2016 December : Packers Insider

Packers Eliminate Vikings 38-25, Setup Showdown in Detroit for NFC North

December 26, 2016 by  
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From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor

~Aaron Rodgers told us back in mid/late November, after the Packers were blown out in Washington for their 4th straight loss dropped them to 4-6, that he felt the Packers could still run the table.

Well, five games later, with one left, Rodgers looks prophetic.

Rodgers carved up the Vikings pass defense in the first half for three passing touchdowns and another on a scramble, as the Packers routed the Vikings and moved to 9-6 on the year.

The win means that the Packers at Detroit game next Sunday Night will decide who the winner of the division is, which would most likely get the #4 seed in the NFC and host the New York Giants in a playoff game.

If the Packers lose, there’s a chance that Washington or Tampa Bay could steal the final playoff spot, that 6th seed. The Packers will be rooting for the Giants to win in Washington.

The Vikings didn’t come close to resembling the team that defeated the Packers back in week two.

Of course, that was in the artificially-loud corporate-named bank Stadium, where the piped-on noise combined with the crazy fan noise gives the Vikings pass rush a significant advantage.

They get none of that at Lambeau Field.

Jordy Nelson showed that if he’s not 100% back from his torn ACL, he’s at least 99% back.

Ty Montgomery’s big runs weren’t there like they were the week before, so Rodgers just passed more, to Nelson, Jared Cook, Davante Adams, and even four big first down catches by undrafted rookie gem Geronimo Allison.

The loss sends the Vikings into another off-season with no ring, and leaves them scratching their heads.

To make matters worse for them, as their losses pile up (remember, they were the NFL’s last unbeaten team at 5-0), their first round draft pick keeps getting higher. Of course, that pick belongs to the Philadelphia Eagles as their GM Rick Spielman sent that pick, plus additional picks, for quarterback Sam Bradford.

That move looked brilliant for the first 5 weeks of the season, especially after Bradford’s debut in week two against the Packers.

The Packers defense made him look like Peyton Manning that night.

It seems, no matter what happens, the Vikings always are on the sideline when the NFC Championship and Super Bowl arrive. They still are in search of their first Super Bowl win ever. And they havent’ even made it to the Super Bowl since the 1970’s.

Packer fans don’t mind all that.

 

Packers defense costing McCarthy, Rodgers again

December 20, 2016 by  
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From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor

~I’m the first one to remind everyone that the Collapse in Seattle was just as much Aaron Rodgers‘ fault as it was anyone else’s, Brandon Bostick excluded.

Rodgers left four easy points on the table when he missed a simple basic short pass for a touchdown to Jordy Nelson.

That miss resulted in an early field goal instead of touchdown.

He also threw two horrible, hard to figure, interceptions that day. One was on a missed call by a ref who should have thrown the flag for offsides, and a free play. But Rodgers, not seeing the flag, still chose to challenge Richard Sherman on the play, to of all people, the rookie Davante Adams.

The other interception Rodgers threw that day was a totally unforced misread to either Cobb or Nelson, on a short pass on first down in field goal range. It went right to a Seattle defensive back for a gift interception and wasted at least three more points.

That was a game in which the defense totally shut down Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch for almost 55 minutes, and had Rodgers been sharp, the game would have been similar to last week’s win over Seattle, 38-10. Had Rodgers just been decent, it still would have been a comfortable win. But those three mistakes alone cost the Packers a minimum of 10 points, and as many as 18.

That bad playoff game aside from Rodgers, he’s also been outplayed by Colin Kaepernick two times.

His other losses in the playoffs, to Kurt Warner in 2010, and Carson Palmer this January, as well as to Eli Manning in 2012, those can’t be pinned on Rodgers. Those were defenses failing, big time.

That Dom Capers defense let Warner throw for more touchdowns than have incomplete passes. Rodgers put up 45 points, but it wasn’t enough.

The defense against the Giants couldn’t get a 3rd down stop in the first quarter, then allowed a hail mary pass to end the first half, a play after a “give-up” run went for enough yards to surprisingly get them into hail mary range.

Actually, the first loss to San Francisco was not Rodgers’ fault either as that defense made Kaepernick look like a future first ballot Hall of Famer. (Careful, not a good memory for Packer fans)

Even the next year’s playoff loss to San Francisco, Micah Hyde had a chance to seal that game with a pick, but it went off his fingertips.

Just like this year in Arizona when the Packers, Sam Shields particularly, let numerous interceptions go through their hands.

The 2011 Packers had the best offense in the league, were 15-1, and coming off a Super Bowl win. They were expected to repeat. But that defense was terrible. It started with letting Cullen Jenkins go, and losing the interior pass rush. It really took a hit when Nick Collins neck was injured by Carolina’s fat running back Jonathan Stewart’s big butt compressing Collins’ neck. That loss was the killer blow.

Just look how bad Seattle’s defense was in week 14 when the Packers lit them up for 38. And last week, Indianapolis carved up the Vikings who were missing their key safety Harrison Smith.

