2013 November : Packers Insider

Late in games, Packers’ defense wilts like a sick flower

November 14, 2013 by  
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By Michael David Smith, November 14, 2013, Pro Football Talk

~The Packers’ four losses have had one thing in common: In the fourth quarter, the opposing team has had a long, sustained drive that Green Bay’s defense couldn’t stop.

Casey Hayward’s pathetic tackle attempt on third and long against Chicago, on their final drive, was the signature loser moment of that loss.

  • In Week One, the 49ers got the ball at their own 35-yard line with 4:52 to play and proceeded to run 11 plays, gain 50 yards, and kick a field goal with only 26 seconds left.
  • In Week Three, the Bengals got the ball at their own 5-yard line, trailing 30-21 in the fourth quarter, and marched 95 yards for a touchdown that closed the gap to 30-27 before a Cincinnati defensive touchdown gave the Bengals a 34-30 win.
  • In Week Nine, the Bears put the game away with an 18-play, 80-yard drive that took 8:58 off the clock and ended with a field goal that gave the Packers a 27-20 deficit with just 50 seconds left.
  • In Week Ten, the Eagles’ took the ball over with 9:32 remaining and ended up running out that entire 9:32 with a 15-play, 70-yard drive.

Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk says the defense needs a sense of urgency.

Last week, it was Tramon Williams who showed how the Packers defensive backs tackle.

“We think we do have that urgency,” Hawk told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “And when things like this happen, sometimes that’ll get that urgency at a higher level even. Maybe it will. We’re going to be battling. I’m not quitting.”

The good news, in Hawk’s opinion, is that the Packers’ defense has what it takes to play a lot better than it has been.

“With how quickly it’s gone south, we can turn that around really quick,” Hawk said.

With Aaron Rodgers no longer around to win high-scoring games for them, the Packers’ defense needs to turn things around now.

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Evaluating Packers’ QB Scott Tolzien

November 12, 2013 by  
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By Matt Williamson, ESPN.com

~Mike McCarthy has been raving about Scott Tolzien, who the Packers promoted from their practice squad when Aaron Rodgers fell to injury.

Much like Seneca Wallace the week before, Tolzien was thrust into duty last week after most likely getting very little work in practice leading up to that game against Philadelphia, as the Packers had to give Wallace extra attention to get him up to speed. Green Bay fell to the Eagles at home, but Tolzien was impressive, especially considering the difficult situation he was presented with.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images: Scott Tolzien completed 24 of 39 passes for 280 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in his first career start.

Sunday was the first regular-season action in the 26-year-old Tolzien’s career, so we don’t have a lot to base our evaluations on. But going back to his college evaluations and some good moments in the preseason with the 49ers — along with what we saw last week — there are some critiques we can take away from this young player. First off, Tolzien isn’t a physically overwhelming specimen. He lacks a big arm, doesn’t have outstanding size and isn’t a high-end athlete for the position.

A mostly short to intermediate passer, we also know that Tolzien isn’t bashful or “Just a Caretaker” at the position. He will attempt difficult throws, including back shoulder throws, and plays the game with swagger and confidence. Because he won’t be able to fit the ball into tiny windows like Rodgers can, he is willing to pull the trigger. Tolzien probably will have some rough patches with defenders getting their hands on his passes, but I see his boldness as a positive, especially considering the strong set of weapons he is throwing to in Green Bay.

Expect the Giants’ defense to key on the outstanding Packers’ running game and Eddie Lacy, and to dare Tolzien to beat them through the air. While I wouldn’t argue with that strategy, the group of Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin have a major edge over the members of the Giants’ secondary. Lacy, who has logged at least 20 carries in every game since taking over as the lead back in Week 5, was outstanding after contact last week. The Packers might have found another quality wide receiver in Boykin, who is big and physical with good speed and body control. I love the way Boykin attacks the football and, like Tolzien, he is not a bashful player despite playing few meaningful regular season snaps.

The Giants better be aware of tight end Brandon Bostick, who could be yet another break-out weapon for this offense. Bostick is a big time athlete who might be ready to create matchup problems from different alignments all over the field, which is something McCarthy excels at creating.

Tolzien moved the Packers’ offense consistently against the Eagles, although he did make a few ill-advised throws and threw two interceptions. But Tolzien also just missed on a few big plays and should do a fine job of getting his receivers to use their strong after-the-catch skills. A turnover or two by Tolzien would not surprise me in New York, but I expect a very successful outing by Tolzien in his second start.

Scott Tolzien leaves the field with Tramon Williams and Andrew Quarless after losing to the Eagles last Sunday for their second straight home loss, and within a 6-day span, taking their record from 5-2 to 5-4.

Everyone knows this is Rodgers’ team, but if Tolzien is as effective as I expect after receiving a full week of preparation time as the Packers’ starter, Green Bay should be able to keep their head above water in the NFC playoff race while Rodgers is out. And in the big picture, Tolzien might end up as the ideal young backup to Rodgers.

