From the right slot, he beat cornerback William Gay on an outside release to the corner for a 21-yard touchdown.

“He’s a dynamic player and a game-changer,” Holliday said. “He makes plays downfield. He’s special.”

He also hurt the Cardinals with a punt return of 28 yards and a kickoff return of 44.

Cobb has been targeted 50 times as a wide receiver and eight as a running back. With Greg Jennings sidelined with a groin injury since Game 4, Cobb has 34 receptions for 404 yards (11.9) and six TDs in the last six games compared to 11 for 96 (8.7) and no TDs in the first three games.

He leads the team in receptions with 45, is second in receiving yards with 500 and continues to handle all the returns.

“Any time we can get the ball in his hands it usually turns out pretty good,” Rodgers said.

Packers’ O-line withstands Bulaga injury, for now

November 5, 2012 by  
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When RT Bryan Bulaga went out, Evan Dietrich-Smith came in at LG, and kicked T.J. Lang over to RT to fill Bulaga's shoes.

By Gary D’Amato, Journal-Sentinel

~GREEN BAY – Evan Dietrich-Smith was running onto the field to line up as an extra tight end in the Green Bay Packers’ Jumbo package Sunday when he passed right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who was on his way to the sideline.

Dietrich-Smith knew immediately what that meant: He wouldn’t be lining up at tight end.

“I ran out there and parked into left guard,” he said. “Next play, let’s go. Know what I mean?”

Bulaga had suffered a hip injury in the second quarter of the Packers’ 31-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. He was not available in the locker room after the game and the severity of his injury was not immediately known.

With Bulaga out, T.J. Lang shifted from left guard to right tackle and Dietrich-Smith took Lang’s place.

“We didn’t miss a beat,” Dietrich-Smith said. “Everyone is like, ‘Let’s go.’ It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, here we go,’ like I needed help or anything like that. We just had to go out there and play our game, do what we needed to do up front.”

The Packers rolled up a season high of 176 rushing yards in 39 attempts and allowed just one sack of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

“We’re used to rolling with different combinations of linemen,” right guard Josh Sitton said. “We’ve done it in the past, and we’ve done it successfully. It’s just one of those things you deal with in this league.”

San Francisco 49ers' Ahmad Brooks (55) leaps up to sack Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. The 49ers won 30-22. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

Lang, wearing a brace on a banged-up right elbow, saw action at tackle for the first time this season. He did make one start at right tackle in 2011.

“It’s been awhile since I played out there, but it’s something I’m familiar with,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of snaps out there in the last three years.”

He said it took him a few plays to adjust to the different blocking techniques at tackle.

“Assignment-wise, I felt good there,” he said. “It took a couple snaps to kind of break into the technique a little bit. I think when I was out there I gave up one (quarterback) hit, but other than that, I think I did a nice job adjusting.”

Dietrich-Smith, 26, the only non-drafted rookie to make the Packers’ opening-day roster in 2009, has played in every game this season but mostly on special teams.

“I felt I played good,” he said. “We definitely had some success in the running game. I don’t think we missed a beat when we had to shuffle the lineup. We didn’t diverge from the plan at all. It was pretty much a seamless shift.”

Running backs James Starks (61) and Alex Green (53) combined for 114 yards and a 4.1-yard average. Rodgers added 33 rushing yards and receiver Randall Cobb lined up in the backfield several times and rushed for 29 yards in three carries.

“We had a lot of guys step up,” Rodgers said. “You’ve got to give Evan Dietrich-Smith a lot of credit coming in there at left guard. I’m excited for him. He brings a lot of energy, and he’s been itching to get in there.

“You’ve got to give T.J. credit going from left guard to right tackle. . . . He did a nice job outside. I thought the line blocked really well.”

Dietrich-Smith and Lang said they didn’t have a chance to talk to Bulaga after the game.

“Honestly, we haven’t seen him,” Dietrich-Smith said. “But we know he’s a tough kid. I’m sure we’ll see him back soon.”

“Hopefully, it’s not too severe,” Lang said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t like missing time, so I’m sure he’ll do everything he can do to get ready to go again.”

Until that time comes, the line will look the way it did Sunday.

“It would be nice to………….”