This year, the Packers safeties have magically stayed healthy. Both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett have avoided injuries this season and have played well.

But they aren’t always able to cover up for blown coverages left and right, and down the seams, from backup cornerbacks who are forced to cover #1 and #2 wide receivers now. Or coverup for Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, who have taken steps backwards in year two.

I thought these two guys both had Pro Bowl written all over them, especially Rollins.

For some reason, they’ve been burnt repeatedly this season, starting with week two in Minnesota, where Randall made second year, mid-round pick Stefon Diggs look like Antonio Brown.

The next week, the Packers pass defense made pedestrian journeyman Marvin Jones look like Marvin Harrison in his prime.

We’re used to the Packers defensive backs getting torched by guys like Larry Fitzgerald in the playoffs, or like Julio Jones two years ago, who almost went for 300 yards in Lambeau.

Also, last year, Keenan Allen of the Chargers was about to beat them singlehandedly, until he went out late injured, like Jones did in that Falcons Packers Monday night game that the Packers hung on to win 43-37.

But to the point, and that’s this year’s edition of Dom Capers’ defense.

This year’s defense started bad by making Sam Bradford, in his first ever start for the Vikings, look like Peyton Manning, Randall couldn’t cover Stefon Diggs.

The following week, the Packers offense put up 30 in the first half, but the defense allowed Marvin Jones to blossom into Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison in the second half and almost steal that game for the Lions.

Later, the Packers defense set dubious records by allowing an average of 420 yards in those four consecutive losses in weeks 8-11, and was particularly hapless against the Tennessee Titans (446 yards) and finally, against the Washington Redskins (515) on Sunday Night Football for all to see. That was the low point, so far.

Dom Capers’ defense had just allowed 40-plus points in consecutive games, and the Packers soft, mentally-weak and poor-tacking, poor-covering defense had allowed 30 points or more in four straight games for the first time since the final four games of the 1953 season.

“Defense, we didn’t stop ’em,” McCarthy said. “Our pass defense, we didn’t get off the field. It was touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal in the second half. I think that tells the story.”

And just now again this week, in the harrowing win in Chicago, the Packers defense responded to a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter, by allowing the Bears to rack up 228 yards and erase that whole 17-point lead.

In 15 minutes, the 3-10 Bears’ 4th string QB rolled up 228 yards and 17 points. “That’s something we have to work on, closing out games,” Micah Hyde acknowledged. His play saved a touchdown and forced Chicago to kick just a field goal to tie it. He needed to close out that game three years ago versus San Francisco too, but he didn’t.

Remember the Packers #1-rated rush defense, facing the Dallas Cowboys #1-rated rushing offense back in week six? Ezekiel Elliott shredded it for 158 yards, while fellow rookie Dak Prescott threw for not one or two, but three touchdowns, and had a passer rating of 117.4 that day in Green Bay.

So any way you look at it, this defense stinks. It smells like rotting cheese in all areas.

The pass rush without a healthy Clay Matthews is terrible. Add in the bad finger to Nick Perry, and he’s unavailable. My hope is that by resting his poor fingers, he comes back now with a vengeance and with fresh legs, and is a terror for the final two regular season games and three playoff games to get to the Super Bowl.

But Sam Shields isn’t coming back, and his absence has demonstrated one thing for certain. He was the Packers true best cover corner. Forget the youngsters Randall and Rollins, and Ladarius Gunter. Those guys each have a lot to learn yet.

Without a good pass rush, those guys will continue to get exposed as they have by Diggs, Marvin Jones, Julio Jones, Fitzgerald, Alshon, etc.

That is the key. The pass rush. The pass rush is the thing that can save this team. A good pass rush, and we’ll see stops in addition to turnovers. A bad pass rush, and we’ll see another season end because Capers’ defense makes someone look like a Hall of Famer. Whether it’s Kaepernick or Eli, Warner or Fitzgerald, Stafford or Prescott, someone will put a dagger in another Super Bowl run.

If Capers can’t get this defense, with seven first round picks on defense (Peppers, Matthews, Perry, Datone, Clark, Randall, Clinton-Dix, plus the great Mike Daniels) to develop a consistent pass rush, then there will be another painful end to a season of greatness from the two-time MVP Rodgers without a Super Bowl. The window will close a little bit more.

 

Mike McCarthy: QB Aaron Rodgers’ injured calf getting ‘better’

December 19, 2016 by  
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From Robby Demovsky, ESPN.com

~The way Aaron Rodgers hobbled down the field to get the Green Bay Packers in position to stop the clock and set up their game-winning field goal, it looked like the quarterback’s strained right calf was still an issue.

A day later, the Packers say otherwise.

“The early indication is he’s better today than he was going into the game,” coach Mike McCarthy said Monday, one day after a 30-27 victory over the Chicago Bears. “We feel good about that.”

Davante Adams cost the MVP-candidate 2 touchdowns Sunday, as well as about 50 yards.