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Time for a new “strength & conditioning” program

November 10, 2013 by  
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By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor

~Broken legs and torn ACL’s are one thing.

Strained, pulled hamstrings and groins are another.

Mark Lovat took over the Packers strength and conditioning program prior to the 2010 season, of course a Super Bowl season. But what fans also remember is the Packers had close to two dozen players on IR by the time the playoffs began.

There have been many missed games since then due to hamstrings. Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson aren’t the only ones, but each has missed multiple games over this and last season due to nagging hamstrings. So has John Kuhn.

Casey Hayward has almost had a total lost season this year because of pulled hamstring issues. Today, it appeared he re-aggravated it yet again.

Casey Hayward is tended to by team physician Pat McKenzie after Hayward once again tweaked his hamstring.

But seeing Seneca Wallace take himself out of the game at the end of the Packers first drive today, on a play where he was not even tackled, that is a signature moment for this program.

Look, none of us know how severely Wallace’s groin was “injured”.

All we know is nobody had any idea he had even hurt anything until the next time the offense came out and it was #16 Scott Tolzien running out onto the field.

Wallace appeared fine, as he wasn’t in any apparent severe agony or pain.

Seneca Wallace is only able to peddle the bike after he injured himself on the Packers first drive. No word on how is arm was affected.

Of course, perhaps Packer fans had been spoiled with the health of their quarterbacks over the past two decades.

As many are aware of, the Packers only had to start three different quarterbacks from Favre’s first start in 1992 until this week when Wallace had to start in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers.

The third starter, of course, in that 21-year period was Matt Flynn, who lodged two starts in the Super Bowl season of 2010. He obviously fared well as he parlayed those two starts into a big payday from Seattle last year.

The bottom line here is that there have been far too many muscle and conditioning problems plaguing this team since Mark Lovat took over before that painful 2010 season.

There were calls to replace him before this season, and certainly before this game. But seeing the quarterback pull his groin on a pass where he wasn’t even hit, that’s the final sign that I had to see.

Nick Foles throws 3 TDs as Eagles drub injury-plagued Packers

November 10, 2013 by  
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Associated Press

~GREEN BAY, Wis. — A deflected pass that landed in DeSean Jackson’s hands. Two long touchdowns to Riley Cooper, one after a defensive back slipped to leave the Eagles the receiver wide open for a score.

Good things happen with Nick Foles at quarterback for the Eagles.
A week after tying the NFL record by passing for seven TDs, Foles connected for three long scores and Philadelphia pulled way for a 27-13 victory Sunday over the injury-ravaged Green Bay Packers.

Nick Foles has all day to throw one of his three touchdown passes, as a clean pocket and horrible coverage made for an easy touchdown pass to Riley Cooper.

“He has great poise,” Cooper said. “He’s going to sit in the pocket and kind of dissect the defense.”
Philadelphia’s 17-point third quarter handed Green Bay its first back-to-back home losses since 2008, Aaron Rodgers’ first season as the starter. It was the worst home loss for the Packers since falling 38-10 to the New York Jets on Dec. 3, 2006.
The Eagles improved to 5-5, with all their victories coming away from Philly. They won a test of attrition at Lambeau Field on Sunday.
The undermanned Packers (5-4) played most of the day with third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien. Rodgers is out with a left collarbone injury, and backup Seneca Wallace left after the first series with a groin injury.
Actually, Tolzien played well considering he was just signed off the practice squad this week. He finished 24 of 39 for 280 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
“We had a lot of tough situations today, no excuses,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I thought Scott Tolzien played as well as could be expected.”
Foles was better.
He finished 12 for 18 for 228 yards and the three scores — a 55-yarder to Jackson and touchdowns of 45 and 32 yards Cooper. Foles still hasn’t thrown an interception this season, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame has requested a game-worn jersey and cleats that Foles wore during his record-tying, seven-TD performance against Oakland.
It could be tough for Michael Vick to get his starting job back any time soon. He was inactive a second straight week with a hamstring injury.
LeSean McCoy finished with 155 yards on 25 carries, the second straight week that Green Bay’s run defense had allowed a 100-yard rusher. McCoy softened the Packers with runs of 9 and 25 yards on the Eagles’ first series of the second half before Foles found Cooper for the 45-yard score and a 17-3 lead.
When safeties creep into the box to stop the run, “you’ve got to be able to throw the ball over the top,” coach Chip Kelly said. “We’ve got some guys in DeSean and Coop that can go over the top that we believe in.”
The strong-armed Foles exposed Green Bay’s secondary in the second half. Cooper was wide open on both of his scores, rolling over the goal line on his 45-yarder after being untouched on the ground, then working his way free toward the left sideline after Morgan Burnett slipped for the 32-yard score to make it 27-10 with 10 seconds left in the third quarter.
Whether it’s Lambeau or Oakland Coliseum, the Eagles succeed on the road (5-1). The only blemish was a 52-20 loss in Denver. They’re still squarely in the race in the mediocre NFC East.
“We’re not good at home and we’re good on the road. We better figure it out because we’re coming home,” Kelly said.
Tolzien, who played college ball at Wisconsin, seemed at ease. He zipped a 22-yard pass to Brandon Bostick with 3:22 left in the third quarter to cut the Eagles’ lead to 20-10. The Eagles answered on their next drive with the second of Cooper’s two scoring catches.
Tolzien’s biggest mistake came early in the second quarter, when he marched the Packers from their 18 into the red zone, only to be intercepted by Brandon Boykin in end zone on an underthrown ball to Jordy Nelson. At the time, the Eagles were only leading 7-0.
“We had an awesome opportunity there and got a good look with the play that we were running,” Tolzien said. “Looking back on the throw, I should have thrown more back pylon.”
Cooper finished with three catches for 102 yards, while Jackson had four catches for 80 yards. He caught his 27th career touchdown of 55 or more yards.

