2014 December : Packers Insider

5 Adjustments Green Bay Packers Must Make During Bye Week

December 31, 2014 by  
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By Peter Sowards, Featured Columnist Bleacher Report

~For 16 weeks, the Green Bay Packers proved themselves as one of the best teams in the league—and their hard work paid off with a No. 2 seed and first-round bye.

But to reach the Super bowl for the first time since the 2010 season, the Packers will need to be better than very good; excellence must be achieved.

In this article, I’ll take a look at five key adjustments the Packers must make in order to have a successful postseason run.

-Photo Christian Peterson Getty Images

Regain Confidence in Davante Adams
It’s been somewhat of a boom-or-bust season for the rookie wide receiver from Fresno State.

Adams has four games of at least five catches but no more than two in the other 10 he’s played. Mike McCarthy’s game plan in the Week 13 showdown vs. the New England Patriots featured Adams, and he responded with a season-high 121 receiving yards on six receptions.

But since that game—really, since the fourth-quarter touchdown drop vs. the Patriots—Adams has hit the rookie wall, and he’s hit it hard.

Bleacher Report’s Zach Kruse tweeted this opinion during the Week 16 win at Tampa Bay, when Adams was targeted four times and dropped two passes:

Dez Bryant sets TD record, but is focused on playoff success

December 30, 2014 by  
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By Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com

~ Dez Bryant is all about winning right now.

Obviously, he’s happy about setting the Dallas Cowboys’ single-season franchise record for receiving touchdowns with 16 after scoring two on Sunday, but he wasn’t really that interested in talking about it.

“Oh man, it feels good [to set the record], but that’s not what I want,” Bryant said. “We’ve worked too hard and have got an opportunity to do something special. That’s on my mind.”

Each of Bryant’s touchdowns Sunday were terrific individual plays that highlighted his growth as a player, while demonstrating just how difficult it is for opposing teams to defend the 26-year-old receiver.

Packer fans saw last year what Bryant can do, even when covered well.

Play press coverage and he’s gotten better at his release, and if he gets a step he never gives it back. Play off and the Cowboys will throw him a hitch or a slant, and he’s hard to bring down when he’s on the move.

And he makes more contested catches than any other player on the roster. If he’s blanketed, he can still catch the ball.

After DeSean Jackson gave Washington a 7-3 lead in the first quarter on a 69-yard wide receiver screen, Bryant took a hitch 65 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown on the Cowboys’ next possession.

He caught the ball, made one move on David Amerson and sprinted down the left sideline for a touchdown.

On the next series, Amerson had Bryant covered tightly in the corner of the end zone, but Bryant maneuvered his body so he could snatch the ball and still get his feet down. After coach Jason Garrett challenged the play, the ruling on the field was reversed and Bryant was awarded a touchdown.

The nation saw what Julio Jones did to the Packers defense earlier in December. And that was without the threat of a great running game like Dallas has. Bryant is better and stronger and more competitive than Jones is, and Romo is better than Matt Ryan is. The Packers have to give help to Shields and Tramon Williams on Bryant. But then the top-rated Dallas OL will have an easier time opening up holes for DeMarco Murray.

“I knew I was in,” Bryant said. “I know the end zone. The ref said I was on the white, but there was a big ole divot on the green where my foot hit.”

Bryant is playing his best football, when it matters most.

In the 7 games since Arizona held him to a pair of catches for 15 yards, Bryant has 38 catches for 685 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also has 13 catches of 20 yards or more.

“Dez is really a remarkable player,” Jason Witten said. “As a teammate, as leader, as a veteran guy, you take a lot of pride in seeing the growth of Dez and DeMarco mature as players. Dez is a unbelievable player, he’s a dynamic player, and it’s great to see his growth.”

Original story here

Dallas’ new ‘Triplets’ leading the way Cowboys’ diversity on offense makes them a team no one wants to face in playoffs

December 30, 2014 by  
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From Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com

ESPNDallas.com

Cowboys’ diversity on offense makes them a team no one wants to face in playoffs

~LANDOVER, Md. — Two plays and 51 seconds in a season full of memorable moments showed why these Dallas Cowboys aren’t content with winning the NFC East.

Or being the only team undefeated on the road after beating the Washington Redskins. Or winning 12 games, including all four in December, to forever end any chatter about December swoons.

They want to do more. And they have the offense to do it.

With 3:05 left in the first quarter, DeMarco Murray burst off the left end behind a block from Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith for a 32-yard gain that broke Emmitt Smith’s 19-year single-season franchise record of 1,773 yards.

AP Photo/Richard Lipski In addition to finishing the regular season with a league-best 1,845 yards rushing, DeMarco Murray eclipsed Emmitt Smith's 19-year single-season franchise record of 1,773 yards.

AP Photo/Richard Lipski
In addition to finishing the regular season with a league-best 1,845 yards rushing, DeMarco Murray eclipsed Emmitt Smith’s 19-year single-season franchise record of 1,773 yards.

On the next play, Tony Romo threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, who made a sensational toe-tapping catch in the corner of the end zone that required a challenge flag and a replay in order to count, giving the Cowboys a 17-7 lead.

Romo finished with 34 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a league-best 114.4 passer rating, while Bryant set the franchise record with a league-leading 16 touchdown receptions.

Murray ended the season with a league-best 1,845 yards rushing, winning the title by more than 400 yards.

Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Drew Pearson of the ’70s Cowboys passed the legacy of dynamic offensive football to Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin of the ’90s, who have now passed it to Romo, Murray and Bryant.

Dallas 44, Washington 17.

“We’re going to push the envelope and be an aggressive, attacking-style offense that can run it and throw it,” Romo said. “For us, we just want to score on every possession we have the ball.”

The Cowboys did that in the first half against Washington, gaining 294 yards with 16 first downs as they scored on each of their first four possessions to build a 27-10 halftime lead.

The way they’ve played offense since an embarrassing 33-10 loss to Philadelphia on Thanksgiving Day has been phenomenal.

The Cowboys have scored more than 40 points three times in the past four games and finished the month with 165 points — the most in franchise history. They have scored on 25 of 45 possessions this month, and three times they have scored on four consecutive possessions in a game.

“We’re versatile,” left guard  Ron Leary  said. “You try to stop one aspect of our offense and we’ll get the other one going. It’s real balanced, and we have a lot of great players on offense. We’re rolling now, and it’s only going to get better.”

Who’s going to doubt them?

These Cowboys scored 467 points, the second-highest total in franchise history. Only the 1983 Cowboys (479 points) scored more. Dallas scored more than 30 points 10 times, including each of their last seven road games.

Romo-to-Bryant has been nearly unstoppable this year as defenses have been forced to pay more attention to #29 getting handoffs behind that fantastic offensive line.

 

The Cowboys’ diversity makes them the best offense in the playoffs. When teams use their safety near the line of scrimmage to stop Murray, Romo attacks deep with passes to Bryant or Terrance Williams,  as the QB did Sunday.

Bryant had touchdown receptions of 65 and 23 yards, while Williams had a 51-yard catch and drew a 26-yard pass-interference penalty that set up a field goal.

When teams use a safety to double Bryant or tight end Jason Witten, the Cowboys will run Murray all day long.

Murray finished with 20 carries for 100 yards, and Joseph Randle added a 65-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. A holding penalty negated an apparent 80-yard touchdown run by  Lance Dunbar  in the second quarter.

You can’t help but watch this offense and think about the Triplets of the glory days of the ’90s, when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls and dominated the NFL.

“We have playmakers on our team,” coach Jason Garrett said. “If guys go out there and do their job, then plays are going to be made. We believe that.

“It starts with having a physical offense — physical upfront, physical on the edges, physical runners and a physical receiver.

Dallas had no trouble in Seattle, simply pounding it thru the smaller Seattle defense, and not allowing the Seahawk DB’s to dictate the flow of the game by getting away with grabbing and holding the Dallas receivers all day long.

“We emphasize that more than anything else: Come off the ball, control the line of scrimmage, be a physical team, and everything else will follow.”

No longer does Romo trust himself more than his teammates. He’s more than willing to let others make plays, which has made him a better quarterback.

Romo, who has 45 career 300-yard games, had one this season. The 34 passes he threw against Washington marked just the fifth time he’s thrown more than 30 passes this year.

Finally, Garrett and Romo have figured out less can be more.

It’s winning time and the Cowboys are playing their best football, and the latest version of the Triplets makes these Cowboys a team no one wants to deal with in the playoffs.

Original story here

Why The Packers & Broncos Should Worry

December 29, 2014 by  
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From Greg A Bedard, MMQB

 

Bedard

Why They Should Worry

Every postseason for the past decade, at least one team with a first-round bye has lost its first playoff game. This January, two teams who earned a week off are ripe for a one-and-done postseason

In New England, Seattle, Denver and Green Bay, fans will wake up this morning thinking about how great the bye week will be, a chance for their teams to rest up and then be one victory—a home victory—away from the conference championship, with the Super Bowl to follow. They can almost taste the dry air of Glendale, Ariz., home of Super Bowl XLIX.

But those fans should remember one inescapable fact: The odds are very strong that at least one of those easy-living teams will lose its first game in the playoffs. The 2004 season was the last time the postseason played to chalk, with the two top seeds in each conference holding serve at home. Two teams that earned bye weeks went one-and-done after the 2005, ’07 and ’10 seasons. Three teams kicked rocks in the massacre of ’08.

Good luck trying to find a Seahawks, Patriots, Broncos or Packers fan who thinks his team will be the one bounced early from the dance. In some cases, that involves temporary amnesia.

The 2012 Broncos rolled into the postseason at 13-3 with 11 straight victories. They were facing a Ravens team that they had just hammered less than a month prior—on the road, no less—by a score of 34-17. The result?