Davante Adams cost the MVP-candidate 2 touchdowns Sunday, as well as about 50 yards.

Rodgers scrambled three times for 19 yards against the Bears, a week after he first sustained the injury on the third play from scrimmage against the Seattle Seahawks. After Sunday’s win, Rodgers said his calf injury was “no worse for the wear.”

“It actually felt a little better as the game wore on and had some heat on it,” he said. “As the adrenaline got going, I felt like I was able to do a little more than I expected coming into the game, so I definitely didn’t take any steps back.”

The win, combined with losses by the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions, put the NFC North back in the Packers’ hands. At 8-6, they can take the division if they win their final two games — at home against Minnesota on Saturday and at Detroit on Jan. 1.

McCarthy said Rodgers, who did not practice much — if at all — last week, was actually more mobile than he expected him to be against the Bears.

“I didn’t expect him to move like that,” McCarthy said after the game. “I didn’t think he would come out of the pocket. It’s tough when you don’t practice.”

Rodgers’ 60-yard throw to Jordy Nelson set up the winning field goal. One play earlier, the Packers lost both of their starting guards, T.J. Lang and Lane Taylor, who collided during a screen pass. Yet the Packers had no trouble with protection or communication when Jason Spriggs replaced Lang at right guard and Don Barclay took over for Taylor at left guard.

McCarthy said Monday that Lang (back) and Taylor (hip) appear to have avoided serious injuries.

The injuries gave McCarthy, Rodgers and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt more time to consider what to do on the third-and-11 play that resulted in the long pass to Nelson, setting the stage for Mason Crosby‘s last-second, 32-yard field goal.

“Aaron came over [to the sideline], and [one] suggestion was just to let it run down and go into overtime,” McCarthy said Monday. “But — actually, Alex Van Pelt and I — I said, ‘I like the play call and let’s take a shot at it.’

“You can see he didn’t break ’em out of the huddle immediately, so we kind of played it where we were going to leave, whatever how many seconds there were, [not] the whole time on the clock if we didn’t convert.. … The protection, the route combination and really Jordy setting that angle where Aaron can throw him open, and it’s obviously a great throw. Just execution.

“And I think the biggest play was … not only after the completion of the play but just getting it all coordinated, make sure we had 11 [guys on the field] and getting Aaron taking the play clock down there to three seconds and then setting it up for Mason’s two kicks.”

Original story here

 

Souhan: No defense for the way Vikings drubbed by Colts’ offense

December 19, 2016 by  
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From Jimmy Souhan, Star Trib

~Behind an offensive line that had been as battered and ineffective as the Vikings’, Andrew Luck was not sacked once Sunday. The Vikings allowed 411 yards, 27 first downs and didn’t force a turnover.

Mike Zimmer’s most embarrassing loss as a head coach could be blamed on injuries, or a reliance on a 31-year-old running back with a knee injury, or any of a dozen bumbling offensive plays.

But to blame the offense for a heartless 34-6 loss at home to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday would be to ignore how the Minnesota Vikings were built, and who they are supposed to be.

Zimmer was hired because of his defensive acumen and leadership. His first mandate was rebuilding a tattered defense, and he did while earning a reputation as an inspirational figure.

On Sunday, Zimmer coached his team in a game with playoff implications, in front of a sellout crowd at home, while wearing a patch over a surgically repaired eye, and his defenders played like his name was Les Steckel.

The Vikings offense shouldn’t have tried to force-feed the ball to Adrian Peterson, but the offense in its current state is supposed to be this team’s least important phase.

The defense is supposed to lead this team, and it never showed up.

Colts running back Frank Gore is 33. He had reached 100 rushing yards just once since the end of the 2014 season before Sunday, when he rushed 26 times for 101 yards. As a team, the Colts rushed 40 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns, including one by Robert Turbin during which he broke or avoided four tackles before spinning into the end zone.

Behind an offensive line that had been as battered and ineffective as the Vikings’, Andrew Luck was not sacked once. He had time to complete passes to eight different receivers.

The Vikings allowed 411 yards and 27 first downs and didn’t force a turnover.

Zimmer should take this personally. His players embarrassed him on Sunday.

The last time the Vikings looked this pathetic in a home loss was when the Packers beat them 31-3 at the Metrodome on Nov. 21, 2010, when the Vikings allowed 31 straight points and succeeded in getting Brad Childress fired.

It was remindful of a December game against a bad Packers team in 1991, when Vikings players lost 27-7 at the Metrodome while making it clear they no longer wanted to play for Jerry Burns.

That’s what is strange and unsettling about Sunday’s loss. There are no signs that the players have anything but affection and admiration for Zimmer — other than the final score.

“I felt like we just came out lackadaisical, like we were just going to get this win,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “Like they were going to read our name or look at the stats and lay down for us, that we have a good football team and a good defense, and just lay down.

“It doesn’t work like that.”

Munnerlyn said he was embarrassed. Zimmer hinted he felt the same.