Full story here

Fast-paced Eagles will challenge Packers suspect defense

November 9, 2013 by  
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By Sarah Bishop, ESPN Milwaukee

~GREEN BAY – Back in June, Mike McCarthy described his offensive philosophy using a boxing metaphor.

“I want to play as fast as I can and throw as many punches as I possibly can and beat you as bad as I can,” the Green Bay Packers coach said after an organized team activity practice. “That’s the way we play.”

No wonder McCarthy likes the offense first-year Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has brought with him from the University of Oregon.

Dom Capers defense was outsmarted by newcomer Trestman last week against the Bears. How will the oldtimer Capers handle Chip Kelly's offense this week?

“It’s a challenge. (But) I appreciate the mind-set of how their team wants to play and so forth. I think it’ll be a great game,” McCarthy said Thursday of the matchup between his Packers (5-3) and Kelly’s Eagles (4-5) at Lambeau Field Sunday. “They play fast. I’m a believer in that. They challenge your defense from the ability to match up to the ability to substitute. And they have good players. You can see they’re getting better each week.”

And that’s why Packers veteran linebacker A.J. Hawk knows the members of the Packers’ defense have their work cut out for them Sunday.

“They have a lot of weapons, especially on offense,” Hawk said. “They have so many guys that can hurt you. They’re all playing at a very high level, too, coming off a big week last week. I think they can get you in every aspect.”

Nick Foles carved up Charles Woodson's Raiders last week for an NFL all-time record tie of 7 touchdown passes.

The Eagles are coming off a 49-20 victory in Oakland, where quarterback Nick Foles threw seven touchdowns, before being pulled from the game with 9 minutes 23 seconds left to play. Since taking over for an injured Michael Vick (hamstring), Foles has thrown for 1,028 yards and 13 touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception. Add in the numbers from wide receiver DeSean Jackson (823 receiving yards, six touchdowns) and running back LeSean McCoy (777 rushing yards, three touchdowns), and on paper, the Eagles’ offense is daunting.

And on the grass, the Eagles’ up-tempo, no-huddle offense is daunting, too.

“(The no-huddle is) a tool in the toolbox,” Kelly said in a conference call with Wisconsin media earlier this week. “It’s not something we do all the time. It can put (pressure on) the defense and make them line up quicker and make them have to play at a different speed than they normally practice at or play at. I think it’s a weapon, just like a three-tight end offense is a weapon, just like a five-receiver offense is a weapon, just like empty formations are a weapon. It’s just something that adds to the scope of your overall offense.”

That fast-paced offense is something that cornerback Tramon Williams and his defensive teammates have been studying this week on film, which Williams said has allowed him to see the specific challenges it presents.

“You have to know what you’re doing out there,” Williams said. “You have to get your play calling in. You have to do some of those things and the challenge is, the film that you watch, can you put it to use with their tempo. They’re going to get things, they’re going to run plays fast and hopefully you don’t (fail to) recognize some of the things they do.

“We’ve got to hold our composure, make sure we’re on the same page and play ball. It’s going to be fast, so we’ve definitely got to be on the same page.”

Along with watching film, Williams said the practices for the defense this week have been a little different, to help them prepare for what they will see on Sunday.

If not for this last-second punt return against the Giants in the 2010 season final week, the Packers perhaps would not have won that Super Bowl as this allowed the Eagles in and kicked the Giants out that season. Jackson is dangerous as a receiver and returner. And he's tough.

“We haven’t faced that challenge from anyone yet, so it’s going to be a little different week,” Williams said. “A little energized, more at practice, and things like that. We’ll be prepared. We’ll try to emulate it as much as possible.”

Hawk, however, focused on stopping Foles, and proving that the defense is better than what it showed in the Packers’ 27-20 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night.

“He had an amazing game,” Hawk said of Foles. “I’ve seen the film, obviously and he looks good. He can do it all, especially with how their offense is rolling right now. What better test that this, for us? I think, especially coming off the loss to the Bears. We need to have a good showing as a defense.”

The defense will have some help because it should have linebacker Clay Matthews, who has missed four games after breaking his right thumb in the Packers’ 22-9 victory over Detroit on Oct. 6.

