2013 September : Packers Insider

A lot of blame to go around: Packers blow 16-point lead to Bengals, lose

September 22, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor

~CINCINNATI -The Packers scored 30 consecutive points Sunday afternoon against the Cincinnati Bengals, took a 16-point third quarter lead, then watched as two Aaron Rodgers interceptions and one Johnathan Franklin fumble allowed the Bengals to roar back with the game’s final 20 points and defeat the Packers 34-30.

The loss puts the Packers at 1-2 entering their early, but much-needed already, bye, and in third place in the NFC North behind the Bears and the Lions. The only team in the division looking up at the Packers is the Minnesota Vikings at 0-3. How do things look from there, Greg Jennings?

Along the way, the Packers were their typical self, losing guys left and right to injuries of various degrees.
First out was Jermichael Finley, who took a helmet to his head, and he left with a concussion. He lasted part of one drive and was hit on a 3rd down pass in a tight window, made a great catch seemingly, but took a big hit from the safety and the ball came free.

Rodgers last two passes never got past the Bengals DL.

Next out was James Starks due to some kind of knee tweek. That left the Packers with only one running back as DuJuan Harris, Eddie Lacy, John Kuhn had already gone down before this game.

After him, it was the best player on the field, Clay Matthews. He had made two sensational, fumble-forcing plays to get the Packers out of the 14-0 early hole. He was on pace for one of his best ever games, but like so many before him on this team, his hamstring pulled. He joined fellow hamstringers Morgan Burnett, Casey Hayward, and John Kuhn on the sideline watching the second half.

Rookie Franklin was the breakout star of the game, filling in for Starks who was filling in for Lacy, who was filling in for Harris.

Rookie Franklin showed some good stuff, but it was wasted in a heartbreaking loss.

Franklin showed why some thought he was perhaps the most talented back in this draft. He cut and weaved his way to over 100 yards and scored a touchdown. He even picked up some nice blocks protecting Rodgers.

But late in the game, he burst through a small hole that closed immediately by one of the Bengals 300-pounders, and he rolled his ankle.

He re-entered the game, in time to get the ball on the key fourth & inches run behind no blocks. The ball was knocked away and picked up by Bengal safety Reggie Nelson. He was tackled impressively by Packer wideout Randall Cobb, causing a fumble of his own. Unfortunately for the Packers, it was perfectly placed on the ground for Bengal cornerback Terence Newman to pick up and scoot 58 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

Terence Newman sees a lucky bounce allow him to scoop and dash for 58 yards to give the Bengals the win.

That set the stage for Aaron Rodgers to provide some last-minute magic. That is the only thing missing from a Hall of Fame resume. His super-backers often find excuses for his now 5-17 record in games decided by four points or less. There are always “things” that happen along the ways, but the fact is once again, ball in his hands final drive, he did not lead the team to a game-winning touchdown.

We did see a few of them today though. Jake Locker of the Titans produced a last minute win against San Diego. And first time starter Brian Hoying of the Browns engineered a final drive touchdown at Minnesota to beat the Vikings. This the same Browns team who just threw in the towel on 2013 by trading Trent Richardson for a 2014 first round pick of the Colts.

Bengals have many young rising stars

September 18, 2013 by  
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By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor

~The Packers don’t often get to see teams from the AFC North, but by Sunday afternoon, Packer players and fans may have seen more than they want to of some of them. This is a good, young team who probably will unseat the defending champion Ravens and Steelers this season.

Young stars like A.J. Green, Gio Bernard, Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, and tight end duo Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham are all capable of doing enough damage that the Packers could leave the Jungle and head into their bye week at 1-2.

On offense, the brightest star is unquestionably wide receiver A.J. Green. Talent and ability alone, he’s as good as anyone in the NFL not named Megatron.

Tramon Williams has been unfairly criticized by many Packer fans, but Tramon's blend of size and speed will be needed to try and contain Green all day long.

He possesses great everything, from speed to hands to size, and jumping ability. He can go past the safety, or he can just out-jump the defensive backs even when perfectly covered.

The other wide receivers are Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. They’re decent. Sanu had five catches Monday against the Steelers, while Jones had three catches, two being for first downs.

The Bengal tight ends are (since New England’s two are either out injured or in prison) the best duo in the NFL today. Both top draft choices, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert combined for nine receptions for 132 yards receiving against the Steelers in Monday night’s win.

Eifert is the rookie many mocksters predicted would be the Packers first round pick this April. We’ll never know because the Bengals took him way earlier than that. He’s a monster at 6-6, 250 lbs. with good speed and great athletic ability.