“Very poor, lethargic, didn’t get off blocks, didn’t make tackles, busted coverage, didn’t cover people, poor on third down,” Zimmer said.

While the offense has been devastated by injuries, the defense had only one excuse on Sunday: the absence of Harrison Smith.

Luck was smart and gifted enough to attack the void left by Smith, throwing to the middle of the field frequently. That, along with the Colts’ power running, turned the Vikings’ usually aggressive defense into crash test dummies.

The Vikings have lost seven of their past nine games. Many of those losses have been understandable, given their injuries, and most of them have been close.

Sunday, the Vikings allowed a mediocre finesse team to physically whip them. For a football team, that leaves the worst kind of psychic scar.

On Christmas Eve, the Vikings will play a streaking Packers team at Lambeau, in a game that will mean much to Green Bay.

Two days ago, that game promised to decide the fate of the Vikings’ season. Now you have to wonder if they’ll even have the pride to put up a fight.

Original story here

NEXT OPPONENT: Vikings’ trounced by Colts 34-6 in playoff-push debacle

December 19, 2016 by  
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From Matt Vensel, Star Tribune

~The supposedly desperate Vikings strolled into U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday morning, confident they would make quick work of the Indianapolis Colts.

Adrian Peterson was back in the lineup, expected to give them an emotional lift and some semblance of a running game. The Colts were forced to start three rookie offensive linemen against one of the NFL’s most ferocious pass rushes. The Colts had Andrew Luck, but did anyone else scare them?

And their fans were fired up, even if simply because they were inside.

Then the game started, and was seemingly over a minute or two later.

The Colts took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and stunned the Vikings and the crowd by increasing it to 17-0 in the second. When they made it 27-0 just before halftime, some of those fans thought it would be more enjoyable to walk out into subzero temperatures than sit inside and watch the rest.

The Colts cruised to a 34-6 victory, and the bewildering loss all but eliminated the sleepwalking, penalty-prone Vikings, now 7-7, from playoff contention.

“We just came out lackadaisical … like they were going to read [our] names, look at [our] stats and lay down for us,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said, adding, “To come out like this today, it definitely was embarrassing.”

In fact, it was arguably the most embarrassing loss of the Mike Zimmer era.

The first big blunder came after the Vikings, down 3-0, got a third-down stop near their goal line. But nose tackle Linval Joseph was flagged for illegally contacting the long snapper on a Colts field-goal try. The penalty gave the Colts a first down and they soon scored on a 1-yard run by Robert Turbin.

Midway through the second quarter, the Colts made it a three-score game after Luck chucked a 27-yard touchdown to tight end Erik Swoope, who ran right by veteran outside linebacker Chad Greenway on a go route.

The Vikings finally got something going offensively before halftime, but Peterson, fighting for a few more inches at the end of his only good run, coughed up the football at the 9. Colts safety Mike Adams snatched it up.

In his first game back from a knee injury, Peterson touched the ball seven times. The Vikings got him involved right away, handing it to him on their first play, and immediately followed it with a swing pass to the 31-year-old running back. But he rushed for only 22 yards in his first game since Sept. 18.

“He looked like Adrian at practice this week. You see the way he runs and hits the holes. I truly thought he was going to be a nice spark for us,” said tight end Kyle Rudolph. “You have points in your season that kind of propel you on five-, six-, seven-game win streaks. I thought today was going to be that day.”

But the offense, which had changed so much since Peterson last played, was predictably out of sync as the Vikings force-fed the rusty running back early on. They picked up only two first downs and gained 69 total yards in the first half.

It didn’t help that Zimmer’s defense couldn’t corral the Colts and did not sack Luck once. After Peterson’s fumble, they marched right back down the field to score again, with Turbin shaking loose of three Vikings defenders on his way into the end zone.

Then quarterback Sam Bradford was intercepted in Vikings territory and the Colts booted a field goal as the first half ended, mercifully, with the Vikings down 27 points and in need of the greatest comeback in team history.

“It didn’t go great early, and it kind of snowballed,” Bradford said. “The next thing you know, we’re down three or four scores and it’s … about as ugly as it gets.”

The second half started with a lost Bradford fumble, and Luck, who threw for 250 yards before taking a seat in the blowout, heaved a 50-yard touchdown pass to Colts wide receiver Phillip Dorsett early in the fourth quarter.

When the Vikings finally got on the board with a third-quarter field goal, making it 27-3, some fans mocked them with an exaggerated ovation. And despite being down 31 points, they had Kai Forbath kick another one in the fourth.

Afterward, Zimmer used words like poor, lethargic and disappointing to describe his team’s performance. He seethed over missed tackles, busted coverages and early three-and-outs. And he had “no idea” why some of his Vikings players looked disinterested in what was a must-win game inside their own stadium.

“I want to find out who is going to fight, because that was not a fighting performance there,” Zimmer said. “They were more physical than us today, played with more tenacity than we did. That’s usually how it goes.”

At no point during a terse news conference did he point a finger at himself.