Safety Rahim Moore cost the Broncos the game and probably a Super Bowl appearance, with this one unbelievable misplay.

Broncos fell 38-35 in overtime thanks to safety Rahim Moore’s coverage gaffe near the end of regulation. Moore still starts for Denver.

What about the Packers? In 2011, Green Bay was 15-1. They had league MVP Aaron Rodgers steering the ship. And in their first playoff game, the Packers were dumped 37-20 by the Giants at Lambeau Field.

Hakeem Nicks hasn’t made a good catch in 3 years. This one over Woodson to end the first half was a killer.

 

And who could forget about the 2010 Patriots, who finished 14-2, with eight straight victories, including four by 29 points or more? They welcomed the Jets to Gillette Stadium, the same field where New England tattooed Gang Green 45-3 just six weeks earlier. Result? The Jets dominated the Patriots 28-21 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.

The Seahawks have never choked after a bye (they hadn’t had many before last season), so their fans might not be sure what we’re talking about. They will continue on in their (elite) neophyte bliss (ah, newbies).

The Seahawks are the team least likely to go one-and-done after a bye. Unless Detroit upsets Dallas, Seattle will host either the Panthers (7-8-1) or the Cardinals (who could still be on their third-string quarterback). Hard to see Seattle losing at home to Ryan Lindley, and it’s even more difficult to project a Panthers win at CenturyLink Field.

The Patriots would be heavy favorites against the Colts and Bengals, two teams New England already beat this season by a combined 85-37. And while, yes, a Ravens victory over the Steelers would stir up some nauseating nightmares about Playoff Exits Past among the New England faithful, Baltimore doesn’t have near the defense needed to halt Tom Brady and company.

But the other two teams—Green Bay and Denver, in that order—are prime candidates to taste quick defeat.

All things being equal, Denver is the ripest for an upset. Peyton Manning hasn’t played consistently well since before the loss to the Patriots in Week 9, and that could be due to a tired arm, if not an outright injury. The bye week should help get him ready for the divisional round, but all bets are off after that. The formula for beating this version of the Broncos is to stop the run and force Manning to throw the ball more than 40 times. Denver is 2-4 in those games, including the four-interception performance against the Bengals on Dec. 22. Also, the Broncos are 2-3 against other playoff teams (the worst mark among the league’s top four seeds) and haven’t beaten one since Oct. 5, against the Drew Stanton-led Cardinals. Denver is, however, 9-3 against teams that finished .500 or better.

And while a potential matchup against the high-scoring Steelers would be difficult, like the Ravens, this version of the Steelers defense doesn’t approach its predecessors (30th in FootballOutsiders.com DVOA—defense-adjusted value over average—heading into Week 17) and would have difficulty holding serve against Manning. An upset is certainly a possibility, but less so than the chances of a Packers loss.

The Original Triplets eliminated the MVP Favre and the Packers 3-straight playoffs, from 1993-1995.

 

Since the Thanksgiving blowout loss against the Eagles, the Cowboys are scoring an average of 41.3 points and allowing 19.8, and a lot of the games haven’t been that close. Dallas’ defense (22nd in DVOA) would certainly have problems stopping Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ high-octane offense, but the ultimate antidote is a ball-control offense. Few teams can control the clock like the Cowboys, thanks to an outstanding offensive line and running back DeMarco Murray. And Green Bay is still unproven against the better rushing offenses. The Packers have faced four teams ranked in the top 10 for run DVOA (Seattle, New Orleans, Minnesota twice and Miami) and gone 3-2, with two of those victories being squeakers over the Dolphins and Vikings.

The New Triplets -Romo just became the Cowboys all-time passing leader, and beat Rodgers for the 2014 Passer Rating Title. -Murray just eclipsed Emmitt Smith’s Cowboy single-season rushing record. -Bryant just set the Dallas single-season receiving touchdown record. Remember what Julio Jones did at Green Bay on December 8th? Bryant is better, and stronger. And has a better QB and much better RB for the Packers defense to worry about.

Add in the Dallas passing game (Tony Romo finished with a higher passer rating and completion percentage than Rodgers) and the fact that the Cowboys were a perfect 8-0 on the road this season, including a victory at Seattle, and the setup is there for a tremendous matchup, if not an outright upset, if the two teams meet at Lambeau Field.

All four teams that earned postseason byes also earned the confidence that goes along with an excellent regular season. But if the past decade has taught us anything, it’s there are no free rides to the conference title games. Fans in Green Bay and Denver should be bracing themselves for the worst.

Original story here

Tyler Dunne Packers chat Sunday, Dec. 28

December 29, 2014 by  
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From Tyler Dunne, Journal Sentinel

 

 

 

 

~Beat writer Tyler Dunne answered your Packers-Lions questions after the game Sunday.
Q: Ralph hamilton, Joplin mo – Who would you expect the packers to play next?
A: Tyler Dunne – Ralph: How’s it going, everyone? Thanks for staying up late tonight for the Packers chat. Ralph, you have to think it’s the Dallas Cowboys. Really hard to see this Detroit team going into Texas and winning after such a demoralizing loss. The Cowboys are the rare team that could hang with Green Bay drive for drive with those weapons, and for all the good vibes the Packers have out of Sunday, Dallas could head into that divisional round match-up on a 5-game winning streak. It’d be one heck of a game.

Q: Hugo, Honolulu – Hey Tyler, Crazy game- for a minute I thought it was Favre hobbling around the turf throwing strikes! Any thoughts on the offense and how successful it was against the number one run defense? Aloha
A: Tyler Dunne – Hugo: This is the kind of game that further builds a legacy, that’s for certain. Aaron Rodgers injured a different part of that left calf and gritted through it. As he said himself afterward, the big picture was on his mind. A loss meant playing AT Dallas…in six days. A win meant a two-week rest and getting Dallas (or whoever’s the top seed) at home. Who knows if Rodgers could’ve realistically recovered in time for a wild card game? He appeared to be in serious pain. The fact that he has effectively changed his game — a lot of shotgun, a lot of staying in the pocket — and still been playing at this level is remarkable. While the team probably knew this injury was more serious than it let on during the week, one of QB coach Alex Van Pelt’s comments rang true this game: “He knows how to play the game from a lot of different places on the field.” Right now, that’s shimmying inside the pocket.

Q: Rich, Dayton – Thanks for the chat. Was Rodgers’ calf injury the reason he played out of the shotgun the entire second half?
A: Tyler Dunne – Rich: Yes. Rodgers asked McCarthy upon returning to stick to the shotgun.

Q: HC, Carlsbad CA – Cutting right to the chase. What are your thoughts on the Suh incident?
A: Tyler Dunne – HC: Like most, it looked like something we’ve seen from Suh repeatedly through his career. Many times, he’s had incidents like this and decried it as an accident, as playing through a whistle. Remember Suh initially defending the stomp in 2011? One step, maybe, is incidental. But it’s pretty clear that the 305-pounder took two steps on Rodgers’ leg. The offensive linemen hadn’t seen footage of the play, but as T.J. Lang said, “There’s some history there.” If there’s intent, it’s a dirty play on par with everything else he’s been fined for.

Q: Cheesehead Sports Nut, @CheeseheadSN – The Packers ran the ball well early on but oddly seemed to struggle running the ball as the game wore on. Usually rushing yards are gained the opposite way in the NFL with running backs piling up yards in the second half as teams are trying to salt away wins. What are your take aways from their running performance against the best rush defense in the NFL?
A: Tyler Dunne – Cheese: The Lions have been allowing less than 70 yards per game on the ground and Green Bay went for 152 on 38 attempts. That’s a pretty emphatic success here. Against this two-deep look, the Packers needed to gash Detroit early and that’s exactly what they did with Eddie Lacy gaining 67 yards on 11 first-half carries. That success — making the Lions respect the run more — had to help Rodgers in his return, too. When asked by one reporter afterward if it’s safe to say Rodgers doesn’t do what he does if the run game isn’t rolling early, Bryan Bulaga said “I’ll never count out anything he can do but I think it definitely helped. I think we kept a pretty clean pocket for him. He didn’t have to move around too much when he came back in, which is important.” He’s right. The Packers were able to keep Detroit off balance with the run and pass. Rodgers had a MVP-like day but this offensive line has come a long ways since Week 3, too. They mostly manhandled one of the best front fours in football.

Q: sjupton – Starks. Howard Green. Erik Walden. Guys that played outside of themselves late and propelled the ’10 team to a Super Bowl. If we are sitting here a few weeks from now and talking about a win in Glendale-who in your opinion will have stepped up their play exponentially to become a key contributor to another championship team?
A: Tyler Dunne – SJ: Good question. Agree that for any team to make a Super Bowl run, you need those two or three contributors that practically come out of nowhere. Who are those players on this team? Tight end Richard Rodgers played a ton on Sunday. He caught all five passes thrown his way and held up as a blocker — and you might remember him getting beat on that safety in Detroit, too. Possibly, he continues to be a solid third or fourth option for Aaron Rodgers. At some point in the postseason, the kicking game will be a difference one way or another for this team. Seven blocked kicks in one season is beyond bizarre. Not a good trend at all for this team. And Micah Hyde tied a team record with his third punt return for a score. Kick returner DuJuan Harris didn’t even dress on Sunday, too. As Mike McCarthy said this week, the return game takes on a larger emphasis at this point of the season. There’s going to be shorter kicks; more chances at returns. If Hyde makes the first man miss, he gets north quickly. He might be a candidate for your question as well.