First round pick Tyler Eifert is their version of Rob Gronkowski. He's a beast.

The other guy is Gresham, at 6-5, 260. He’s already a two-time Pro-Bowler, and is the first Bengal TE in team history to log three consecutive seasons of 50 or more catches. Drafted in the first round in 2010, his receptions, yards, and average per catch have all gone up each season.

Both of these guys were 21st overall draft picks for a reason. Each guy will present serious matchup problems for the Packers defense.

ILB Brad Jones is a fine cover guy, but he can be beaten by either of these hybrids. It’s the second one that will be the bigger problem as A.J. Hawk is smaller and less agile to cover either Gresham or Eifert. This is an area that concerns Dom Capers, with good reason.

Another young, rising star on offense is rookie Giovanni Bernard. Gio had his coming out party on Monday night against the Steelers, slicing them up for not one but two touchdowns.

The Bengals made him the first running back taken in this year’s draft, ahead of the Packers Eddie Lacy and the Broncos Montee Ball and the Steelers Le’Veon Bell.

So far, it’s looked correct as Bernard has done the best among all of them. Yes it’s very early and yes Lacy looks like he could become a stud. But Bernard looks like an amped-up version of the Packers injured DuJuan Harris. Harris was surprisingly very good late last year and had McCarthy excited about pairing him with Lacy (or Starks).

Veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis (not the name of any law firm we’re aware of), is still solid between the tackles, and he led the team with 75 yards rushing Monday against Pittsburgh. Still healthy, that’s a very solid 1-2 punch at RB, behind a solid offensive line. They paved the way for both of those Bengals running backs, and they didn’t allow a single sack Monday night against the Steelers.

The QB they are protecting is 25-year old Andy Dalton, a 2011 rookie Pro-Bowl participant from TCU.
He’s not great by any means, but he’s adequate.

Entering this season, Dalton had thrown 47 TD passes in 32 career games, 20 as a rookie and 27 in 2012. The only QB’s who passed for more TD’s in their first two seasons are Hall of Famer Dan Marino (68) and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (52).

Dalton also joined Marino and Manning as the only players to hit 20 or higher in TD passes in each of their first two seasons.

He has a 20-14 career record as the starting QB, and hasn’t missed a game yet.

On defense, the Bengals have another Pro Bowl superstar in DT Geno Atkins. He’s not known by many casual Packer fans, yet.
But Aaron Rodgers and his offensive linemen know him.

Next to him are some more good guys, including DE Michael Johnson, who’s a Julius Peppers clone (not at that elite level, but very athletic and tall).

Carlos Dunlap is another one who can cause some problems in the Packers backfield.

At linebacker, they are led by inside linebacker Vontaze Burfict. He was a guy who was originally penciled in as a first round pick, but because of off-field issues, he amazingly fell completely out of the 2012 draft. Of course, Marvin Lewis has never let off-field issues sway him, and he signed him right away.
It was a great move as ‘Taze led the team in tackles last year with 174, including an astounding 23 in the final game versus Ray Lewis and the Ravens last season.

He was one of the most highly-coveted prospects in the country in high school, and chose Arizona State as his team. By Sunday afternoon, I have a feeling many Packer fans are going to hate this guy.

Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins crushes Big Ben, causing a fumble. This is not what Packer fans want to see.

The Bengals secondary has a bunch of familiar names.

At cornerback, there’s former Michigan Wolverine Leon Hall, along with veteran former studs Terrence Newman and Adam Pac-Man Jones.

Safety Reggie Nelson is a guy who will gamble and make big plays, but he’s also capable of getting torched for some long gains. He’s been known to be a helmet-banger like last week’s villain Brandon Meriweather of the Redskins. Watch out for Nelson’s head flying into piles late. Hopefully he doesn’t injure anyone, but if he does, it’s his own self.

Bengals beat Steelers at their own game

September 18, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Joe Reedy, Cincinnati Enquirer

~In the past in Bengals-Steelers games, when you see a 127-44 advantage in rushing yards, you would automatically assume that Pittsburgh once again had the edge. My, how the tables have turned.

Monday’s 20-10 victory by the Bengals on Monday Night Football was the second straight time where they have out-Steelered Pittsburgh. And a lot of it had to do with the running game.

After being pass happy in the first half and with the score tied at 10 at halftime, the Bengals took control via the ground game. Of Cincinnati’s 35 minutes and 24 seconds on time of possession, two thirds of that came in the second half when they had the ball for 20:54.