The dud dropped his Vikings to 7-7. Up next are the Packers in Green Bay.

“It’s almost unbelievable,” left guard Alex Boone said of the Vikings squandering their 5-0 start to the season. “We have to take a good, hard look in the mirror. It’s not on, by any means, anybody but us. It’s frustrating, I think, to the point you want to break everything in sight. There’s so much talent on this team.”

Original story here

From CHICAGO: Cre’Von LeBlanc the fall guy in Bears loss, but who called that defense?

December 19, 2016 by  
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From David Haugh, Chicago Tribune

~Surrounded by reporters Sunday inside the Bears locker room, the loneliest man in Chicago slowly fastened the buttons on his shirt and fidgeted with his belt.

The longer Cre’Von LeBlanc lingered, the better he collected his thoughts, which surely were scattered recalling the decisive play of the Bears’ 30-27 loss to the Packers. The Bears cornerback let Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson beat him for a 60-yard completion with 27 seconds left that set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning 32-yard field goal.

A wind chill of minus-4 degrees at kickoff made this one of the coldest games ever at Soldier Field, and the Bears’ last-minute lapse, after a furious 17-point fourth-quarter rally, ranked it among the cruelest. When an NFL team is 3-11, it finds ways to lose, but this was inventive even by Bears standards.

“At the end of the day, my technique has to be better,” a composed LeBlanc said, accepting responsibility like a pro.

Nobody will argue. Nelson quickly gobbled up LeBlanc’s 7-yard cushion, put his hand up so Rodgers would see him open and waited for the quarterback’s perfectly placed spiral. The ball fell exactly where it has so many times in Rodgers’ Hall of Fame career. LeBlanc had one job on third-and-11 from the Bears 26: Stay deeper than the deepest — and Nelson got behind him anyway.

“Perfect catch, perfect throw,” Bears cornerback Tracy Porter said. “Only two or three quarterbacks can make that throw … and the other two are Tom Brady and Drew Brees.”

The Bears played what they call quarters coverage, dividing the secondary into fourths, meaning the design of the defense called for an undrafted rookie out of Florida Atlantic to defend a Pro Bowl wide receiver one-on-one with the game on the line. Quarterbacks like Rodgers are sure to RSVP such an invitation to a big play every time.

Before the snap, Porter warned everyone to “keep their antennas up” because experience told him Rodgers wasn’t going to settle for overtime. Did LeBlanc expect safety help?

“Kind of, sort of,” LeBlanc said. “But in the huddle, they said stay deep and I should have been in position and gotten over his top shoulder.”

Truth is, LeBlanc never should have been in the position to let everybody down. Perhaps that was part of what general manager Ryan Pace shared with LeBlanc in a postgame pep talk.

The situation called for a safer two- or three-deep zone coverage supported by safeties reminded to keep everything in front of them. Instead, rookie safety Deon Bush — who had a chance to help LeBlanc deep — was focused more on the crossing route in front of him. We lately have referred to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as a genius, but this puzzling sequence sent press-box wags searching the thesaurus for antonyms.

The Bears’ last two losses came down to passes slipping through a wide receiver’s hands. This time, Bears coaches dropped the ball.

“I’m not going to play the blame game,” Fox said when asked about the pivotal play.

The coaching strategy on the 60-yard completion merited more criticism than Fox’s decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 4 with 1 minute, 23 seconds left, a move more likely to drive conversation Monday in the Second (Guessing) City. As popular as Fox potentially would have been had the Bears scored the go-ahead touchdown, imagine the regret if the Packers stopped them on fourth down. Regardless of the rivalry, Fox made the smart call to play for overtime at home with the Bears having regained momentum. Taking the 10-second runoff in the final minute wouldn’t have changed the outcome either.

“(Second-guessing) comes with the territory and we managed not to win the game,” Fox said.

Gradually, these Bears have developed a knack for managing not to win games. They aren’t getting blown out, but the Packers exposed the Bears for not knowing yet how to win. Example: On first-and-goal from the 3, tight end Logan Paulsen got called for holding, eventually forcing the Bears to settle for a field goal. An aside: Why does it seem that Paulsen’s name only comes up when something bad happens?

Meanwhile, frustration mounts on a team staring at 13 losses. Alshon Jeffery, unable to shake double coverage for three quarters, caught six passes for 89 yards in the fourth quarter against the Packers prevent defense but hardly felt satisfied. Jeffery stopped a postgame interview with WBBM radio because he was afraid he would say something offensive. Defensive end Akiem Hicks chided a reporter asking about Rodgers by wondering if he was “in the Aaron Rodgers Fan Club.” Even Matt Barkley, still considered the new guy, admitted the feeling is getting old.

“It seems almost deja-vu-ish,” Barkley said.

Two things made this defeat different for the Bears. Barkley, despite a huge fourth quarter, endured a Cutleresque day that included impressive numbers marred by three interceptions and a fumble. And Fangio’s vaunted seventh-ranked defense gave up 223 rushing yards, letting Packers running back Ty Montgomery go through holes like a plow through snow.