Q: Dawg 13, Broken Arrow OK – Not that I’m complaining but do you have any idea why Detroit didn’t use any TO’s with less then 5 minutes to go and down 14? That allowed us to take an additional 2:30 or so off the clock. Almost seems they weren’t concerned about winning or not.
A: Tyler Dunne – Dawg: More than clock management, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Joique Bell and Reggie Bush under-utilized in the run game. Yeah, the Lions had to flip into a 2-minute mode after the Packers went ahead 28-14, but even before that the Lions had abandoned a productive rushing attack. Bell was bouncing off defenders to the tune of 5.3 yards per carry in the first half and then had two attempts in the second. Bush had 34 total yards on four touches in the first half. Yet the Lions kept on throwing and Matthew Stafford had more incompletions (21) than completions (20).

Q: Steve, West Des Moines, IA – Tyler, not the first time Brad Jones has committed BAD penalties at the worst possible time – wouldn’t cutting him first thing tomorrow send a message? Fine line on playing aggressive but that was TERRIBLE. Do coaches warn players about repeating boneheaded stuff or do they just let it go? I just can’t understand how Jones could think he’d get away with a blatant and unnecessary helmet slap on a QB in today’s NFL.
A: Tyler Dunne – Steve: That was a huge penalty and Brad Jones has certainly had a handful of those in his limited snaps this season (at Seattle, Miami). Dont think youll see the Packers outright cut Brad Jones any time soon. Theyve stood by him before and defensive coordinator Dom Capers has said multiple times that he likes Jones ability to rush. All players today know they cant smack a quarterback in the head. A major gaffe at the worst time here. Jones playing time has fluctuated all year, so maybe the Packers do go with someone else in that role. I just wouldn’t hold your breath. Capers likes using so many different linebackers in his packages. Don’t know if they’d want to double-up somebody else as the dime.

Q: Mike, Evansville, IN – What a gritty performance by Our MVP! Do you see the NFL suspending Suh for their playoff game for stepping on Rodgers? What would be the key for the Packers to avenge their opening day loss to Seattle if we meet them up there again for the NFC Championship? Even though it would have been nice to gain home field advantage throughout the playoffs, don’t you think a win in Seattle would seem sweeter?
A: Tyler Dunne – Mike: The Seahawks have allowed 39 points in their last 6 games (that is an average of 6 1/2 points per game).
OK, so they played Ryan Lindley and Colin Kaepernick. That’s still an insane number. Right now, they’re still the favorite. Do think the way the Packers’ offensive line is playing right now gives you reason to think a return to Century Link Field goes differently this time.

Q: Brad, Missouri – It seems like our d-backs played pretty well today, what say you Mr. Dunne?
A: Tyler Dunne – Brad: You can call me Tyler. Don’t let this receding hairline fool you! Yeah, Calvin Johnson did score two touchdowns but this is probably the best the Packers have contained Megatron in a while. He did get behind the Packers’ secondary once deep and Matthew Stafford overthrew the receiver on a would-be TD. But he finished with only 39 yards on 11 targets. Green Bay will take that. Tramon Williams did a nice job of positioning and leveraging routes, not letting Johnson get to his desired spots.

Q: Steve – Adams was running free on a couple of routes, Boykin was open on the slant in the endzone in the first series, but Rodgers didn’t throw to either today. Is is a case of him losing confidence in them and waiting for those he know can catch to come open?
A: Tyler Dunne – Steve: Probably a combination of progressions and trust. Adams’ two drops last week surely didn’t help his cause and Boykin hasn’t really been involved much all season. The Packers only had 23 pass attempts, so there weren’t a ton of opportunities. But did notice the open Boykin. The Packers finally started punching in those red-zone opportunities Sunday. After stalling at the 1-yard line in the first half, they were 6 of 17 in the red zone in their last four-plus games.

Q: Bart, Rhinelander – Hey Tyler, Appreciate your burning the midnight oil on game day, which undoubtedly is already a long one for you. My comment is on Brad Jones. Beyond the penalty that sustained a scoring drive for Detroit (I recall that this is the second such offense for Jones this year) using him as the dime linebacker absolutely perplexes me. He’s not good in coverage, he’s fair at best on open field tackles and unless nobody touches him, he has little chance of reaching the quarterback. I know we are thin at inside linebacker, so wouldn’t Sean Richardson be a much better option from both a coverage and tackling standpoint? That’s outside the box, but Dom is noted for going there… your thoughts?! Thanks Man!
A: Tyler Dunne – Bart: Thanks a lot. Capers has been using Sean Richardson more and could, theoretically, get creative there. But don’t think they’re going to do anything radical defensively at this point. Jones was playing better after getting thrown back into the defense. At Buffalo, in his 11 snaps, he ended three drives. He took down receivers short of the market twice with open-field tackles and then broke up a third-down pass to Fred Jackson. So even though we’ve got dozens upon dozens of Jones-related questions in tonight’s chat, I’m not sure they’ll bench him after one hand to the QB’s head. The Packers like the fact that he can cover and blitz in that role, and as Capers has said they want to use as many different players as possible.

Q: BigFatFloridaGreek, Safety Harbor, FL via Milwaukee, WI – Suh is just a lousy, despicable human being. Tyler, How much do you wanna bet 1) he denies it was intentional (it most certainly was) 2) the wrist slap Suh gets from the league won’t be nearly enough?
A: Tyler Dunne – Big Fat: We don’t know what Ndamukong Suh was thinking on the play because he didn’t speak to Detroit reporters. As far as league punishment, given his history, you have to think anything’s possible.

Q: Danl, Expat Milwaukeean – Here’s my Suh question: Football seems like a game where these guys likely step on each other all the time, still it’s only the guys in Detroit who get caught on film doing it?
A: Tyler Dunne – Danl: I think players know where that line is. There’s not as much gray area as you’d think in this game. This play kind was something like a hockey player hip-checking a another into the boards when that player’s skating to the bench. Yeah, players do get stepped on, but not like this. Suh took two steps back into Rodgers after the play. Only Suh knows what Suh was thinking, but Step No. 2 alone could lead to discipline from the NFL.

Q: Dave Piskorski, Mounds View, MN – The offensive line has been playing at a very high level, both in the run game and giving Rodgers time to throw. The O-line may be the best chance GB has in advancing into the playoffs. With Lacey running the ball at 5 yards a carry and Rodgers having time to wait on Nelson and Cobb to get open, GB can definitely play with any of the playoff teams. As much as this pains me, should we all root for Detroit next week against Dallas?
A: Tyler Dunne – Dave: The Lions put this game on their defensive line and the defensive line failed. Aaron Rodgers was hardly touched and Eddie Lacy gashed them early when it mattered most. Not surprisingly, the Lions played both safeties deep. This time, Green Bay took advantage. Suh and Ansah were not factors against a Packers’ offensive line still playing as well as it has under McCarthy. Rodgers had a lot of time in a wide cup of a pocket his 13 second-half pass attempts. You can root for Detroit, but it’ll probably be more of the same in Dallas. Tony Romo’s offensive line has played just as well this season.

Q: Brad, Missouri – Would Carolina or Arizona pose any threat to the Seahawks?
A: Tyler Dunne – No.

Q: Matt, Detroit, MI – Just to clarify, I’m forced (wife) to live in MI and I’m so excited that I don’t have to listen to the lions fan’s for awhile. What is the problem with our blocking on FG attempts. Is it is scheme, is it low kicks by Crosby, something else?
A: Tyler Dunne – Matt: They’ve said it’s the blocking up front, not Crosby’s trajectory. Giving Lang and Sitton a blow on special teams seemed to be a problem early but seven blocks? Two in a season is high. Shawn Slocum talks to us tomorrow, so we’ll more info then.

Q: Jesse, Tahlequah OK – Hey Ty, Great win and Rodgers is Superman. Being 4x in a row division champs is truly dominating our closest rivals. Awesome. BUT… I have to say I don’t like GBs matchups in the playoffs. A likely home game against a power running Dallas team with a good playaction game, and IF they win that, yet ANOTHER trip to Seattle (probably) to face the ground-and-pound LOB. Assuming 90% or higher health for ARod can they get back to the big game? Will they?
A: Tyler Dunne – Jesse: Sure. He’s the one player nobody else in the NFC has. And whether it’s that fake spike at Miami, six touchdowns in one half, edging Tom Brady or this, he’s finding different ways to beat you. His scrambling ability completely taken away — confined to the pocket — he converted crucial third downs. Dallas and Seattle are difficult match-ups for sure. Even though they haven’t played much in the cold this season, Dallas’ big receivers and power rushing attack should be able to travel. The Packers will need Rodgers as close to 100% in two weeks. And Seattle is the obvious favorite at home, but Rodgers probably doesn’t avoid Richard Sherman completely the second time around. Still see the Seahawks as an obvious favorite, but it’s a different Packers offense. Remember, Derek Sherrod played that game.

Q: Michael , Middleton – What exactly is Rodgers injury? We’re all assuming he’ll be fine in two weeks. Is that a good assumption?
A: Tyler Dunne – Michael: Right, he said he injured a different part of his calf. He didn’t simply re-aggravate the same injury. Two weeks help but he’ll keep playing with that heel pad and need a lot of treatment. Hard to say what kind of shape he’ll be in by Jan. 11. … OK, guys. Thanks a lot for chatting tonight. Catch you all soon.

NFL Playoff Schedule

December 28, 2014 by  
Filed under News

Here is the complete schedule for the 2014 NFL playoffs.