Full story found here

Packers beat Cards 31-17, head into bye at 6-3

November 5, 2012 by  
Filed under News


~The Green Bay Packers had a powerful incentive to beat the Arizona Cardinals.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy gave his banged-up team the whole week off after the Packers beat Arizona 31-17 Sunday. Less than a minute after Arizona kicked a 20-yard field goal to pare what had been a 17-point lead to a touchdown, Tom Crabtree chugged 72 yards for a late third-quarter score that sealed the victory.

“It’s amazing what they’ll do for an extra day off,” McCarthy said. “It’s well deserved. I think it’s important for us to just step away, so we’ll have a week off.”

Randall Cobb again was the star of the game, running, catching, and returning kicks.

Green Bay (6-3) takes a four-game winning streak into the bye, which it desperately needs. Greg Jennings, Charles Woodson and Cedric Benson headline a laundry list of injured Packers, and three more got hurt against Arizona. Clay Matthews tweaked his hamstring, Bryan Bulaga hurt his hip and Jordy Nelson, who missed last week’s game and much of practice this week with a bad hamstring, injured his ankle.

On the very first ball Aaron Rodgers threw him, no less.

“I like where we’re at,” Rodgers said. “We’ve had some adversity early in the season, we’ve come together, we’ve taken some heat and it’s brought us closer together. We went on the kind of run we need to go on with four big wins in a row to get to the bye week, and now we can get healthy, and hopefully we can get some of our guys back.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who, if we can have back in the mix, we can really take off.”

The Packers are second in the NFC North behind Chicago, with five of their last seven games against division opponents.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, limp back to Arizona for their bye week looking for a way to regroup. Arizona has dropped five straight after beginning the season with four wins.

John Skelton threw for more than 300 yards, and he was able to find enough holes in the Green Bay defense for big gains time and again. But the Packers did a good job bottling up Larry Fitzgerald, and Arizona’s other receivers had too many drops. Early Doucet and Rob Housler were targeted 13 times and had just five catches.

“We’ve got to get back,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “We’ve got seven more games to play. We’ll get some guys back from injuries. This bye week is going to be very humbling and we need to take advantage of it.”

Criticized all year for their anemic efforts on the ground, the Packers broke free for 176 yards, their most since gaining 202 against Cleveland on Oct. 25, 2009. Four players — Rodgers, Randall Cobb, John Starks and Alex Green — had 25-plus yards rushing, the first time that’s happened since 2003.

All that running must have left them tired, however, because the Packers came out sluggish in the second half. They failed to pick up a first down on any of their first four drives, and got only a 33-yard field goal from Mason Crosby despite getting the ball at their own 48, Arizona’s 17 and midfield.

“We said at halftime, these are the kind of games where you can really put teams away if you play the way you want to play. We didn’t do that in the second half,” Rodgers said. “We kind of gave them a reason to hang around and hang around.”

James Jones caught another touchdown for the Packers, a sensational one again.

The Cardinals caught a break when LaRod Stephens-Howling was tripped up behind the line of scrimmage only to land on a Packer instead of the ground. He got up and kept going for a 5-yard gain, and the ruling was upheld on review because officials said only his wrist had hit the ground.

On the next play, Fitzgerald shook off tackles by Tramon Williams, M.D. Jennings and Dezman House for a 31-yard touchdown that cut Green Bay’s lead to 24-14.

With Matthews in the locker room with a hamstring injury, Skelton went 7 of 9 as he moved the Cardinals 74 yards to the Green Bay 2. But Stephens-Howling was stuffed on third-and-1, forcing Arizona to settle for a 20-yard field goal that cut the lead to 24-17.

“Going back to last year, we always had rough starts but in the second half we always found a way to make the plays that we didn’t make in the first half,” Doucet said. “When you get behind on a team like Green Bay at home, it is kind of tough to overcome.”

Sure enough, two plays later Crabtree caught the ball at the Green Bay 45 and rumbled up field, glancing over his shoulder to make sure Paris Lenon and William Gay weren’t going to catch him.

They didn’t — barely — and Crabtree tumbled into the end zone.

“Honestly, I’m still really tired,” Crabtree said. “I need to spend this bye week doing some gassers or something.”

Good thing he’s got some extra time off.

NOTES: Green Bay has won 17 of its last 18 regular-season games at Lambeau Field. … Green Bay’s 39 rushing attempts also were its most in three years. … The Packers had a season-low one penalty. … After a career-best seven catches in each of his last two games, Arizona WR Andre Roberts had four for 86 yards. … Arizona is oh-for-Wisconsin since 1949, losing its last nine road games against the Packers.

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