“I don’t think we expected to run for over 200 yards,” Rodgers said.

You can say the Packers took what the Bears gave them, down to the last play.

Original story here

 

FOR NOW: Packers have found their long-term running back, and he’s a receiver

December 19, 2016 by  
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From Dan Graf, FoxSports.com

~Ty Montgomery’s 162 rushing yards Sunday against the Chicago Bears were the most by a Green Bay Packer since someone named Samkon Gado ran for 171 in 2005.

Eddie Lacy – the bell cow of the Green Bay running game for four seasons – never ran for more than 150.

Ryan Grant had 201 in 2007, but that was in a playoff game.

There are two things that separate Gado and Montgomery, other than the 11 years between their big days: Montgomery is a receiver, not a running back; and Gado was a one-hit wonder, not the long-term solution in the backfield that Montgomery is starting to look like.

If the Packers are smart, the 23-year-old Montgomery – not Lacy, James Starks or a TBD rookie or free agent – will be their lead back in 2017.

When Green Bay lost Lacy and Starks earlier in the season, it had little choice but to turn to Montgomery during its first game against the Bears back in Week 6. Montgomery shared carries with two guys making their Packers debuts who are no longer on the roster – Don Jackson and Knile Davis – and had an impressive nine carries for 60 yards in a 26-10 win.

But as the Packers got back Starks and added Christine Michael off waivers, Montgomery never got more than those nine carries again despite the fact he entered Sunday’s game averaging 5.2 yards per attempt.

The Packers’ ground game plodded, and Montgomery was nothing more than a change of pace. But what if the guy wearing No. 88 was the No. 1 option? With Starks out again after suffering a concussion in an automobile accident last week, Green Bay got to find out how that would look Sunday, and the results were spectacular: 16 carries, 162 yards, two touchdowns and broken tackles all over Solider Field in a must-have 30-27 win over the Bears.

Montgomery may wear that No. 88, but he’s no waif. He’s 5-foot-11, 216 pounds of muscle and seems as comfortable at the goal line or breaking those tackles as he is in the open field.

Suddenly — when it comes time for the Packers to make a decision on Lacy, whose contract is up this offseason — it’s looking more and more like there’s little reason to go back to him, or to anyone else. Maybe — if the ankle injury that has held out Lacy since October is fully healed and he can stay in shape — he can return on a make-good contract to pound away at defenses in the fourth quarter with Montgomery as the main option, but Sunday sure seemed to mark the start of a new day in the Packers’ backfield.

Ty Montgomery is a running back, and the rest of the NFC North is going to have to deal with whatever that means alongside Aaron Rodgers slinging it all over the field again. Slap a No. 20 or 21 on him and he’ll only look better doing all those running back things that he did Sunday.

 

Original story here

Packers edge Bears 30-27, win 4th straight

December 19, 2016 by  
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From the AP, posted by Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor

~CHICAGO (AP) Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers were rolling along with a big lead, looking as though they would take another step toward a playoff spot and the top of the NFC North.

Once it disappeared, they still found a way to pull out the victory.

Jordy Nelson catches the gorgeous bomb thrown by Rodgers from 60 yards away. A perfect pass, still it had to be caught. Nelson and Adams had dropped two touchdowns and about 100 yards worth of perfect passes earlier in the game.

Jordy Nelson catches the gorgeous bomb thrown by Rodgers from 60 yards away. A perfect pass, still it had to be caught. Nelson and Adams had dropped two touchdowns and about 100 yards worth of perfect passes earlier in the game.

Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson with a 60-yard pass to set up Mason Crosby’s 32-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the Green Bay Packers to a 30-27 victory over the Bears in one of the coldest games ever played in Chicago on Sunday.

Wide receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery ran for a career-high 162 yards and two touchdowns. Micah Hyde broke up a potential go-ahead touchdown pass, and the Packers (8-6) earned their fourth straight victory despite blowing a 27-10 lead in the fourth quarter.

They also moved ahead of Minnesota for sole possession of second place in the NFC North and pulled within a game of division leader Detroit, with the Vikings getting pounded by Indianapolis and the Lions losing to the New York Giants.

”I think we have a lot of grit as a team,” Rodgers said. ”We stick together in adverse situations. There wasn’t any finger pointing after 27-10 turned into 27-27 for either side. We just knew we had to go out and make something happen. It’s fun to be standing here at 8-6. We all know what 4-6 felt like. It was tough.”

For the Bears (3-11), it was more of the same.

They had tied it on a field goal by Connor Barth with 1:19 left. The Packers took over at their 27, and on third-and-11 at the 26, Rodgers unleashed a deep pass down the middle of the field to Nelson, who got behind Cre’Von LeBlanc.

With no timeouts, the Packers downed the ball before Crosby booted his winner.

”The team has a lot of character,” Chicago defensive end Akiem Hicks said. ”The team has a lot of players who are willing to fight to the end, put everything on the line. This is our life. This is what we do.”