Wild-Card Round

• Saturday, Jan. 3: Arizona at Carolina, 4:35 p.m. ET (ESPN)

• Saturday, Jan. 3: Baltimore at Pittsburgh, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)

• Sunday, Jan. 4: Cincinnati at Indianapolis, 1:05 p.m. ET (CBS)

• Sunday, Jan. 4: Detroit at Dallas, 4:40 p.m. ET (FOX)

 

Divisional Round

• Saturday, Jan. 10: TBD at New England, 4:35 p.m. ET (NBC)

• Saturday, Jan. 10: TBD at Seattle, 8:15 p.m. ET (FOX)

• Sunday, Jan. 11: *Dallas at Green Bay, 12:05 p.m. CT (FOX)

 

• Sunday, Jan. 11: TBD at Denver, 4:40 p.m. ET (CBS)

 

Conference Championships

• NFC title game: Sunday, Jan. 18, 2:05 p.m. CT at *Seattle (FOX)
seahawk-ANTI3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• AFC title game: Sunday, Jan. 18, 6:40 p.m. ET (CBS)

 

Super Bowl XLIX

• Sunday, Feb. 1, 5:30 p.m. CT (NBC), University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona

 

* My projections, betting favorites.

Wounded Aaron Rodgers leads Packers to fourth straight NFC North title as Packers defeat Lions 30-20

December 28, 2014 by  
Filed under News

Associated Press

~ GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers is limping into the playoffs with a smile.

Green Bay’s franchise quarterback threw two touchdown passes to Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy gashed Detroit’s defense for 100 yards and the Packers claimed a fourth straight NFC North title with 30-20 victory Sunday.
Maligned by a left calf injury, Rodgers will appreciate a week off after the win, as the Packers (12-4) earned a bye. Detroit (11-5) will start the postseason at Dallas next week.
Rodgers was carted to the locker room after tossing his first score to Cobb late in the second quarter.

Rodgers throws a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, as he re-injured the leg. AP Photo Tom Lynn

Rodgers throws a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, as he re-injured the leg. AP Photo Tom Lynn

He hobbled back on to the field in the third quarter with the game tied at 14. He led Green Bay on a seven-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard score to Cobb with 3:33 left in the quarter. The Packers didn’t look back from there.

The Packers 14-0 lead that Rodgers helped get the Packers out to had erased, and was 14-14 when Rodgers was able to return, after one crappy Matt Flynn-led drive.  -AP Tom Lynn photo

The Packers 14-0 lead that Rodgers helped get the Packers out to had erased, and was 14-14 when Rodgers was able to return, after one crappy Matt Flynn-led drive.
-AP Tom Lynn photo

Rodgers plunged forward across the goal line from 1 yard out with 8:45 left to help Green Bay regain a two-touchdown lead. “MVP! MVP” chanted adoring fans while light snow dusted Lambeau Field.
Rodgers finished 17 of 22 for 226 yards. He was out of the game for about a 7-minute stretch between the second and third quarters. In between, receiver Calvin Johnson had touchdown catches of 4 and 20 yards on consecutive drives to help the Lions roar back from a 14-0 deficit.
Detroit hasn’t won a division title since 1993. It hasn’t won a road game against the Packers since 1991. For a few moments while Rodgers was out, it looked like both those streaks might come to an end.

Eddie Lacy became the first RB this year to hit 100 yards on the Lions vaunted run defense.  Photo Chris Graythen, Getty Images

Eddie Lacy became the first RB this year to hit 100 yards on the Lions vaunted run defense.
Photo Chris Graythen, Getty Images

Instead the Packers were celebrating again at Lambeau Field. They finished the regular season 8-0 at home.
The Lions did draw to within 30-20 with 1:45 left after Matthew Stafford connected with Theo Riddick for a 6-yard touchdown pass. But Riddick’s 2-point conversion run failed, Tramon Williams recovered the ensuing onside kick and Green Bay ran out the clock.
Stafford finished 20 of 41 for 217 yards, while Johnson had four catches for 39 yards.
The Lions head home at least with the comfort that they had clinched playoff berth regardless of Sunday’s outcome. It’s just the second playoff appearance since 2000 for the often-forlorn franchise.
They could have accomplished so much more if not for some painful mistakes.
After blocking Mason Crosby’s 52-yard field goal attempt, the Lions lost the ball when Stafford fumbled on what looked like an aborted handoff to Joique Bell. Morgan Burnett recovered at the Detroit 42 with 13:28 left in the game.

Mordan Burnett recovers a Lions fumble when the score was 21-14 Packers. That was the service break the Packers needed to open it up to a two score lead, which the Packers did. -AP Tom Lynn photo

Mordan Burnett recovers a Lions fumble when the score was 21-14 Packers. That was the service break the Packers needed to open it up to a two score lead, which the Packers did.
-AP Tom Lynn photo

The Packers cashed in with Rodgers’ 1-yard sneak into the end zone on their next drive.
Rodgers felt more pain later in the quarter after Detroit’s 305-pound defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh, stumbled back and stepped on Rodgers’ left ankle while the quarterback was on the ground at the end of a play. There was no penalty, and Rodgers tried to shove Suh back as the defender walked away.
The Packers ended up walking away with another division title. They tacked on a safety after Stafford was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone after being pressured by end Datone Jones late in the fourth quarter.
The miscues came early, too, for Detroit.
The Lions stuffed Lacy on fourth-and-goal from the 1 in the first quarter. They forced Lacy to fumble early in the second quarter deep in Detroit territory.

Micah Hyde takes a punt back 55 yards for a touchdown to open up the scoring. -Photo AP Mike Lynn

Micah Hyde takes a punt back 55 yards for a touchdown to open up the scoring.
-Photo AP Tom Lynn

But five penalties maligned the Lions in the first half, when their average drive started on their own 14. The short field worked to Green Bay’s advantage when Micah Hyde returned a punt 55 yards to the end zone with 4:49 left in the first quarter to open the scoring.

AP Tom Lynn photo

AP Tom Lynn photo

ESPN story here

Robert Zizzo’s chat: What will Packers-Lions II bring?

December 27, 2014 by  
Filed under News

From Robert Zizzo, PackersNews.com

Zizzo

~Happy Friday everyone. It’s time to chat about the Packers.
Robert Zizzo fielded Packers questions and comments in a chat on Friday afternoon. To learn more, read the replay.

 

 

 

 

Robert Zizzo
Happy Friday everyone. It’s time to chat about the Packers.
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about 21 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
Here’s the injury report, via Weston Hodkiewicz: 

Out: CB Davon House (did not participate, shoulder)

Probable: QB Aaron Rodgers (limited, calf), G T.J. Lang (limited, ankle), G Josh Sitton (limited, toe), LB Clay Matthews (limited, biceps), OLB Mike Neal (full, abdomen)