Said Marvin Lewis of the increased focus on the run game: “There were some positive plays we had in the first half. So we took a seat back and relooked at some things, and we did a nice job coming out (in the second half).”

For the offense it was diametrically different halves. In the first half, 32 of the 42 plays were passes but in the second half they ran it on 23 of 36 snaps. The Bengals had 407 yards of total offense, which is the first time they have had over 300 against the Steelers since the 2005 Week 13 game in Pittsburgh.

Bengals rookie RB Gio Bernard was the first running back taken in this year's draft. He's very dangerous, as Troy Polamalu's Steelers found out Monday night. He reminds me of a slightly upgraded, slightly, version of the Packers IR'd DuJuan Harris. He's very quick but strong, shifty, low to the ground. Very hard to get a good lick on him.

Giovani Bernard scored both touchdowns and had 65 yards on nine offensive touches. With the score tied at 10 at halftime, Bernard scored the go-ahead touchdown midway through the third quarter on a checkdown from Andy Dalton where he went 27 yards and scored.

That was the only reception of the night for Bernard, who averaged 4.8 yards per rushing attempt. On his first touchdown during the first quarter, he got a nice block from Kyle Cook to go in from five yards out.

“He’s a big-play guy,” Dalton said. “You see what he can do with it when he has the ball in open space. It’s good to get a guy like that. That’s why we drafted him where we did and so it’s a big part of this offense and where we want to be.”

Even though Bernard scored both touchdowns, it was Green-Ellis who helped put the game away in the fourth. Of his 22 carries, 13 came in the fourth quarter including eight straight on a three-minute drive late in the game that took the clock under the two minute warning. Early in the series with the Bengals facing third-and-6, Green-Ellis went for eight off left guard to keep the drive going.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis led the Bengals with 75 rushing yards on Monday night. The Enquirer Gary Landers

“Benny did a great job. Those last four or five minutes of the game were probably the biggest moments of the entire game,” Bernard said. “Those were critical we picked up those first downs and kept the clock running. Moments like that you have to take advantage of.”

When it was over, the 127 rushing yards by the Bengals is the second most they’ve had in Lewis’ 11 seasons against the Steelers.

Last year when Green-Ellis was signed during free agency, the hope was that it would be a backfield duo with Bernard Scott. When Scott was lost for the year with a knee injury, Green-Ellis ended up getting 75 percent of the carries for the year, which was not anticipated.

The rotation now with Green-Ellis and Bernard is something that benefits both. Bernard was the main back on three of the five second-half drives, but it was Green-Ellis who was able to pound things away.

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 16: Giovani Bernard #25 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on September 16, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

During the first two games, Bernard has one-third of the carries (14 for 95 yards) but he has both touchdowns. Green-Ellis has 37 carries for 104 yards. Depending on who has the hot hand during games or what the circumstances are, what we saw on Monday night could be a template for at least the rest of the first half of the season.

In his post-game press conference, Lewis once again reiterated that he is happy with the distribution of carries so far. If it wasn’t for two holding penalties, Bernard’s 5.0 yards per carry average would be higher.

Added Bernard: “The biggest thing is once you get your opportunity you have to shine. Benny got his opportunity, he shined. Once I got my opportunity I got to make plays. … As long as we win I’m happy, going to sleep happy. Then coming back tomorrow without coaches yelling at us.”

Defensively, the 44 rushing yards, marked only the third time since 1982 that the Steelers have gained less than 60 against the Bengals. Pittsburgh was also 3 of 12 on third-down conversions. In the past two games against the Steelers, the Bengals have held them to 5 of 26 on third down.

Felix Jones, who the Bengals had in for a workout in April, had 10 carries for 37 yards. Jonathan Dwyer, who ran for 122 yards against the Bengals in a Week 7 Steelers win last year, had just one carry for two yards.

“We talked about that earlier in the week that it was going to be a tough, physical game. That’s what it was. We were able to finish,” said defensive end Michael Johnson. “We were in the same position we were in last week, where we were up and they kind of hung around. But this week, we were able to put our foot down and shut the door on them.”

Original story HERE

Aaron Rodgers shares record, credit

September 18, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Rob Demovsky, ESPN.com

GREEN BAY, Wis. — At the end of the locker room in which the Green Bay Packers offensive linemen change, left guard Josh Sitton wasn’t initially aware of just how many yards Aaron Rodgers threw for in Sunday’s 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins at Lambeau Field.