FRIGID DAY

All that happened on a day when the game-time temperature was 11 degrees with a minus-4 wind chill.

Chicago hosted the Packers in 3-degree temperature and a minus-15 wind chill – the lowest ever for a Bears home game – on Dec. 18, 1983. The Bears’ coldest home game, temperature-wise, was against Green Bay on Dec. 22, 2008, when it was 2 degrees with a minus-13 wind chill.

Rodgers threw for 252 yards despite problems his left hamstring and right calf that kept him out of practice during the week.

Montgomery had several big runs, including a 61-yarder, after coach Mike McCarthy announced he is now a full-time running back. He also scored from the 4 on the game’s opening possession and added a 3-yard TD in the third quarter that made it 20-10.

Christine Michael ran for a 42-yard touchdown . Julius Peppers had a strip-sack that led to a field goal. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix added two interceptions, and the Packers tied the NFL’s oldest rivalry for the first time since 1933 at 94-94-6.

Chicago’s Matt Barkley threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns, but was picked off three times.

Alshon Jeffery came on strong near the end to finish with 89 yards on six catches in his return from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

Deonte Thompson led Chicago with 110 yards receiving. Cameron Meredith added nine catches for 104 yards, but the Bears lost for the fifth time in six games.

LATE RALLY

Green Bay was clinging to a three-point lead in the closing minutes when Hyde reached in front of Meredith at the goal line on third down at the Packers 4. Chicago chose to have Barth kick a field goal rather than try again for a touchdown.

QUOTABLE

”To have it even out all those years is pretty crazy.” – Nelson on tying the rivalry.

NOTABLE

The Packers and Bears combined for 900 yards in their 152nd regular-season meeting since 1940. It’s their highest total in that span, according to the NFL.

INJURY REPORT

Packers: RB James Starks sat out because of a concussion. McCarthy said the veteran running back was in a car crash Monday.

Bears: NT Eddie Goldman was inactive after leaving last week’s game at Detroit because of an ankle injury. … LB Jerrell Freeman served the final game of a four-game suspension for a PED violation.

UP NEXT

Packers: Host Minnesota on Saturday.

Bears: Host Washington on Saturday. Packer fans will be pulling for their rival Bears as the Redskins currently sit a half-game ahead of the Packers for a possible final Wildcard spot, should they not quite win the division. There’s a slight chance the Packers lose to Detroit and finish at 9-7, and they can still squeek into the playoffs as the 2nd Wildcard team. But Washington needs to lose twice and finish at 8-7-1, and Tampa Bay needs to lose at least one of their final three, possibly lose two of three. That would come down to deep tiebreakers as each has the same NFC record.

Original story here

Packers can’t get Clinton-Dix off the field

December 14, 2016 by  
Filed under News

From Michael Cohen, PackersNews.com

~GREEN BAY — There is a popular saying in the Green Bay Packers’ locker room that the best ability is availability. In other words, a player can have all the physical gifts and mental acuity in the world, but none of it matters if he can’t stay healthy.

This year, no defensive player in the National Football League has been more available than Glover Quin of the Detroit Lions. With three weeks left in the regular season, Quin has played 100 percent of his team’s snaps, all 830.

While nobody else on Quin’s side of the ball has achieved maximum availability, there are a few who come close, and six of them have played 99.9 percent of snaps. They are, in no particular order, linebacker Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks; safety Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles; linebacker Sean Lee of the Dallas Cowboys; linebacker Alec Ogletree of the Los Angeles Rams; safety Reggie Nelson of the Oakland Raiders; and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, starting safety for the Packers.

(Photo: Bill Streicher, Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Bill Streicher, Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

“I do it every week,” Clinton-Dix said. “I’ve just got to continue working hard and making sure I take care of the little things and just keep playing ball. I really don’t care about stats. I don’t care about any of that stuff. I just care about performing each and every weekend and helping my team win ball games.”

Now in his third year, Clinton-Dix has played 821 of 822 possible snaps. His only absence was a single play against the Philadelphia Eagles, a game the Packers won handily. He ranks third on the team in tackles (60) and is tied for the team lead in interceptions with three.

Perhaps more important than the statistical contributions is this: For the second time in as many seasons Clinton-Dix is on pace to play at least 99 percent of snaps. It’s something no other Packers defensive player has accomplished in five years of data collected by the website Football Outsiders, and for the second year in a row he will play the most snaps of anyone on that side of the ball since 2012.

“Ha Ha is durable,” safeties coach Darren Perry said earlier this season. “Since he’s been here I don’t know if the guy has missed a practice. When he’s been asked to step up and play, he’s been there. Reliability, durability, accountability — all those things he represents. Ha Ha has been a tremendous leader, and I think our young guys see that.”

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Prior to 2015, when Clinton-Dix led the defense by playing 99.7 percent of snaps, no one had eclipsed the 99 percent threshold since fellow safety Morgan Burnett did not miss a play in 2012. Burnett and former St. Louis Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis were the only defensive players to log maximum reps that season.