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about 21 hours ago
Comment From I am Groot
I am Groot
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about 21 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
Hi Groot. I am Robert
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about 21 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
FYI … Mike McCarthy said Aaron Rodgers did everything expected of him at practice today. Final test will come tomorrow.
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about 21 hours ago
Comment From J. Skaar
The Packers have had trouble against teams that can rush with just four and drop the rest into coverage (Seattle, Buffalo, Detroit in week 3) What can the offense do to counteract those kind of teams heading towards Sunday and the playoffs
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about 21 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
Very true. They have to be patient. Try to establish Eddie Lacy early running the ball or short passes out of the backfield. They’ll have a lot of opportunities on underneath routes. When they get a rare chance at a big pass play, they have to connect (see Jordy Nelson vs. Buffalo). But patience is the key. Take what they’re given and don’t force anything.
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about 21 hours ago
Comment From NJPackerfan
Do you see anyway Packers can beat Seahawks in Seattle? Having a tough time figuring that one out
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about 21 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
There is a way, but it’s kind of like they would beat the Seahawks in Seattle 39 times out of 100. The key to success will be much like I just described above. Patience, not turning over the ball, hitting the big plays when they present themselves and having luck on their side.
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about 21 hours ago
Comment From Justin
Hi Robert, This offensive line for the Packers seems to be a lot better than it was in week 3. Do you think detroit’s defensive line will still have the same impact as it did in the previous matchup?
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about 21 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
It looks like defensive tackle Nick Fairley won’t play Sunday, which would be a break for the Packers. Fairley and Suh are a difficult combo to block.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From J. Skaar
What’s the word on Eddy Lacy and his hip?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
He appears to be fine. He wasn’t listed on the injury report this week.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From NJPackerfan
Agreed that’s what makes their performance in Buffalo more astounding. I would reverse those odds if the game where in Lambeau
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I would, too. The crowd noise on the road offers many challenges, including their offensive line getting off the snap just that much quicker.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From msc11
Do you buy that the Lions are truly concerned about playing in the cold?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
No, I don’t. Even though they play games indoors, they still live in the cold. If a team like New Orleans or Atlanta was coming up here this weekend, I think that would be a legit concern for them.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Bongo
I think this a good chance for the Special teams to outplay the Lions. The are not good at covering kicks and have had kicking issues this year and now come outdoors.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I agree and Mike McCarthy mentioned in his news conference that he was looking for the return game to improve this weekend. The Lions allow more than 28 yards per kick return, so maybe DuJuan Harris has a couple of returns of significance.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From J. Skaar
How/why does Joique Bell get so much love from the national media and Fantasy “experts”? From what I have seen of him in the last three years, he is a very average running back.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
He’s a punishing runner, sort of Marshawn Lynch Lite. Those are the types or running backs the Packers have had trouble with this season. They’ve played fairly well against his complement, Reggie Bush, who relies more on speed and quickness.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Tony
In week 3, the Packers looked out matched across the board. The Lions looked like world beaters.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
True. But things change in the NFL from week to week, much less from Week 3 to Week 17. I don’t think you’ll see the same matchup. Plus, this is a home game for the Packers, who have played so much better there than on the road.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Tony
What would be different this time around ?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
Home field for Green Bay. Offensive line has played together most of the year. Eddie Lacy has run much better in the second half of the season. The defense has evolved, with Clay Matthews playing inside linebacker in the nickel defense, which they play the majority of the time. There are a lot of differences from Week 3.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Bongo
The absence of Raiola I think will give Capers and company to show them some things upfront that may confuse the Lions O-line and get some opportunities on Stafford.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
For as much as Dominic Raiola is hated by some fans around the league, he’s an anchor for that offensive line. He’s smart and tough, a rare combination. I’m not sure how his replacement will fare, but it’s safe to say he’ll be tested by Dom Capers.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From NJPackerfan
It’s not going to be that cold Sunday unfortunately
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
Not cold unless you’re sitting on aluminum bleachers for 3.5 hours.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Bongo
The knock on both Cutler and Favre was be patient, they will throw one up for grabs during the game, you just need to catch it. Don’t you think Stafford has earned that label as well?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I do. He’ll often throw a pass off his back foot while being rushed from the interior. He’s had 12 interceptions this season, which isn’t necessarily a lot, but often they could have been avoided by being patient and taking a sack or throwing the ball away. My guess is that he’ll throw an interception Sunday.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Craig
Only real concern I have about this game is the poor play of our special teams. masthay seems to have forgotten how to punt and there is a penalty on every return. Nothing ever seems to change. Maybe it takes a big game loss for slocum to get the axe? Thoughts?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I agree with your assessment of their performance this year. Too many special teams penalties, Tim Masthay has been more inconsistent than he’s ever been and too many blocked kicks/punts. Mike McCarthy made a move this past offseason to try to fix the unit when he fired Morton and hired Zook. There doesn’t seem to have been improvement. Whether Slocum is next remains to be seen, but I think many of the problems have been execution not scheme.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From J. Skaar
Following up on the “overrated” category: What is happening with Matthew Stafford this season? With a head coach like Jim Caldwell, I would have expected him to have a career year, instead only has 19 TDs and 12 INTs.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I think part of the problem is that Calvin Johnson has played only 12 of 15 games this season and Reggie Bush has played only 10 of 15. So there’s been a lot more pressure on Stafford to produce without all his weapons. That said, I would have expected a bigger year, too, after defensive-minded Jim Schwartz was let go.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Craig
Are you related to Rico Zizzo?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I had a dog named Rico once.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
BTW, those 300 standing room-only tickets were sold out in 15 minutes earlier today.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Bongo
Who is the X-factor or the one that has to step up for Detroit or make it 0 for its last 24? They really don’t have many explosive weapons.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
If Calvin Johnson is healthy, he can take over a game. Matthew Stafford could throw up a bunch of jump balls and Johnson could come down with a couple of them for long gains/touchdowns and it could be a long day for the Packers’ secondary.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Justin
Some teams like Seattle use their key players on special teams (see Richard Sherman). Do you think the packers should do this in the playoffs for better execution?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I think they will. Expect to see more Randall Cobb on kick and punt returns during the playoffs. Regarding the coverage units, they already use starters Sam Shields, Morgan Burnett and Andrew Quarless quite a bit.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Bongo
I really am not concerned about this game. Win the turnover battle and it is at least a 10 point victory. Things are a lot different today than week 3. Just look at what New England did to Detroit at home a few weeks ago.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I agree that if they win the turnover battle, they should win. But I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t be concerned about this game. Look at what happened at Buffalo. On paper, the Packers should have won that game without much problem. But things don’t always turn out the way they should on paper. You can look at the Lions’ losing streak in Wisconsin two ways: 1. Never bet against a streak. 2. They might have their most-talented team since the streak started and one that has a lot to play for.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From J. Skaar
I’ve been trying to keep the frame of mind that the Buffalo game is reflective of the New England game from the 2010 season, where a late season loss kind of put things in perspective for the team and they rallied and won the Super Bowl. How far off do you think this team is from a Super Bowl? Besides a lucky detour out of Seattle.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I definitely think the Packers are in the Super Bowl conversation. They have one of, if not the, best offenses in the NFL. They have the best quarterback in the NFL. They have an improving defense that could be peaking at the right time. They have experience at key positions. They have a stable structure. But … they also have special teams units that have played poorly at times. They don’t have a dominating defense. And, as you said, they have a big roadblock at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Can GBs o produce …
Publicly, Coach MM is saying AR will be fine. But we all know they’re not going to publicize any real limits he has. So…. can the o move the sticks & put it in the end zone if AR can’t scramble well?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
A 100 percent healthy Aaron Rodgers playing at home against any defense can move the sticks and put the ball in the end zone. That’s been proven. An 80 percent healthy Rodgers still is better than 90 percent of the quarterbacks in the NFL. I don’t think this type of injury impacts his scrambling ability as much as it impacts his ability to escape the rush, that is feel a defender getting close and making the quick move to elude him. Against the Lions, that difference could be big.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Always Thinking
Can packers win this game without using some unscouted looks on offense as well as defense? My guess is that we need one or two big plays form each to win this game. Can MM deliver?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
Since they’re in the playoffs already, I don’t think they’ll use a lot of unscouted looks. They’ll want to save any of those for the playoffs, where you win or go home. But, along with the homefield advantage, they should have enough talent to win this game. Part of their normal game plan is to hit one or two big plays each game, which they failed to do in Buffalo.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Craig
McCarthy doesn’t seem to use the screen pass much. I think it would be useful in this game against an opponent with a strong rush. Does anyone know why it hasn’t been used more?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
The Packers used the screen game effectively in the middle of the season but not much since. I agree, though, that it is most effective against the type of defense Detroit plays: hard pressure from the front seven and physical cornerback play.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Bongo
Looking ahead, it seems a lot of Packer Fans are scared of Seattle. I think that first game the approach was conservative against Sherman and a play not to lose feel, especially starting a rookie at center then losing Bulaga and things seem to unravel. I think this team can go in there and win by stopping the run and making wilson beat you with his arm.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I definitely think the Packers CAN win in Seattle. It’s certainly not impossible, but I think the chances are relatively low because of how talented the Seahawks are, how well they match up against the Packers and how well they’ve traditionally played at home. Certainly there is a way to beat them (in fact, Pete Dougherty will have a story in Sunday’s paper that tries to dissect that).
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Eric
Hi Robert, I think the difference in this game against the Lions and the game in Detriot in September will be the Packers defense (targeting of) the Lions right tackle and of course the rookie center. I see lots of pressure by the Packers at those two positions forcing Stafford into mistakes because he loves to throw the ball up to cj. Someone needs to tell shields to stop peeking in the back field and make tackle so. Your thoughts?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
The Packers, like all NFL teams, game plan to attack the opponents’ weak spots. If they feel the rookie center can be compromised, they’ll attack up the middle with Clay Matthews and Sam Barrington. That’s what Seattle did against Corey Linsley in the opener.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Justin
I’ve been looking ahead to the offseason signings. Ted Thompson has shown that he does not like to resign players over 30 years of age too often. Plus Randall Cobb( among others) will need to be resigned. With all that said, do you think Tramon Williams is playing his last year as a Packer?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
You’re right. Ted Thompson’s philosophy is much like Branch Rickey’s and Ron Wolf’s: better to let someone go one year early than one year late. I think Tramon Williams’ future in Green Bay depends on three things: 1. How much less he’s willing to sign for to stay in Green Bay. 2. How comfortable do the Packers feel that they can re-sign Davon House at a reasonable number. 3. If they accomplish No. 2, how confident are they that House can stay relatively injury free.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Kimberly
How do you see the Packers doing this Sunday
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I think they win, but I’m not very confident about that pick.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Kimberly
what matchups should we watch for in the game?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
Packers offensive line vs. Lions defensive line. Packers cornerbacks vs. Lions receivers.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From J. Skaar
How close is the MVP race between Romo and Rodgers?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
It’s gotten a lot closer in the past couple of weeks. It might come down to this week.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Bongo
Again, don’t count the Rams out. They play Seattle tough and have beat them this year already. The Pack can still get the top seed.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
All of that is true, although not likely.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Matthew
Thanks for the chat, in regards to Matthews, is it helping him with injuries since he is off the line of scrimmage and not constantly pounding against those big OL. I think this has been one of his first years since 2011 that he hasn’t missed any games
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I agree it’s been one of his best years, he’s been able to show how instinctive he is against the run game. It’s allowed him to get a better look at the offense from all angles. I don’t think, though, that it’s had any affect on his injuries. He’s been struggling with a biceps injury despite moving inside for more than half the snaps.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From J. Skaar
Bongo seems to be forgetting that Russell Wilson can beat you with his legs as well as his arm. Green Bay has had trouble stopping those kinds of QBs in the playoffs the last three years.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
That’s true, Colin Kaepernick has been the Packers’ Kryptonite. With Wilson, I think it’s a matter of building a wall and keeping him in the pocket, forcing him to beat you with his arm.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Guest
Ok, So the Detroit defensive line is good, but lets start talking about our offensive line. I have been an avid Packers fan now for 48 years and I must say this is one of the greatest offensive lines the Packers have ever had. They are solid with minimal penalties. I will take our offensive line any day over the Detroit defensive front. When I watch AR drop into the pocket, he more than likely has 5 seconds or more to go thru all of his reads. That is unreal. Congrats on a great season! Go Pack Go!!!!
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I agree that this has been one of their best offensive lines in years. But in this NFL, a superior defensive line is better to have than a superior offensive line, in my opinion. Especially against a quarterback like Rodgers, who has some trouble when a defensive line can get pressure from the interior.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Pat from La Crosse
During the Bills game there was an awful lot of dropped balls that were really surprising. Do you think that was just a fluke or was there another reason for it? Like balls being thrown harder than normal or over/underthrown?
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
I tend to think it was a fluke. Two things about the Bills game: 1. Jordy Nelson will catch that pass 99 times out of 100. 2. The Bills were able to rush four effectively, which meant at least one extra defender than normal was back in coverage. That made Aaron Rodgers have to be even more precise than he normally is.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From joe
is jc tretter the new swing tackle, and if so, with Barclay coming back next year, do we keep bulaga
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
Yes, I think Tretter can be the new Barclay, but I don’t think that plays as much into whether to keep Bulaga next year. If the Packers can re-sign Bulaga at a price they’re comfortable with, then keep all three. Barclay and Tretter could be the only backups needed on the offensive line as they’d have all five spots covereed.
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about 20 hours ago
Comment From Bongo
Bongo doesn’t seem to forget that. I can think of several QB’s that can beat you with his legs when they break containment….Including Aaron Rodgers.
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about 20 hours ago
Robert Zizzo
OK, folks. With that, I’ll say goodbye. Thanks again for participating. Look for my tailgate Tweets (@RobertZizzo) before the game. Watch Wes, Pete and Ryan on GameDay LIVE starting at 1:30 and another postgame chat immediately following the game.