When told it was 480 yards, that number sounded familiar to Sitton.

Still, he had to be reminded that Rodgers’ prodigious passing total only matched the franchise record that Matt Flynn set in the season finale of the 2011 season, when Rodgers was resting for the playoffs.

“He tied him?” Sitton said. “I’m going to text Matty tonight and tell him he’s the champ around here.”

Rodgers would have likely owned the mark all by himself had Packers coach Mike McCarthy not instructed his quarterback to take a knee on the final three plays of the game. Either way, it will go down as one of the greatest performances of Rodgers’ career.

Except if you ask him.

“I don’t think this was my best game,” Rodgers said. “I’m very happy with the accuracy and the way things went in the passing game, but we definitely have things to work on.”

The Lambeau Field record crowd of 78,020 would be hard-pressed to name any of them.

Rodgers completed 34 of 42 passes on the way to his 480-yard performance. He threw four touchdowns, was not intercepted and finished with a 146.0 passer rating. By halftime, when the Packers led 24-0, Rodgers had already thrown for 335 yards and 26 completions, both of which were career highs for a half.

We could go on and on, so we will.

The master gave the young gun a lesson in accuracy Sunday.

Rodgers became only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 480 yards or more, four touchdowns or more and no interceptions and the first since New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle did so (505 yards, seven touchdowns, no interceptions) against Washington on Oct. 28, 1962.

Rodgers became the first NFL quarterback to throw for 335-plus yards and three touchdowns in the first half since New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Week 6 of the 2009 season against Tennessee.

Combined with 132 yards rushing from James Starks, who snapped a streak of 44 straight games without a Packers running back going over the century mark, the Packers had a 400-yard passer and a 100-yard rusher for the first time in team history.

And Rodgers did it all with a stiff neck. He awoke at the team hotel at 8:45 a.m. on Sunday and had trouble turning his head. Some treatment from the trainers and chiropractic adjustment apparently did enough.

So did the Packers receivers, who Rodgers said deserved the credit.

James Jones, who didn’t catch a single pass in last Sunday’s season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers, caught 11 passes for 178 yards — both career bests. In fact, he bettered his previous career highs in the first half, when he caught nine passes for 152 yards.

James Jones is a great receiver as well as a great person and teammate. Packer fans better appreciate this man while he's here.

“I actually checked on him Monday and Tuesday, made sure he was doing OK knowing that it’s a long season,” Rodgers said of Jones. “There were times over the last couple years where he didn’t get the ball in some games. I was talking to him at the end of the game, saying, ‘Hey, just practice this week like you did last week,’ because he really had a great focus last week, and I think it says a lot about the kind of person he is.”

Jones didn’t catch a touchdown, though. Randall Cobb, who had his second straight 100-yard game with nine catches for 128 yards, caught one of them on a gutsy fourth-and-3 call from the Redskins’ 35-yard line in the first quarter when it was it only a 3-0 Packers lead. Jordy Nelson (three catches for 66 yards) caught two touchdown passes. Tight end Jermichael Finley (six catches for 65 yards) had the other one.

“We had a lot of yards after catch,” Rodgers said. “It was 480 yards, but how much of that was YAC?”

According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was 283 yards — the most YAC by any team since the start of the 2008 season. Also, the Packers averaged 8.3 yards after the catch per reception on Sunday, the best rate for any team with at least 30 receptions in a game since the start of the 2008 season.

Of Jones’ 178 yards, 90 came after the catch, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Cobb had 78 of his 128 yards after the catch, while Finley had 59 of his 65 after the catch. Perhaps the best example came in the third quarter, when Finley caught a short pass at the line of scrimmage and took it down the left sideline for 27 yards, breaking tackles along the way.

Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley celebrate one of many touchdowns Sunday vs the Redskins.

“If you let the first guy tackle you, you get no respect when you come to the sideline,” Jones said. “I don’t care if it’s a 70-yarder or whatnot — you’re not getting any respect. You’ve got to make somebody miss to get a chest bump from your teammates.”

It was the kind of complete offensive performance the Packers lacked in their 34-28 Week 1 loss at San Francisco, in which they had four touchdown drives but five three-and-outs.

“Aaron spoils you,” McCarthy said. “He makes it look easy. He was on point all day.”

"Aaron Rodgers spoils you."

For their part, both McCarthy and Rodgers claimed they were unaware that the quarterback had 480 yards passing when they hit the two-minute warning, and McCarthy decided to take a knee.