Burnett, who is second on the defense with 89.8 percent of snaps this season, said he did not think about his participation levels as the season progressed because his body — somewhat remarkably — had little or no damage.

“I didn’t really count the snaps,” Burnett said. “I was just out there playing. My body was fine. I was feeling good.”

Of course, feeling good for a professional football player includes the normal levels of pain during any given week. For Clinton-Dix, pain sets in the day after each game and is worst on Monday and Tuesday. His body, he says, does not feel normal again until Saturday, roughly 24 hours before he begins the process again.

PODCAST: Packers-Bears talk with Matt Bowen

Clinton-Dix credits his durability to a strict off-field regimen that begins shortly after the conclusion of each game and continues through the following weekend. His typical recovery includes frequent trips to the cold tub, three massages per week and lots of stretching to keep his muscles loose.

“I can say my body is really aching and it hurts a lot on Monday,” Clinton-Dix said. “But throughout the week it dials down and it gets better. … Saturday is to where I feel the most comfortable. That’s the day before the game, so regardless of how I may feel physically, mentally I’m feeling great.

“I kind of built a routine, built a habit and I kind of just stuck with that. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Added Perry: “There’s an element of toughness you see that may sometimes go unnoticed. But to be able to play the number of snaps he’s played in the early part of his career and getting production, Ha Ha has doing a lot of good things and I’m glad we’ve got him.”

In a year when injuries decimated the secondary, Clinton-Dix is a soothing presence for defensive coordinator Dom Capers. His contributions remain constant as the cornerbacks play roulette.

“When you’re available and always there, that means that we always can count on you,” Burnett said. “That’s part of doing your job.”

Original story here

Packers sign LB Jordan Tripp

December 14, 2016 by  
Filed under News

Posted by Brian E Murphy, from Packers.com

~

Third-year linebacker has 18 tackles in 32 career games

The Green Bay Packers have signed LB Jordan Tripp. The transaction was announced Wednesday by Ted Thompson, Executive Vice President, General Manager and Director of Football Operations.

Tripp, a 6-foot-3, 234-pound third-year player out of the University of Montana, was originally selected by the Miami Dolphins in the fifth round (171st overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft.

After appearing in 13 games as rookie for the Dolphins, he was released on Sept. 5, 2015. Tripp was signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad on Sept. 22, 2015, and then was promoted to the active roster on Oct. 10, 2015, where he started one of 12 games played and totaled seven tackles (five solo) and a team-high seven special teams tackles.

In 2016, he was released by the Jaguars after training camp and spent time on the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad and active roster, appearing in seven games with one start before being placed on injured reserve on Dec. 3 and then reaching an injury settlement on Dec. 9. Tripp will wear No. 58 for the Packers.

DRAFT PROFILE

DRAFT ANALYSIS:

“He’s really fun to watch. He can really run, sideline to sideline. Last year, we saw some more edge rush from him. He is a very versatile guy. Tripp can be outstanding on special teams.” — Daniel Jeremiah

OVERVIEW

Montana native whose father and grandfather also played for the Grizzlies. Jordan also ran track in high school. Was primarily a special-teams player as a true freshman in 2009 (wore jersey No. 44), tallying 23 tackles, zero for loss and zero sacks in 15 games. In ’10, started 9 of 11 games at strong-side linebacker and was credited with 99-9-3.5 with three pass breakups and an interception return for a touchdown.

In ’11, managed 18-1.5-0 in three starts at SLB before suffering a season-ending torn right labrum injury. Moved to the weak side in ’12 and started all 11 games, notching 95-13.5-5.5 with two pass breakups, an interception, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery touchdown. Started all 13 games at WLB in ’13, registering 100-5.5-2 with two pass breakups, three interceptions, a forced fumble, a blocked kick and a fumble recovery touchdown. Two-time team captain. Wore Montana’s legacy jersey No. 37 his final two seasons. Participated in East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl.

ANALYSIS

STRENGTHS

Triggers fast downhill vs. the run. Diagnoses quickly and is around the ball a lot. Outstanding motor, intensity and effort. Extremely competitive. Very tough. Outstanding weight-room work ethic. Sculpted with very minimal body fat. Elected team captain. Exceptional character. Emergency long snapper (started all four years). Has a special-teams temperament. Takes the game very seriously. Athleticism was on display at the combine — paced linebackers with a 3.96-second short shuttle, recorded a 6.89-second 3-cone drill and vertical jumped 37 1/2 inches.

WEAKNESSES

Has short flappers and gets stuck on blocks. Can do a better job using his hands to stack and shed. Plays a bit too out of control. Tightness shows up in space trying to break down and secure open-field tackles (misses too many). Wound tight in coverage and not quick to redirect (allows separation).

DRAFT PROJECTION

Rounds 5-6

BOTTOM LINE

A tough, determined, competitive overachiever capable of earning a job as a backup linebacker and special-teams performer.

-Nolan Nawrocki

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