But while the Packers will be gaining Matthews on Sunday, they will not have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who suffered a broken left collarbone against the Bears. Sunday will mark only the second time Rodgers will miss a game due to injury since taking over the starting job from Brett Favre in 2008. (He missed the 2011 regular-season finale when he was a healthy scratch with nothing to play for.) Rodgers was injured on the first possession of the game and replaced by backup Seneca Wallace, who struggled.

Though Wallace will be under center again on Sunday against the Eagles, Williams insisted that the defense didn’t feel any added pressure to score more points to help the offense out.

“We don’t need to talk about it,” Williams said. “As a personal thing, guys sit back and look at it, and we may feel that we need to make an extra play here or there, but at the same time, it’s no pressure. It’s no pressure at all. We’re going to do what we’ve been doing. We’ve been playing good defense. Evidently, there’s always a bump in the road. But we’ll be back to playing like we want to play. We’re going to prepare well this week and come out and try and put together another good game.”

Hawk agreed, adding that the focus was not on compensating with for Rodgers being out, but simply playing better than the defense did on Monday night.

LeSean McCoy is even more talented than Matt Forte, who did a lot of damage last week against the Packers.

“I don’t think we feel added pressure but I think we definitely, as a defense, didn’t get it done last week,” Hawk said. “We take pride in being a defense that can hopefully take over a game and win games for us and we had every opportunity to do that last week, and we didn’t, so that’s very disappointing when it comes to that but we just need to find a way for sure.

“The thing is, whether it’s one play here or there that we could have found a way to turn the tide. This week, we definitely need to do that.”

Original story here

Packers Rookie RB Eddie Lacy is Hulking Presence

November 9, 2013 by  
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By Jason Wilde ESPN Wisconsin

~GREEN BAY – There was no correlation, Eddie Lacy insisted with a laugh. His cinematic selection that night had nothing to do with his performance earlier in the day. Merely a coincidence, he said. The thought never even crossed his mind.

Then, he laughed again. It probably should’ve, he admitted.

When the Green Bay Packers rookie running back got home from Baltimore a few weeks ago, after what was, at that point, the most productive game of his young NFL career – 23 carries for 120 yards against the defending Super Bowl champions – he notified the roughly 66,000 people who follow him (@Lil_Eazy_Ana_42) on Twitter of his evening plans.

Watching The Incredible Hulk.

Eddie Lacy was fantastic Monday night, but the Packers defense and Seneca Wallace wasted his efforts.

Suddenly, Lacy was getting all kinds of replies approving of his choice – and drawing parallels between the way the mild-mannered Bruce Banner morphs into the green brute, and the way Lacy changes from the easiest-going dude in the Packers locker room into a contact-seeking, tackle-breaking cement truck in Nikes.

“I don’t know. I’m just more physical I guess,” Lacy replied when asked how he changes when he has the football in the crook of his arm. “I wouldn’t say ‘transform’ … completely.”

Oh, really? Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, whose defense must figure out a way to stop Lacy on Sunday, would like a word, Eddie.

“Big, tough, hard, physical runner,” is how Kelly described Lacy during a conference call with Wisconsin reporters this week, after watching Lacy carry 22 times for a career-best 150 yards in Monday night’s loss to the Chicago Bears. The, unprompted, Kelly added, “He seems like he runs angry.”

And you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

And Lacy’s running backs coach, Alex Van Pelt? If he had a Twitter account, he might’ve chimed in, too. But Van Pelt makes an important distinction. Lacy isn’t one of those players who gets so amped up on game day that he’s out of control. In fact, when he’s not carrying the ball, he’s just as calm and poised as he is the rest of the week. He may run violently, but he can be so calm during the game and during the week that Van Pelt has to remind himself that it’s just the way Lacy is.

“He’s very laid back. (But) he’s not nonchalant, I don’t think. I think it’s just his makeup,” Van Pelt explained, adding that Lacy’s big-game experience in college at Alabama is likely a factor in that. “Good or bad – he’s just Eddie. He doesn’t overreact one way or another. He’s pretty even-keeled throughout the course of a game. That’s good at this level.

“It’s not a rollercoaster. He’s the same guy, good, bad, ugly. He just maintains his composure and goes on to the next play, which is a good quality.”

In fact, Van Pelt confessed, there are times in the running backs room when Van Pelt isn’t sure Lacy is paying attention. Yet he always is.

“You’ll look back there at times and think he’s not locked in. You’ll ask him a question and he spits out the answer. He doesn’t ask a lot of questions, but he’s always listening, he’s always alert in the meetings,” Van Pelt said. “I think he’s been in enough big games now where there’s not one that’s too big for him. That, with his makeup and his calm demeanor, I think it helps.”

The Packers certainly will be counting on Lacy now more than ever. With starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined with a broken collarbone, the offense will lean heavily on the run, even though coach Mike McCarthy insisted this week that he won’t alter the offense significantly – which is technically true, since the combination of Lacy’s production, the offensive line’s improvement and the play-caller’s commitment to the run has made the Packers a legitimate running team.