Not that it would have changed anything.

“I don’t mind sharing that with an old buddy of mine, Matt Flynn,” Rodgers said. “I’m sure I’ll get a text later about that from him.”

Original story HERE

Starks, Rodgers & Jones skin the Redskins

September 15, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Associated Press

~GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers’ big day was too much for the Washington Redskins.

Rodgers was 34 of 42 for a career-high 480 yards and four touchdowns, and James Jones had 11 catches for a career-best 178 yards in a 38-20 victory Sunday.

James Jones now is on pace for 88 receptions this season after being blanked last week but hauling in 11 in week two.

Robert Griffin III threw for 320 yards and three touchdowns for the Redskins, but most of that came in the second half with the Packers ahead by three TDs.

James Starks had 132 yards rushing and a touchdown. Randall Cobb added nine catches for 128 yards and a 35-yard touchdown on a crossing route for a 10-0 lead on a fourth-and-3 play in the first quarter to make it 10-0.

Displaying good vision, James Starks actually found a little daylight behind the White Wall, and broke the Packers long streak of no 100-yard rushers.

Rodgers added touchdown passes to Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley in the second quarter. The Packers led 24-0 at the half, and Rodgers already had 335 yards passing.

Green Bay (1-1) bounced back after a season-opening loss at San Francisco.

The Redskins (0-2) will need to regroup again after getting off to a slow start for a second straight week.

Last week, the Redskins fell behind 26-7 at halftime before rallying in the second half in a 33-27 loss to the Eagles.

Griffin, in the second game of his much-anticipated return from right knee surgery, looked OK but didn’t resemble the quarterback who confounded defenses last year.

The Packers’ defense threw a couple of different wrinkles, including a sack on a blitz by reserve cornerback Davon House.

Although pressured and battered often early, Rodgers recovered to carve up the Redskins defense utilizing all his tools from Jones to Jordy to Cobb to J-Mike.

Griffin’s most memorable play of the first half might have been when his helmet flew off while being tackled by Green Bay linebackers Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk.

Griffin finished 26 of 40 for 320 yards and three touchdowns, and carried four times for a yard.

The Redskins got on the board after Griffin connected with receiver Pierre Garcon for a 6-yard touchdown pass. The play held up on review after the official ruled Garcon extended his hand over the goal line with the ball before running out of bounds.

The score made it 31-7 with 4:15 left in the third quarter.

Garcon finished with eight catches for 143 yards against a Packers defense playing again without injured safety Morgan Burnett. Alfred Morris had 13 carries for 107 yards for Washington.

The Redskins also had a couple of other good drives into Green Bay territory. But they were foiled by a missed 50-yard field goal by John Potter.

The Packers’ Mike Neal intercepted Griffin after receiver Josh Morgan lost his grip on the ball after being hit by Matthews.

Early on, it was the Redskins administering the big hits.

Rodgers was sacked on consecutive plays inside the 18 by Ryan Kerrigan on the game’s first series, and the Packers had to settle for a field goal. He was sacked on the first play of his next series by Brian Orapko.

Things looked shaky again on the third series after facing fourth down at the Redskins 35. But Rodgers found Cobb for the score and the Packers’ offense got on track.

Starks had the first 100-yard rushing game for a Packer since Brandon Jackson ran for 115 at Washington on Oct. 10, 2010.

Losing starting running back Eddie Lacy to a concussion didn’t slow down the running game.

Eddie Lacy's only play of the game ended here, as he hurdled a teammate Jordy Nelson. Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather (31) saw the defenseless Lacy as an opportunity to stick his hard helmet into, and gave Lacy a concussion on the cheap shot. Payback came later on Meriweather when he tried to bang Starks and he instead got himself concussed.

The rookie from Alabama got knocked out after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather.

Making his season debut after sitting out last week with a groin injury, Meriweather left the game with a concussion after another apparent helmet-to-helmet hit at the sideline on Starks in the second quarter.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

Lacy suffers concussion from cheap, illegal (but unflagged) helmet hit by Meriweather

September 15, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Rob Demovsky | ESPN.com

~GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy was knocked out of Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins with a concussion.

Lacy suffered the injury at the end of his first carry of the game, a 10-yard run on the Packers’ opening series.

Lacy took a hit from Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather, who was not penalized on the play. The Packers took Lacy to the locker room and ruled out him for the remainder of the game.

AP Photo/Mike RoemerEddie Lacy is helped off the field after suffering a concussion on his first carry of Sunday's game against Washington.