 

 

Twas the Day After Christmas: Lori Nickel Packers chat

December 27, 2014 by  
Filed under News

From LORI NICKEL, Journal Sentinel

~Journal Sentinel Packers beat reporter Lori Nickel answered questions in a Friday chat.

  • Q: steve, Madison – Hi Lori, I hope you and your family had a nice Christmas. I get how older players can hit a wall and regress but how can younger players like Bostick and Boykin regress? Thanks
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Steve, Christmas was great, and same to you. Thank you and everyone else for participating in this chat. I’m filling in for Bob McGinn this week. Chat was supposed to start at noon, but I’m going to start early because Mike McCarthy talks at 12:30, hope that’s OK. Let’s get started. After reading your question, I wanted to check a few stats first, out of curiosity. ~ Jordy Nelson has been targeted 143 times in 2014; Randall Cobb has been targeted 121 times; and Eddie Lacy has carried the ball 220 times. That’s 484 plays over the course of the season, or an average of 32 a game. The Packers have 939 offensive plays this year, or about 63 a game. ~ So, about half of all of the offensive plays are going to The Big Three (32 of 63). That makes it extremely competitive for James Starks, Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers and Davante Adams to fight for what’s left. And don’t forget about Aaron Rodgers’ 41 carries this season as a running back. ~ Those are all proven players and the rookie Adams is a high draft pick. They’re going to get their minutes, looks and plays in the big book. Now, also consider that Green Bay has remained healthy this year. Guys haven’t missed significant game or practice time with injuries. (Hallelujah!) ~ Is it possible with that you are seeing the Packers play primarily with this strong nucleus? And that other guys have been on the outside, looking in? I think so. Consider young receiver Myles White. Did he regress? Or is he on the practice squad this year after playing in seven games last year simply because of numbers and health? Having said that, we do know from Tom Silverstein’s reporting that Bostick hasn’t mastered all the tight end assignments and TEs coach Jerry Fontenot refuses to put him on the field until he does. “I need to feel more comfortable with the things we’re doing in practice,” Fontenot told Silverstein. “I need to see that he’s making split-second decisions, the right decisions. We’re still getting there.” I also wonder if Bostick and Boykin are the kind of players who do better if they get involved in the game earlier. Or more frequently. Jermichael Finley, if I recall, was a little like that. It is very hard to just jump in for one play when it is well known it will likely b the only play for the game. That can affect not only the performance of these guys in the game – but also their attitude, and approach, in practice. We all saw them this training camp. We see the physical talent is there. This, to me, from the outside, all looks mental – and understandable to a degree.

 

  • Q: michael, R Richland Hills, tx – I have heard Janis isn’t a great route runner, but there must be a package of routes he can run and his return work on special teams should help get him on the field. Do you think he will play this year, and if not, why not? The packers are getting nothing from Boykin.
  • A: Lori Nickel – Janis was fun to watch in camp and he’s obviously tough as heck to overcome shingles and just make this team in the first place. But I don’t see what benefit there would be to having him play much right now, just because of all the reasons I gave to Steve in the previous answer.

    Jeff Janis used his deceptive speed to get behind the Kansas City Chiefs for a touchdown in the final preseason game on August 28th at Lambeau Field. It’s very puzzling why he’s not been active for any games in a long time.

 

  • Q: Alice from Ormond Beach – Hi Lori, Merry Christmas and thanks for talking Packers with us on Boxing Day. Can the team afford to let Randall Cobb go as a FA? I think he should Jordy size money if necessary. If you agree. who is the next most important player to lock up?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Alice and same to you. The cruel result of how Green Bay has run things under Ted Thompson is that they can afford to let receivers go. Green Bay has survived the departures of Greg Jennings and James Jones, and both had incredible talent and contributions to the success (and record books) around here of late. Thompson replaced them with more good WRs. But I think Randall Cobb has some things in his favor. Cobb is very young and Rodgers really trusts him. You have to be a smart receiver to play in this offense and you have to follow directions well; he does that. The coaches really like that Cobb is tough, too. He is your shifty, nimble slot guy. Now, I’m not even sure if this year’s crop of college receivers will be as good as last year – and that may be a big factor in Thompson’s decision – but I am guessing that they will try to keep him around. ~ Meanwhile, Rob Reischel did an excellent free agent story on this just this week for Packers Plus, which you’ll find interesting: ~ http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/cobb-bulaga-top-list-of-off-season-packers-free-agents-b99412558z1-286705541.html

 

  • Q: CoachPlyoGuy, Winona MN – Hi Lori. Thanks doing this! Tom writes frequently about Lambeau Field and the Packer’s comfort level and advantages of playing there. We know that in 2014 the Packers score a lot of points there and not nearly as many on the road. Las Vegas’s odds makers only give the home team 3 points; I’ve heard them say it in interviews on TV. I have vivid memories of the packers Getting drilled at home in January by the Falcons, Giants (2x), and 49ers. Two of those games were under brutal weather conditions that one would think would favor the Packers. So, what’s up with that?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hey Coach Plyo ~ I actually wrote about this for the Packers story today, so nice timing! Aside from what I already wrote in there, I will tell you, the December and January games (and even November) here have been miserable for the Packers in recent years. Awful. In ’09, ’10, ’13, I can remember writing about the nasty temps or heavy snow for the Packers. Temps with a high of zero, stuff like that. And I think living here can actually be a disadvantage sometimes. That’s right. You get SICK OF IT. All that stuff about living in a snow globe and working in the Frozen Tundra and how you get used to it? Bubkus. You don’t get used to a cold car first thing in the morning. Or salt tracked in to stores, homes, offices. The sinus infection from being inside all the time in dry, forced air. The wind that whips around Lambeau and slaps your face like a wet towel. Or the 16 hours a day of pitch black darkness around the Winter Solstice. Brutal. It matters and people who say it doesn’t must not A) live here or B) ever do any kind of regular activity outside (skiing, shoveling not snowblowing, hiking, ice fishing, hunting, or running, jogging or walking, etc). It takes a certain kind of ornery personality to live in these conditions (much less revel in them) and all these Packers from California and the South are in for a real shock. And by south, I mean any city below Bryan Bulaga’s hometown. I think opposing teams, with their non-frozen joints and nothing-to-lose attitude, can actually come in to this Polar Vortex and survive once in awhile because they only have to deal with it for four hours. The whole reverse psychology thing, once in awhile, has relevance, and we’ve had some brutal Januarys for the Packers in the last decade. ~ Now, aside from all that, the Packers have said they want playoff games at home this year anyway. And the temps have been extremely mild in December – just when the Packers took their act on the road. I think it all comes down to this: In 2012 the Packers lost at Seattle in the Fail Mary game, and when it was all said and done, ended up with just one home playoff game against the Vikings. I wonder if the Packers think it cost them the home field advantage and the Super Bowl that year. Wicked winters or not, home teams win more often than not and Green Bay wants other teams to come in here and beat them because they’ve been on fire here all year.

 

  • Q: Barbara, Marion, WI – Lori, Since the Packers have launched the “Get Loud Lambeau” campaign for this week’s game, (& yes, gloves & mittens negate the clapping sounds), why don’t they give the fans some type of noisemaker gadget? Are there rules about what they can give out as fans are coming in to Lambeau? Thanks~
  • A: Lori Nickel – Barbara, really good point in the gloves and mittens… I have never heard of any rules but I am sure there are some regarding horns or whatever. Still, a great idea on your part.

 

  • Q: Lennie Durow, San Diego – Hey, Lori. Hope you had a great Christmas and thanks for taking our questions. Please tell us the recent increase in John Kuhns touches doesn’t mean MM will once again hand the ball off to him in the playoffs with his drive stopping 3rd and 3 situations where kuhn gains 1/2 yard. I know the fans love yelling “Kuhn” but the 1-2 carries we give him in big playoff games year after year never work.
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hey Lennie – Same to you, I hope you had a nice holiday. We know McCarthy likes that call and Kuhn has the full trust of Aaron Rodgers. One of those four carries against Tampa seemed to have the element of surprise. And James Starks just couldn’t get it rolling that day (7 rushes for 3 yards total). I wouldn’t be surprised with Kuhn getting the carry once in awhile, but yeah, I’m sure everyone wants the ball in Lacy’s hands now going forward for as much as possible. Including John.

 

  • Q: jim, cumberland – with rodgers being hobbled somewhat one would hope that Lacy and Starks will be used more in the run and pass game do you feel that harris will get some more work in the game also thanks Jim
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Jim, no, I don’t. Nothing against Harris. I’m guessing Rodgers will play though whatever is bothering him and two backs in this offense is more than enough.