“We’re going to play our game,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said Thursday. “We’re going to run it and throw it.”

Perhaps, but that means a healthy dose of Lacy, who’s carried the ball at least 22 times in each of the past five games. During that time, he’s rushed for 545 yards (109 yards per game), the most in the NFL over that time frame. After going 44 regular-season games without a 100-yard individual rusher, the Packers have gotten two 100-yard games and a 99-yard game from Lacy in the past five weeks.

The Packers can't expect Lacy to get 150 every week. The backup QB has to make some throws, as Josh McCown did.

“He’s a hell of a player for us. He’s always getting positive yards, and that’s what you want to see,” right guard T.J. Lang said of Lacy, who fell to the second round (No. 61 overall) in the NFL Draft this spring. “He’s a guy, even when he’s wrong he seems to be right and get positive yards.”

On the season, Lacy has rushed 134 times for 596 yards, ranking him eighth in the NFL despite missing essentially two games with a concussion. He suffered it on his first carry against Washington on Sept. 15 and caused him to miss the following week’s game at Cincinnati on Sept. 22.

Since his return, though, Lacy has been nearly unstoppable. Against the Bears on Monday night, after Rodgers’ injury, the Packers handed the ball to Lacy on their next four offensive plays and six of their first seven snaps – until he was replaced by James Starks and backup quarterback Seneca Wallace threw an interception on the eighth play of the possession.

While it stands to reason that the Eagles will be expecting Lacy to get the ball plenty on Sunday, the Rodgers-less Packers would be hard-pressed to find a rookie better equipped to carry the offense.

“He’s a stud. He’s a big-time player,” Rodgers said. He was just getting warmed up. “He’s a winner, he knows how to play the game, he finishes his runs, he’s a tough kid, he’s smart, he cares about it, he’s got a great charisma about him, a great attitude around the locker room.

“I think the key is to continue to remind him that he has a great upside and we expect consistency every week. Consistency is the antithesis of complacency in our business. If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. We expect Eddie to continue to get better.”

And then, there’s that personality of his. In Rodgers’ nine years in Green Bay, he’s always said little-known offensive lineman Tony Palmer, whose brief Packers career ended with a neck injury, had the best laugh he’s ever heard. Lacy has brought back those memories for him.

“I think he’s got a great personality,” Rodgers said. “He’s laid back, he enjoys a good joke. He has one of those contagious laughs. I’m not going to put it on the Tony Palmer level; Tony Palmer had the most incredible, contagious laugh that you just couldn’t help but start laughing. Ryan Pickett has a very similar laugh. So Tony Palmer’s on top, then Pick, and then Eddie’s kind of sneaking up the laugh boards there.

“He’s fun to be around. He cares about it, he puts the time in, he’s very sharp, but he’s always good for a laugh as well.”

Except when he has the ball.

“(I) just run physically. Try not to get tackled by the first person,” Lacy said. “When you make contact, make sure the defender feels you. You just run powerful and don’t go down by that first hit.”

When reminded of the Hulk comparison again after that remark, Lacy laughed again.

“That’s just how I am, man,” he said. “I don’t know, man. It’s all for me about being comfortable. The more comfortable I am, the better I am.”

Original story here

Seneca Wallace can’t be Rodgers, but he will have to make some plays with his arm

November 9, 2013 by  
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By Jude Wilbers, Fox11

~GREEN BAY – With one play, Seneca Wallace was cast in a starring role for a team he wasn’t even a part of until after training camp had ended. For Wallace that’s just part of life as a backup quarterback in the NFL.

“You know always you’re thrust into situations especially as a backup that might not be ideal and you’ve just got to go in there and battle your butt off,” Wallace said.

Mike McCarthy admitted that expecting any backup to execute the same game plan as Aaron Rodgers isn’t fair. That’s why this week it will be important to put in a scheme that fits his current quarterback’s skills.

“In a football game, it’s important to stay in tune with his skill set but also utilize the other players conceptually,” McCarthy said. “We’re not going to reinvent the wheel here.”

Don Barclay expects things to remain status quo as well.

“Nothing’s going to change from our playbook from our play calling. We’re just going to keep it simple, run the football, pass the ball, and move on.”

Seneca Wallace doesn't have to replace Rodgers complete production, but he will have to do a lot more than just hand the ball off to Eddie Lacy and James Starks.

Seneca Wallace may have seemed a little rusty when he came in Monday night against the Chicago Bears, one reason for Packers fans to be optimistic. He does have experience starting in the past. He’s played 64 NFL games starting 21 of them. Even if he doesn’t have a great record in those starts, his teammates have confidence in him.

“We have a ton of confidence in Seneca,” A.J. Hawk said. “We love that guy with an entire week of working under center and having all the reps. I think he’s going to do great.”

The chance to get practice reps with the guys he’ll be expected to lead to the end zone Sunday should make a big difference according to Wallace.

“When you’re able to get snaps with the ones and able to see things clearly it helps you out big time I mean figuring out the timing with the receivers and things like that and just from a comfortable level it helps out,” Wallace said.