Lacy’s absence left the Packers with only two available running backs, James Starks and rookie Johnathan Franklin.

Meriweather also was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the second quarter, when he again led with his helmet on a hit against Starks. Meriweather laid on the ground for several minutes before walking off to the locker room.

It was Meriweather’s first regular-season game since suffering a knee injury on Nov. 18. He has yet to play a full game since joining the Redskins prior to last season.

ESPN.com’s John Keim contributed to this report.

Full story here

Redskins Week: Packers must stop Tremendous Trio on Defense

September 11, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor

Orakpo, Kerrigan & Bowen not a law firm, but must be contained for Rodgers to get offense on track

~Rookie David Bakhtiari just finished his first game as Aaron Rodgers’ blind side protector. The Niners two Pro Bowlers Aldon and Justin Smith were a handful, but Bahktiari did okay for himself.

But there’s no time for rest for the rook as former Rookie of the Year Brian Orakpo is up next across Bahktiari this Sunday at Lambeau Field when the Washington Redskins (yes that’s their name Peter King) come to town.

The last time Rodgers faced the Redskins, a game lost in OT when Mason Crosby missed a last-second FG that would have won it as regulation expired, Rodgers got KO'd in overtime by Orakpo, and missed the next game.

But there’s more than just Orakpo to worry about.

Rodgers was knocked out of the game the only time he's ever faced Orakpo.

Next to Orakpo is veteran Stephen Bowen, a classy guy who’s always reliable and always manages to occupy two blockers. He does the dirty work, occupying the LG and often C or LT, freeing up Brian Orakpo to have to just beat one blocker.

Bowen & Orakpo are a heck of a 1-2 punch on one side.

And on the opposite side, Don Barclay will have to contend with talented Ryan Kerrigan.

Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan smacks Saints QB Drew Brees in the back.

Make no mistake about it, Aaron Rodgers will face plenty of pressure once again.

Last week, in the return of QB Robert Griffin, it was the Redskins defense that was on it’s heels from the get-go.

Philly’s high-flying offensive debut by head coach Chip Kelly was a hit, and the kinetic, fast-break pace was more than the Redskins were prepared to deal with.

Michael Vick is still healthy, and people forget how great of a runner he is. He’s Kaepernick or RG3 like.

The Packers don’t have that read-option, running threat for the Redskins defense to worry about, so their guys off the edge are going to be able to pin their ears back on passing downs and come after Rodgers. They have a very talented group of pass rushers.

To combat that threat, the offensive line is going to have to do a lot better job pushing people off the line and getting Eddie Lacy a hole or two to run through.

Last week, the only few plays they opened a decent hole on were called back on penalties to LG Josh Sitton. Sitton, by the way, is currently dealing with a back issue which bears monitoring.

The men in the middle of the linebacking unit for Mike Shanahan’s defense is 54-year old London Fletcher, and Perry Riley, #56.
Riley had 15 tackles last week, 2 QB hits, and a sack.
Fletcher has been there forever and he’s very assignment-sure.

On the back end, Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall are corners who have been known to make big plays, and are capable of giving up the big play.

Rookie safety Bacarri Rambo had a decent game last week in coverage in his debut, and also had a sack of Michael Vick.
Rambo doesn’t have great speed though, and the Packers would like to get him isolated on Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb if possible.

The work of the Packers offensive line will go a long way to determining which of these teams leaves the field at 0-2.

Packers may have learned about themselves in loss to 49ers

September 11, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Mike Conklin, TMJ4.com

~GREEN BAY – There are no moral victories in the NFL. A win is a win and a loss is a loss.

The Packers were a five-point underdog going into Sunday’s game against the 49ers (although “nobody’s Underdog” Mike McCarthy surely didn’t see it that way).

After such a disappointing showing the last time the two teams met, all eyes were on the Packers defense to see if they would show signs of improvement.

The run defense certainly showed up.

Even though Colin Kaepernick had a career day through the air, the Packers held the mighty 49ers and their star-studded offensive line to only 90 yards on the ground.

Last year, the 49ers were among the league’s best in that category. They churned out over five yards per carry, en route to a 156 yard average output per game.

On Sunday, the Packers held the 49ers to 2.6 yards per carry. The rush defense appeared stout throughout the game, and held Frank Gore to only 44 yards on 21 carries.

The Packers went big up front, rotating in Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, and Johnny Jolly early and often.

The big guys up front played well, allowing inside linebackers Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk to combine for 19 tackles.