 

  • Q: Jeff Delvaux, Altoona, Iowa – Six years in a row into the playoffs. One of the things I haven’t read about is the raid on our front office, especially in the personnel department, that is, John Dorsey, Reggie McKenzie and John Schneider. Yet, we’ve been picking in the 20’s in the draft for at least 7 of 8 years. Doesn’t that say a lot about Thompson’s ability to find very good players and McCarthy’s coaches making these guy’s so competitive year after year. Of course, I know it starts with Rodgers. But I’d like to hear what you see and how we’ve survived to be a contender despite this philosophy which isn’t unique to GB but not followed by many teams it seems.
  • A: Lori Nickel – You’re right. And, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have spoiled the fans. This just doesn’t happen, typically, and it should be really impossible for a small market team. Ask your friends in Michigan, South Florida – shoot, even San Francisco – if they’d take a run like this in their lifetime, much less immediately after the Favre era. Tom Silverstein wrote about your topic last year (here is the link:~ http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/packers-long-on-scouting-talent-d38sch6-192417711.html) ~ The thing that I notice is the type of guy that comes in to Green Bay. These guys are pretty boring. They don’t even have one single flashy WR or DB. The best quotes out of that locker room come from the bigs – the linemen, and only after years of service, when they’ve earned it. That means there’s very little drama and that also gives you insight to the personality of the team (starting with McCarthy). This is a very tightly knit group, at least the guys who play and contribute a lot. They don’t trash talk, they don’t grumble on the side. Whatever grievances they have – and they must all have some – they keep private. So, I think while Ted tracks vertical leaps and cone shuttle times and all that on his scout sheet, he looks for teammates first. Football can turn in to a very individual sport on teams that stink, but Green Bay has – in addition to all the things you mention – functioned almost like a college team. All for one, one for all. After that, the staff here has, as you said, made everything work. Huge credit to them.

    Will Randall Cobb follow Jordy’s path and re-sign with the Packers, or will he follow Greg Jennings and take the max money somewhere else? James Jones wanted to stay, but the Packers didn’t try and keep him.

 

  • Q: Jeff, Mercer – Hi Lori, great to see you out here… with all the potential free agents the Packers are going to have do you find it strange to hear Randall Cobb say nothing is happening right now on a deal for him? and on Sunday do you think the Packers will try to pound away more with Lacy or spread the Lions out with 4 or 5 receivers and beat the Lions down the field before the rush gets to Rodgers? thanks…
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Jeff, thank you! I like Randall a lot – but I don’t ever believe anyone, ever, when they say nothing is going on. They have nothing to gain by talking contract stuff right now, nothing but distraction. That would turn in to a media frenzy with weekly check ins because that’s what we have to do as reporters, follow that up. So whether true or not, it is wise of Cobb just to keep quiet. Unless he wants to give me the scoop. Kidding. Cobb really isn’t to that kind of stuff, that’s not his personality anyway. Also: Some guys really do tell their agents they don’t want to hear the day-to-day stuff, too. … As for the game plan, I really think if 12’s leg is OK, they throw like usual and they play uptempo and they wear the defense down. If he’s hobbling, well, they … oh, it is Rodgers. He’ll play through it. Lacy has to factor in to the plan too, of course.

 

  • Q: RP, Boise, ID – Lori, wondering if the lackluster performance by Rodgers the last 2 weeks has something to do with him coming down with the flu in Buffalo and then still recovering in the Buc’s game. I know when I am under the weather my game is off and I don’t have 300 pounders chasing me.
  • A: Lori Nickel – RP, I don’t recall him saying that, but – it makes total sense to me, especially in the Tampa Bay game. You can’t breathe well, so you don’t get the same oxygen in to the body, etc, – that’s a detriment right there. Then there are all the other symptoms that prevent a good night of rest, or digesting nutrition properly, have to play a role. Adrenaline can only overcome so much. And there is something else that’s weird that I have learned, in talking to people like marathon runners and top trainers for other stories I’ve written. They all swear their immune systems are exceptional. They don’t get the regular, common cold stuff; but when they do get sick, they tell me they get really, really sick. I wonder if that’s what happened to 12. Just got clobbered with some super strain of something. Also, it seems like 1/3 of the people around here are sick, ask any teacher or pediatrician. It’s been going around. Thanks for reminding me to take my Echinacea.

 

  • Q: Steve Warnecke, Virginia Beach, VA – How much of a factor will the suspension of Center Raiola play? Will Clay and others have an easier time reaching the pocket?
  • A: Lori Nickel – As soon as I heard of his suspension, I thought, game, set, match, Packers. Green Bay’s defensive line did OK in the first matchup against the Lions. Now Lions rookie Travis Swanson is expected to play center, and the Packers basically sent a Fan Manifesto to Packer nation to be extra loud Sunday so the Lions can’t function on offense. That could affect a play or two. Corey Linsley had some ups and downs at that Seattle game, remember that? Rodgers chewing him out in the second quarter for a bad snap? But I don’t think he had any false starts – so that was good, and a credit to him. We’ll see how Swanson manages in a big game like this, on the road, against a Packers defense that went nuts a week ago. Hello, Clay Matthews, your new Inside Linebacker. Losing Raiola, the Lions also lose a leader – and remember they’re already missing Nick Fairley. He missed practice this week and isn’t expected back. Now, I see that Calvin Johnson has missed some practice time with that ankle. (Although this is from the Detroit Free Press: “Johnson appeared to aggravate the injury in last week’s win over the Chicago Bears, but after taking a few plays off he returned to the field and said after the game his ankle shouldn’t be an issue going forward.”) . … But the real issue will be whether or not Green Bay’s offense had made enough adjustments to play the Lions better this time around. And how Aaron Rodgers’ calf is feeling Sunday.

 

  • Q: Evan, Waukesha – Hope you had a great Christmas, do you think the Lions will use the same scheme they did to cover Nelson and Cobb. If yes, will the Packers try to utilize Davante Adams like they did against the Patriots? He has had a few drops the past two games, does he still have Rodgers’ confidence? Thanks!
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Evan, and same to you. That was not a good day for the WRs. Was it them? Or was it the Lions secondary? After the game, McGinn wrote: “CB Darius Slay has made remarkable strides in his second season. He played like a No. 1 cornerback, brimming with confidence and talent as he contained Nelson.” Cobb was ripped for being mediocre in camp and letting it carry over in to the season. Nelson got nowhere. I would expect to see more from Nelson and Cobb in this game, first of all. That’s the starting point. They should find some single coverage sometime. They shouldn’t have to turn to third and fourth receiver options right away. Adams just needs to get the drops out of his head. Adams had four passes thrown to him at Tampa Bay and (2 catches) and four to him at Buffalo (1 catch), indicating to me that Rodgers has in no way lost confidence in him yet. Watch Aaron sometimes. If a RB fumbles, I swear he gets the ball back in the next play or two 90% of the time. A WR drops? He gets another chance, too. Some drops are physical too. I’ve actually been working on an Adams profile story and you know, the one early he dropped at Tampa Bay was a bullet. He’s still getting used to that from 12. The second one he lost because he was just drilled as the ball came to him; there’s got to be some understanding on the team’s part about that. In fact, some of his teammates have come to his defense big time – especially Nelson – when Adams has been asked about his drop in an otherwise excellent New England game. Nelson tries to intervene with reporter’s questioning. Adams believes then he had earned some of Rodgers’ trust, and Aaron hasn’t stopped going to him since.

    The Lions and Suh dominated the Packers in week three back in Detroit.

    The Lions and Suh dominated the Packers in week three back in Detroit.

 

  • Q: Brian, Sherood – Hi Lori: I’ve often wondered what the players do in the off season for conditioning? Do you think they’re following you into cross-fit, yoga/pilates? Also how prevalent is chiropractic, massage etc for players?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Brian. Funny enough – as popular as yoga has been with several Packers, Jordy Nelson told me recently he hates it. It actually made him feel worse and didn’t help with his flexibility at all. But a lot of players like yoga, starting with Rodgers. I’ve written a few stories on this topic; I hope it is OK that I post the links: ‘Friday schedule change helping players recover from daily grind of NFL’ ~ http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/friday-schedule-change-helping-players-recover-from-daily-grind-of-nfl-b99370815z1-279231032.html ~ ‘At Packers training table, nutrition has become a science’ ~ http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/at-packers-training-table-nutrition-has-become-a-science-b99334746z1-272105681.html

 

  • Q: Dave w, Santa Ana ca – Hi Lori, nice to see you get this opportunity. Do you believe that first year players such as Adams, Rogers, Clinton-Dix etc “hit the wall” at this point. Seems to me that if they aren’t injured, and are getting enough rest and good nutrition, they should be just as effective as the veterans. Agree?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Thanks Dave. Totally agree. But now, it is a mental struggle for rookies. Focus is everything. Now is when the season feels really long. They should almost look at the Lions as a non-division opponent and study. And study. And study.

 

  • Q: jim peddle, az – do the packers ever practice tackeling they suck inthat dept
  • A: Lori Nickel – I had to look. Green Bay has 1,008 tackles this year, 11th in the league. But I know that’s not what you mean. Bottom line? I’ve always wondered if you give up a little in the sound, sure, fundamental part of tackling if you are almost always trying to strip the ball and cause a turnover. Packers have 18 interceptions in the NFL (tied for sixth), just 11 forced fumbles. But they are often going for the ball instead of the ball carrier.

 

  • Q: Jerry, South Australia – Lori, I know it is a big dream, but could you discuss how it would be possible to get a Wisconsin boy back to Green Bay in JJ Watt? I realise that he just signed a 5 year deal, but could it happen?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Jerry – I know. What a great player. From what I hear, the community of Houston adores the guy. But you probably already know the answer…

 

  • Q: Michael, Naples, FL – Thank you for the chat Lori. It appears to me that there is not an NFC play off team that position to position across the roster is any better than the Pack and with several positions are not as good. Will come down to game plan and obviously execution. In your opinion, what is the weak link and primary ares of concern going into play offs?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Michael, I agree. Well, I thought of one, maybe, assuming none of the big playmakers get hurt. I think about physical defenses like Seattle, Buffalo (the line) and most definitely, Detroit. I don’t think Green Bay shies away from the fist fights, but I do think Green Bay’s offense relies on such precision (route running, timing, protection, intelligent players) and can get disrupted when a WR doesn’t get a free release or when Rodgers is picking himself off the ground four, five times a game. Now, Eddie Lacy? Forget it, he’s a snow plow. But defenses that go after Green Bay’s other skill positions with brute force may cause just enough of a disruption beat the Pack.