Jordy Nelson added, “Practice is always going to help. I mean he’s going to go from taking maybe 5 plays a week in practice to all of them. It’s going to help him. It’s going to help us as an offense perform better.”

With a week running with the first team and one-on-one time with Aaron Rodgers the Packers expect Wallace to be able to lead them to victory.

Original story here

Rodgers joins Matthews, Perry, Bulaga, Sherrod, Cobb, Jermichael as injured spectator

November 5, 2013 by  
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By Tom Silverstein, Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay – If QB Aaron Rodgers is not able to play next week against Philaelphia due to the shoulder injury he suffered in the Packers’ 27-20 loss to Chicago Monday night, he would be the ninth preferred starter to miss a game this season.

Using a criteria in which only one player can be deemed a starter at each position, here is a list of starters to miss games this season (games missed are in parentheses):
LT Bryan Bulaga (8)
TE Jermichael Finley (2)
WR James Jones (2)
RB Eddie Lacy (1)
FB John Kuhn (1)
ILB Brad Jones (3)
OLB Clay Matthews (4)
S Morgan Burnett (3)

That’s eight players who have missed a total of 24 starts.

(Note: OLB Nick Perry does not count because Mike Neal had won the position over Neal before getting hurt. Also, James Jones is a starter over Randall Cobb).

The number of players overall who have missed at least one game due to injury this season is 17.

Not including the ones listed above, they are:
CB Jarrett Bush (3)
WR Randall Cobb (3)
LB Robert Francois (4)
RB DuJuan Harris (8)
CB Casey Hayward (6)
LB Nick Perry (3)
RB James Starks (3)
TE Ryan Taylor (2)
OL Greg Van Roten (5)

The total of missed games for this group is 37.

So all totaled, 17 players have missed a total of 61 games for the Packers this season.

Will more be added to the ranks next week? Probably.

Current starting OLB Mulumba is driven off after tweaking his knee.

Not only was Rodgers hurt, but LB Andy Mulumba (knee), LB Sam Barrington (hamstring) and OG T.J. Lang (concussion) all were knocked out of the Bears game, leaving their status in doubt next week.

Rodgers’ long-term outlook would seem to rest with what kind of injury he suffered to his left shoulder.

If he broke his collarbone, four to six weeks would be a good guess, although CB Charles Woodson missed nine games in 2012 with a broken collarbone. It was the second time he had broken it and the Packers wouldn’t clear him until they were convinced the second was totally healed.

Don Barclay helps the wounded Rodgers back up after allowing his assignement, McClellin, to go free and smash the Packers game and Super Bowl chances away.

If Rodgers suffered a separated shoulder, there are varying degrees of separation and the prognosis can be anywhere from a return whenever the pain subsides to surgery to repair the ligaments around the AC joint.

It didn’t seem Rodgers suffered a subluxation or dislocation because there never seemed to be an attempt to pop the shoulder back in place, but if he did suffer that, the possibility of it popping out again would have to be weighed and the possibility of harness being worn would be considered.

Full story here

Packers lose Rodgers, defense loses game and division lead to Bears

November 5, 2013 by  
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By Bob McGinn, Journal-Sentinel

~Green Bay — The Green Bay Packers couldn’t have picked a worse game to turn in an abominable performance on defense.

Playing without their finest player and leader, Aaron Rodgers, after the first series, the Packers allowed backup quarterback Josh McCown to dissect them Monday night in a 27-20 upset loss to the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers suffered an injury to his left shoulder of undetermined severity on a sack by defensive end Shea McClellin 2½ minutes into the 187th meeting between the ancient rivals.

“They want to run more tests,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “An exact diagnosis has not been given. No timeline.”

That sent veteran backup Seneca Wallace, 33, onto the field for his first action since joining the team Sept. 2. It also put the onus on the defense, the running game and the special teams to win the game.

Ranked ninth in yards allowed, Dom Capers’ defense gave up 442 yards (171 rushing), sacked McCown once and again didn’t force a turnover. The tackling was atrocious as the Bears won for the first time in Green Bay since 2007.

“Defensively, we didn’t do a very good job stopping the run,” said McCarthy. “We had a lot of missed tackles and the passing game … the way the fourth quarter went, disappointing.

The Packers usually had done a great job of shutting down Bears RB Matt Forte. Not last night.

“Disappointing loss, no doubt. We fully expected to win the game. We have no excuses. We didn’t play well. They beat us.”

The Eddie Lacy-powered ground game accounted for 199 yards against a Bears’ defense missing linebackers Lance Briggs and D.J. Williams as well as defensive tackle Henry Melton because of injury. Lacy had 150 yards in 22 carries.

Guard T.J. Lang left early in the second half with a concussion, leaving the Packers without eight starters. With Don Barclay replacing Lang and Marshall Newhouse taking over at right tackle, the ground game stagnated in the second half (14-36) and the pass protection collapsed, too.