The strong start for the run defense may bode well for the Packers, considering many of their opponents this year.

The next opponent, the Washington Redskins, led the league in rushing last season, and the Packers will play last year’s second-best rushing team, the Minnesota Vikings, twice.

The defense may have given up many more yards through the air than they would have liked, as they faced a tough challenge in trying to overcome the loss of Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward. Even so, the Packers were in the game until the end.

Lost amidst the big games given up to Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis, was the fact that the Packers almost won the game. The Packers themselves think they should have won the game, but just made too many mistakes against a good team on the road.

“We weren’t sharp enough,” said Mike McCarthy after the game. That summary was spot-on.

The Packers turned the ball over twice. The offense went three-and-out five times. They couldn’t get anything going on the ground for most of the game.

Jeremy Ross made poor decisions on special teams that put the offense in a difficult position on multiple occasions. Josh Sitton had three holding penalties in the second quarter alone.

And on top of the Packers hurting themselves in all those different ways, one of the big stories on all the national television networks was how the officials blew a call that ended up essentially giving the 49ers and extra four points.

The Packers went toe-to-toe with the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. They didn’t win, but they could have.

A loss is a loss, but maybe that is something the Packers can take with them if they happen to play the 49ers again in January.

As Aaron Rodgers can attest, never underestimate the power of an extra little chip on a shoulder.

Full story HERE

Clueless and Lost in San Francisco: Safeties McMillian and Jennings needed GPS

September 11, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Jason Wilde, ESPN Milwaukee

~GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers are hoping that with a full week of practice – if Morgan Burnett were to miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury – replacements Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings will fare better than they did Sunday against San Francisco.

Both players were responsible for touchdowns during the Packers’ 34-28 loss to the 49ers, and neither played well overall. McMillian, who played all 77 defensive snaps, and Jennings, who played 75, both had problems, according to Pro Football Focus.

PFF charged McMillian with four missed tackles and had him allowing six completions on six targets for 57 yards with a touchdown allowed.

"Who's got that guy?"

Jennings gave up three completions for 39 yards, according to PFF.

Jennings was believed to have won the starting job alongside Burnett, staving off McMillian’s challenge in training camp. But coach Mike McCarthy never announced a winner and didn’t have to when Burnett showed up for work Friday with soreness in the hamstring he’d injured in the team’s Aug. 23 preseason game against Seattle.

“M.D. and McMillian, they could play better. I think they both would tell you that,” McCarthy acknowledged Monday. “Really, not playing with Morgan wasn’t as big a factor as really Morgan practicing Wednesday and Thursday with the intent of playing. I think with these guys making the shift on Friday, things weren’t as clean as you probably like. It probably carried over to the game. We were probably a step slower than we needed to be in anticipation on some of the routes.”

Indeed, Burnett practiced on Wednesday and Thursday and presumably took all the first-team reps on defense – reporters are not allowed to attend the 11-on-11 periods of practice – before coming to work on Friday morning with soreness in the hamstring. Burnett said on Sunday that he’d felt fine until Friday. He also said that he was not put through any sort of workout before the game to determine whether he would play; rather, the decision had been made before that.

MD Jennings observes his guy Vernon Davis getting past him for a 49er touchdown.

While not an excuse, defensive coordinator Dom Capers said it was clear his unit missed Burnett and nickel back Casey Hayward, who aggravated his own hamstring injury in that same Seattle game.

“We work all of our young guys. You never know how guys are going to respond to opening day and that type of thing,” Capers said. “Obviously we’d like to have both of those guys. They’re veteran guys that have played a lot. The toughest thing with Morgan was we didn’t really realize we weren’t going to have him until Friday because we practiced Wednesday and Thursday thinking we would have him. But we expect the other guys to go in there and be able to go in and perform. They certainly played a lot of plays.”

Full story HERE

Packers look to regroup and refocus

September 11, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Jason Wilde, ESPN Milwaukee

~GREEN BAY – As they sifted through the good, the bad and the ugly of their third loss to the San Francisco 49ers in a calendar year, the Green Bay Packers had a lot to think about Monday – from an up-and-down use of the no-huddle on offense, to poor decisions in the return game on special teams, to their inability to contain veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin on defense.