 

  • Q: Grace from SF, CA – Are your reporting assignments different in scope than the other sport reporters at the JS? If so, how?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Yes, very different. I am no longer a ‘beat’ writer for the Packers. I rarely cover the day-to-day news (who is hurt, who is hot, whose time is next from the practice squad). I’m supposed to come up with features and profiles and story ideas that are unique and original. Sometimes I do, sometimes… Well. That is very challenging, since there are so many good reporters on the beat and it is very competitive. Away from the Packers, I also write sports features and cover games when needed.

 

  • Q: doug g, san Antonio – Hi Lori-great job all year! I am curious about Scott Tolzein. It seemed the battle for #2 was “paper-thin” close. Not only did Tolzein end up being #3, but as far as I can tell, he is never even active. How do you think this might play out next season? MM seems to really like Tolzein, but he is not playing at all. Thanks
  • A: Lori Nickel – Thanks Doug G. I guess when you have two decent backup candidates, you always go with experience when you are in a Super Bowl hunt, and Flynn’s track record is there. While he’s worn green and gold. From Green Bay’s perspective, there is nothing bad about letting Tolzien sit around for a year and learn.

 

  • Q: Dave – CA Packer Fan – When a team is close to their own goal line and the quarterback drops back to pass, but has to scramble and is downed with half of the football beyond the goal line and half of the football behind the goal line is it ruled a safety and if not, where is the ball placed?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Normally, I would ask a coach. I want to say safety but then I looked at the rules below and my brain started to swell. You should ask the other three if you want a real answer, especially Tom, since he does the in-game blogs. Here is the link to the rules if you want: http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/image/rulebook/pdfs/14_Rule11_Scoring.pdf

 

  • Q: PackerPatrick, Folly Beach, SC – Do you think there will be any changes on “Special” Teams this weekends game and the playoffs?
  • A: Lori Nickel – You mean Cobb as punt returner? Mike McCarthy has said he’s going to go with his best, and Cobb is the best. It’s got to be hard to put him out there, but I am sure the coaches (or Cobb) can’t think that way. And basically every game just gets more important from here on out, so why not.

 

  • Q: mark, milwaukee – I have a funny feeling about the game on Sunday vs. Detroit. What are your thoughts on how this game is going to be played?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Whew, good question. I’m waiting on the McCarthy press conference before I make my prediction for the paper. Part of me thinks Packers will run away with it, part of me thinks they could be in real trouble. I like the Lions, fun to watch them this year. I do wonder if the referees let ’em play a little. I hate making predictions…lions sack rodgers 3

 

  • Q: Colleen, Appleton, WI – Hi Lori! Clay Matthews is having a great year. To what degree do you think the change in where he’s playing is responsible for that productivity?
  • A: Lori Nickel – Hi Colleen, thanks you you for the question, we will wrap up here on the chat. Sorry about the weird formatting – every time I used an apostrophe we got ???. I don’t know why. Anyway, I think Clay is having a great year because of that, because he didn’t resist the change and most importantly – he’s been healthy. I hope to write about that for the playoffs. Thanks everyone for your questions and your patience.

Packers receivers know big hits await

December 27, 2014 by  
Filed under News

From TYLER DUNNE, Journal-Sentinel

Twitter: @TyDunne

 

 

 

 

 

 

~Green Bay — He’ll absorb a wincing hit to the left rib cage again. Maybe Sunday. Maybe in the playoffs. And the next time Davante Adams gets drilled by a safety, it’ll sting even more in the cold, the wind, whatever weather strikes northeast Wisconsin.

So when asked if he graded Adams’ incompletion at Tampa Bay last weekend as a “drop,” wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett is direct.

“We expect him to make plays and catch the football,” he said.

‘Tis the season for difficult catches over the middle. No question, the rules have sanitized NFL secondaries. Still, last week was a reminder that more contested catches are coming. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson — in rolling to 179 receptions for 2,640 yards and 23 touchdowns — are track-fast, sure-handed and see what quarterback Aaron Rodgers sees. But they’ve also toughened up at the point of contact.

Green Bay’s top receivers — Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson (87) and Davante Adams — have to be ready for the big hits that are coming Sunday and in the postseason. Photo – Ricky Wood

The rookie Adams remains a work in progress. And catching the ball in traffic is a heightened focus for the tight ends.

Even in 2014, more bruises are looming — from Detroit’s James Ihedigbo this week to maybe Seattle’s Kam Chancellor down the road — for the Packers’ receiving corps.

Everyone probably should take the lead from Nelson and Cobb. Toughness, Bennett said, is “the starting point” for both.

“And then you start looking at all of the other things as far as just that mind-set, that attitude,” Bennett said. “That’s from a physical and mental standpoint — to have that toughness. That’s one of the greatest attributes you can have.”

A case of alligator arms could’ve infected this receiving corps, too. They all witnessed exactly how dangerous their position is on Oct. 20, 2013, the day Jermichael Finley ran a slant route against the Cleveland Browns and was drilled by Tashaun Gipson.

Finley laid motionless on the turf. Went numb. Hasn’t played a down since.

On Friday, this nightmare scenario is replayed to Cobb. Over the middle — any play, any hit — it could be over. Cobb didn’t blink.

“That’s the risk you have to take,” Cobb said, “every time you walk out onto the field.”

So Green Bay’s 1-2 punch operates accordingly. In Tampa, Nelson climbed the ladder for 28 yards on third and 13. From the right slot, he took a linebacker vertical, turned his post route in and knew what was waiting.

A safety.

Nelson extended, took the hit and crashed to the turf. His shoulder pad hanging out over a grass-stained jersey, Nelson signaled “first down” and the Packers offense was finally in business.

Granted, the Ronnie Lott days — heck, the Roy Williams days — are long gone. This hit was JV compared to headhunters of yesteryear. Ask former Packers receiver Antonio Freeman. He suffered seven concussions, a broken forearm and a broken jaw patrolling the middle. After the jaw in 1998, he said he had to drink Ensure and milkshakes through a straw — for 13 days — with Mom in town.

Yes, life is much easier for receivers today. Slants. Crossing routes. Skinny posts. Freeman says safeties would wait to run through you. Still, Freeman knows toughness for all wide receivers is a must this time of year. His mettle in January — 482 yards, five touchdowns — keyed back-to-back Super Bowl runs.

“It’s about getting dirty and sacrificing for your teammates,” Freeman said. “It’s where receivers really make their mark.” Receivers have to take on a different personality — ‘Whatever I need to get done, to win, you have to be willing to do that.’ And with that quarterback in Rodgers, when he sees that type of attitude, he’ll want to get you the ball more.”

The accurate Rodgers, Freeman added, is the best at ball placement, at not hanging receivers out to dry.

However you slice it, hits are coming. The defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks remain fueled with jarring safeties, allowing 33 points over their last five games. The way defenses are playing Green Bay — safeties back, cornerbacks aggressive — the contested ball will become the norm.

Cobb doesn’t remember many walk-the-plank catches from his days at Kentucky. But Bennett said he spotted toughness on the college film. And on those well-orchestrated street-ball extended plays in Green Bay, he’s often open to hits. This after a season-ending leg injury in 2013.

“You know you’re going to take a hit,” Cobb said, “so you might as well catch the ball.”

He says Rodgers “for the most part” puts the ball in the right spot. On a 30-yarder that sealed the win last week, Cobb was in full stride, eyes forward, safety safely away. When this 5-foot-10, 192-pound former college quarterback does get hit, he usually pops up.

“I love his attitude, I love his toughness,” Bennett said. “That’s part of his makeup, that’s part of who he is.”

Said Freeman, “As a punt returner, he took that fearlessness to the offense. He does the dirty work. He has displayed such a toughness for such a small guy.”

Bring up specific plays to Bennett and he pauses, tilts his eyebrows and says this is football. A “contact sport.” To him, all noise around the pass catcher should be irrelevant. Catch the ball. That’s the job description.

In practice, players emulate the on-site collision. Tight ends over-simulate distractions with position coach Jerry Fontenot. For one drill, he has his players clutch and smack and distract a pass catcher as the ball arrives. Throw after throw. No, tight ends haven’t been a top priority in the passing game, but Andrew Quarless did hang onto a 24-yarder when Philadelphia’s Nate Allen dinged him on a third and 18.

“The most important thing is catching the football — forget about everything else,” Fontenot said. “If you do that then everything will take care of itself.”

Like Adams, this remains a process. Like Adams, Quarless could see more opportunities. He has 29 catches for 323 yards on 45 targets. Fontenot said Quarless can still use his body as a shield more often, knowing he’s going to get hit. He tells Quarless, “it’s your ball or nobody’s ball,” and does see improvement in the vet.

Against this coverage, the level of difficulty rises.

“And obviously with playing Detroit — a playoff-caliber team — it’s going to be tight coverage,” Fontenot said. “So it’s all about catching the football and then reacting to what you see.”

A college season would be finishing up right now for Adams. Wisconsin winters are a tad different from Palo Alto, Calif., winters, too. Playoff runs past, Freeman, Nelson, Greg Jennings, James Jones had that thick skin needed over the middle.

While the Packers got away with two Adams drops in Tampa Bay, they may not Sunday. So for Adams, Bennett says it’s about “understanding what’s at stake.”

Wide receivers don’t relish taking hits over the middle. It is, however, part of the job.

“If I have to,” Cobb said. “I will.”

Original story HERE

 

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