The Bears had five sacks, four fewer than they had in the first seven games, as McClellin (three sacks) and Julius Peppers (one) probably played better than they have all season.

McCarthy stole a possession early in the third quarter on an onside kick. Jamari Lattimore made the recovery, setting up a go-ahead field goal, and his blocked punt in the second quarter set up a touchdown.

The offense on first and second down met McCarthy’s approval, but the Packers were just one of nine on third down,

“Seneca needs to play better and he definitely will with a full week of practice,” said McCarthy. “There’s nothing like live reps. It was evident tonight.”

Wallace's first pass was tipped and intercepted by DE Julius Peppers. Once again, the Packers defense didn't produce a single turnover, even against a backup quarterback.

The Packers, 10½-point favorites, lost for the first time to the Bears as a double-digit pick in 45 years. McCarthy’s previous defeats when favored by 10 or more came at Tampa Bay (38-28) in 2009 and at Kansas City (19-14) in 2011.

Under McCarthy, the Packers had been 33-8 when favored by a touchdown or more, including 20-2 since late 2010.

“Tough loss,” said McCarthy. “Hate to lose at home. Division game.”

The Packers’ four-game winning streak was snapped just as their half-game lead went poof in the NFC North. Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay now share the lead at 5-3.

The Bears had lost six in a row to the Packers, and Rodgers was 9-2 against them.

McCarthy also was riding a 16-1 streak against division opponents.

Hundreds of Bears fans hung around the empty stadium cheering their team more than 15 minutes after the final gun.

“We have a long road ahead,” said Bears coach Marc Trestman. “It doesn’t mean much right now. It will mean a lot more down the road.

“We never want to see anyone get hurt. (Rodgers) is one of the great players in our game. I think that Mike will be challenged by what is ahead, and he will take it on. He knows what to do.”

Rodgers directed the Packers on an eight-play, 68-yard drive to open the game, setting up Mason Crosby’s 30-yard field goal. The drive bogged down when McClellin fell with most of his weight on Rodgers’ shoulder.

A poor playcall to begin with, RT Don Barclay let #99 Shea McClellin go free and he got Rodgers from the back and crushed his and Rodgers' weight all down on his shoulder. Game over for Rodgers, and a win for the Bears.

“I don’t like it when anybody gets hurt,” general manager Ted Thompson said. “But it’s all part of the game.”

The Bears marched 71 yards for a touchdown on their first possession as McCown settled in immediately. On third and 6, Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers blitzed, and McCown, under heavy pressure, fired a pass in the right corner to Brandon Marshall for a 23-yard touchdown.

Coverage was by Tramon Williams.

“I thought we had really good pressure,” said Thompson. “It was kind of a desperation throw. It was a great throw and great catch. We had good coverage on it. What are you going to do?”

The Bears, who played almost the entire first series with both safeties deep, immediately went to a one-shell look in an effort to stop the run and force Wallace to throw.

Lacy ran like a man possessed, carrying four straight times for 29 yards. Then he picked up 4 with second effort for a first down at the Bears 39. One play later, Wallace’s slant for Jordy Nelson was tipped by Peppers, who seized the carom above his head for the interception.

Said Thompson: “Batted ball. He (Peppers) is a pretty athletic guy.” Lattimore then surged past tight end Dante Rosario and blocked an Aussie-style punt by Adam Podlesh. On the next play, James Starks smashed through an enormous hole inside, zipped by safety Chris Conte and surged into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown

“It just sort of opened up,” said Thompson. “He hit it aggressively. There were a couple guys in the secondary and he ran past ’em.”

In the second quarter, McCown found Forte alone in the left flat and, after Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields missed tackles, the gain was 33. “Looked like somebody was supposed to have been there,” Thompson said.

Martellus Bennett beat A.J. Hawk by several steps across the middle and McCown delivered a strike to his big tight end for 27 to the 1. Forte high-stepped across and the Bears led, 14-10.

“I think McCown performed very well tonight,” Thompson said. “Was in control and made good throws. He’s got some good targets.”

Wallace eluded a sack on third and 11 and threw a sideline dart to Andrew Quarless, who juggled the ball about 15 yards downfield and failed to make the catch. Tim Masthay then punted for the third time of the first half.

“(Wallace) did a nice job,” said Thompson. “We had a couple pretty good drives and petered out a couple times.

“He’s a professional. He’s been around. He’s seen it (all), so he won’t be spooked by this.”

McCown led a 12-play, 93-yard drive to close the first half on Robbie Gould’s 24-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead.

Mixing runs by Forte and crisp completions to Marshall, the Bears faced third and 9 at the 26. Under siege, McCown escaped to the left and ran for 20 to the 6.

“We’re covering as hard as we can in the back end,” Thompson said. “We had some pretty good pressure there.”

On the Packers’ first snap of the third quarter, Lacy barged through a hole inside, made Conte miss and charged 56 yards to the 1. Lacy plowed across on the next play and the score was tied.

Crosby’s surprise onside kick set up Crosby’s 23-yard field goal and the Packers regained the lead, 20-17.