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin (81) scores on a 10-yard touchdown reception past Green Bay Packers defensive back Jerron McMillian (22) during the second quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

But what was still gnawing at the Packers the most 24 hours after their 34-28 loss to the 49ers at Candlestick Park was this: Despite shutting down San Francisco’s read-option plays and bottling up quarterback Colin Kaepernick on scrambles, the Packers still gave up an eye-popping 494 yards of total offense Sunday. While it wasn’t the 579 yards they surrendered in their Jan. 12 NFC Divisional Playoff loss to the 49ers, it was still a troublesome number because of the way the 49ers arrived at it: By Kaepernick torching them through the air.

After rushing for an NFL quarterback record 181 yards and throwing for 263 in the playoff game, Kaepernick had just 22 rushing yards on seven attempts but completed 27 of 39 passes for a career-best 412 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions (129.4 passer rating)

“Obviously there was so much focus on Kaepernick running with the ball and the read-option, and those type of things,” said Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers Monday, after spending much of the offseason focused on Kaepernick’s running in the playoffs.

“I thought our guys did an excellent job on that yesterday and in terms of the quarterback scrambles. Now, he didn’t gain significant yardage running with the ball, which we know he’s capable of doing. When you’re playing a quarterback that has those kinds of talents and can move around and has a strong arm, you’ve got to be able to do both. We played one phase well, we didn’t play the other phase well enough.”

There’s an understatement. Boldin was on the receiving end of most of Kaepernick’s completions, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Capers even put two defenders on Boldin and he still made plays, including on his 10-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, a 22-yard catch on third down on the 49ers’ touchdown drive to start the third quarter and a 43-yard catch-and-run to set up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“When you’re playing a team like San Francisco, which is obviously a talented team, it comes down to your execution has to match their execution,” Capers said. “I thought our guys fought hard, but at critical times in the game – and most of these games come down to that, the third down situations – we just didn’t execute well enough.

“We just have to go to work and make sure if we’re committing (multiple) people on a guy that he doesn’t catch the football. The toughest series was the series after we went up and they hit the back to back big plays. That’s when you want to be at your best, and we weren’t at that time.”

Indeed, after the Packers took a 28-24 lead with 8 minutes 26 seconds left in the game, the defense let the 49ers drive 80 yards in just five plays to reclaim the lead at 31-28. In addition to Boldin’s 43-yard catch on that drive, running back Kendall Hunter got loose for a 23-yard run, the 49ers’ longest gain on the ground all game. Including Kaepernick’s rushes, San Francisco finished with 34 attempts for 90 yards, a 2.6-yard average.

“It wasn’t like we didn’t have things up and ready,” Capers said. “We just didn’t execute with the kind of efficiency you need.”

The defense wasn’t alone though.

Kick returner Jeremy Ross, who muffed a punt at his own 9-yard line that led to a momentum-shifting 49ers touchdown in the playoff game, returned three of seven kickoffs, and because of short returns, poor blocking or penalties, the Packers started those three drives at their own 4-yard line, their own 22 and their own 9.

“It wasn’t a great day for us in the kickoff return phase. Decision-making was part of it,” McCarthy said. “I thought our kickoff return blocking unit did not do a very good job. We will do a better job of that this week.”

And while the Packers’ no-huddle offense scored four touchdowns, the unit also had five three-and-out series and turned the ball over twice, leading to a 17-minute deficit in time of possession.

“It was kind of feast or famine,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “We had five three-and-outs and two turnovers and then we had four touchdown drives.

“They’re an outstanding defense. Ideally you’d like to move the ball every time you have it. That’s a little unrealistic, but you definitely want to minimize the number of three-and-outs you have.”
Still, the defense was the group with the greatest regret. Playing without starting safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring) and starting nickel back Casey Hayward (hamstring), the Packers were forced to start Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings together at safety and move Jarrett Bush into the dime group along with nickel back Micah Hyde, a rookie fifth-round pick. With Hayward likely sidelined until after the Week 4 bye, and Burnett’s status uncertain, the Packers could be playing with the same group next Sunday against Washington and quarterback Robert Griffin III.

They will also be counting on rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who had an up-and-down day; defensive end Datone Jones, who was largely invisible in his 18 snaps as one of the two down linemen in the dime; and young tackles David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay, who acquitted themselves better than many of their young teammates.

“I know a couple of our guys, particularly younger guys, just didn’t handle the start of the game particularly well,” McCarthy admitted. “It was a great atmosphere for us. I wish we would have played better. I thought we played through adversity throughout the game to get the lead there, (at) 28-24. And then really the last eight minutes of the game was our biggest disappointment as a team. We need to learn from that. We looked at that sequence as a football team and it will be an emphasis for us as we move into Washington.”

Full story HERE

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