After a pair of rushing first downs, Wallace threw a deep sideline comeback to James Jones that should have been intercepted by linebacker James Anderson. Instead, the ball went through Anderson’s hands and was caught by the surprised Jones for 17.

Devin Hester returned a punt 23 yards to Green Bay’s 41, and seven plays later the Bears were in the end zone when Alshon Jeffery snatched a fade over the head of Davon House for a 6-yard score.

“Marshall is a special player and Alshon is, too,” said McCown, a journeyman making the 34th start of an 11-year career spanning seven teams. “In ’02 and ’03 I was with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. I never thought I would play with two guys that good again.”

Casey Hayward is in great position to make the tackle on Martellus Bennett and get the ball back for the Packers on the final drive with about 5 minutes to go. Hayward whiffed and Bennett was able to get to within a few inches of the first down. The Bears would then gamble and go for it on 4th down. Matt Forte made it, and the Bears ate up almost all the clock. It was the longest drive in the NFL this season.

The Packers had one fourth-quarter drive halted at the Chicago 48 when Peppers batted down a third-and-5 pass, and then another at the Chicago 40 when McClellin beat Newhouse with a spin move for a sack on third and 3.

Starting from their 1 with 9 minutes 48 seconds remaining, the Bears ran off all but 53 seconds against a feeble Packers defense for Gould’s insurance field goal of 27 yards.

“Our offensive line blocked their tails off,” said McCown.

Down by a touchdown with 46 seconds left, Wallace found Nelson for 15. Then defensive tackle Corey Wootton blew past Barclay for a sack before McClellin beat Newhouse around the corner for another sack to end the game in ignominious fashion for Green Bay.

Full story here

Backup Josh McCown gives Bears a chance against Packers

November 2, 2013 by  
Filed under News

By Mark Potash, Chicago Sun-Times

~The Bears acquired Brandon Marshall to maximize Jay Cutler’s untapped potential. But it’s situations like this where he might be even more valuable — against the Packers, at Lambeau Field, on Monday Night Football, with backup Josh McCown at quarterback.

He knows he can make McCown’s night a lot easier on multiple levels.

McCown is a solid backup, and has already played under the lights at Lambeau Field, so he won't be overwhelmed like the Vikings quarterbacks looked last week and the week before. And the week before.

‘‘Yeah — stay out of his ear,’’ said Marshall, who has a penchant for reminding quarterbacks how open he is. ‘‘Josh doesn’t need anyone talking to him. He knows what he’s supposed to do. He’s a professional. He’s probably the best No. 2 you could have. He doesn’t have a ‘C’ on his chest, but he’s definitely one of our captains. So there’s no worry.’’

Marshall being at his best and on his best behavior will go a long way toward giving McCown a chance to pull off the upset Monday night — because he’s done it before. In 2010, Marshall helped turn the very McCown-like Chad Henne into a rare winner at Lambeau. Henne led the Miami Dolphins to a 23-20 overtime victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, with Marshall contributing 10 receptions for 127 yards.

McCown is a solid backup, and capable of escaping the rush and legging out a first down gain. He's not RG3 or Kaepernick-fast, but he can get some yards with his legs.

How rare is that? Only five visiting quarterbacks have won at Lambeau in 37 games since Dom Capers became the Packers’ defensive coordinator: One Hall of Famer (Brett Favre), three No. 1 picks (Eli Manning, Carson Palmer and Alex Smith) and one Chad Henne.

That’s the uphill climb McCown faces Monday night. Backup quarterbacks — ranging from Shaun Hill to Jon Kitna to Joe Webb and Drew Stanton — are 0-7 with a 59.3 passer rating (six touchdowns, 12 interceptions) against the Packers at Lambeau in the Capers era. That includes the Bears’ 35-21 loss with McCown in 2010.

But therein lies hope for the Bears. McCown’s performance was the best for a Bears quarterback at Lambeau in the Cutler era.

In his three starts in Green Bay, Cutler has thrown two touchdowns and 10 interceptions with 15 sacks and ratings of 43.2, 43.5 and 28.2.

McCown has done better at Lambeau in one start already than starting QB Jay Cutler has in his past three games at the Packers. If the Packers sleep on McCown, it could lead to some trouble.

In his lone start at Lambeau, McCown was
19 of 28 for 242 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions for a 76.8 rating — and he was not sacked.

With the weapons he has now in Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte, McCown has a chance to survive if he can avoid the disaster that usually envelops the Bears in Green Bay. In nine games against the Bears home and away, 16 different Packers from nine different positions have sacked Cutler 30 times.

‘‘First off, it’s hats off to Dom [Capers],’’ McCown said. ‘‘He’s a heck of a football coach and a man. You’ve got to give him credit.

‘‘Every staff is different. But I feel we’ve shown this year with our offensive game plans and our ability to move the ball that hopefully I feel like we’ll be prepared. I feel like we’ll be ready to put our best foot forward as good as we ever have here in the past. That obviously gives you a comfort level as a quarterback going into this game.’’

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