30

December

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Packers 33, Bears 28

Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers make the Packers a dangerous team in the playoffs.

Eddie Lacy and Aaron Rodgers make the Packers a dangerous team in the playoffs.

In what began as a promising year and at one point took a dive into early NFL draft talk, the Green Bay Packers’ regular season ended Sunday exactly how they’d always hoped it would. With a division championship and a spot in the NFC playoffs.

It really has been a roller-coaster year for the Packers. After two losses in their first three games, the panic button seemed to be within arm’s distance. Then, suddenly, they were 5-2 with a favorable second-half schedule. But when Aaron Rodgers went down and Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn were forced to start games for Green Bay, the team’s playoff aspirations were in serious doubt.

But the team kept playing, stayed alive and played well enough to win the division, and it’s now time for a new season to begin.

This season–the postseason–is different than the regular season. It’s a five-week season with four possible games. It doesn’t matter who was starting for each team in September or who’s been lost along the way. Right now, there are 12 teams sitting at 0-0 while the other 20 teams reflect on their season and look ahead to the offseason.

The Packers are one of those 12 teams still alive. And they have a guy who wears No. 12 who makes them a contender to win the whole thing.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Packers were unspectacular if not just good enough. They’re not the Seattle Seahawks, nor the Carolina Panthers or San Francisco 49ers, but they have an offense that could score enough points against any defense in the postseason.

Right now, Rodgers is leaning on one of the NFC’s most consistent running games behind Eddie Lacy and an improving offensive line, and Randall Cobb has returned to the lineup to once again give the Packers one of the league’s top receiving corps. Jarrett Boykin has stepped up in a big way in his second NFL season, and Nelson has been able to handle some slot duties, but Cobb is undoubtedly the Packers’ best playmaker in the middle of the field–an area the Packers haven’t gotten much production out of since Cobb and Jermichael Finley were injured in October.

29

December

Packers vs. Bears – Game Day First Impressions, Unfiltered: GB 33 CHI 28

Chicago Bears v Green Bay PackersGreen Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears:  2013 Game 15

Unfiltered game day blog post of comments, observations and first impressions.

GAME NOTES:

Aaron Rodgers sitting out again is of course the top story line. The Packers seem to go out of their way to prove that injury decisions are not influenced by winning or losing.

Does Matt Flynn have another week of magic left in that feeble arm?

The Steelers are playing much better of late and are a team that won’t be affected by playing in snow and/or cold weather.

Today’s game is the first time the teams have met since Super Bowl XLV.

 

Today’s captains for the Packers will be C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith (offense), S Morgan Burnett (defense) and CB Micah Hyde (special teams).

 

Inactives for today’s game:

Green Bay PackersGreen Bay Packers
13 WR Chris Harper
20 CB Jumal Rolle
52 LB Clay Matthews
59 LB Brad Jones
65 G Lane Taylor
73 C/G JC Tretter
98 DE C.J. Wilson

Starting lineup changes: 57 LB Jamari Lattimore starts for Jones, 55 LB Andy Mulumba starts for Matthews, and 96 LB Mike Neal will start for 53 LB Nick Perry, who is active.

Chicago Bears
2 QB Jordan Palmer
76 T Joe Long
78 T/G James Brown
79 T Jonathan Scott
80 WR Earl Bennett
82 WR Chris Williams
94 DE Cornelius Washington

Chicago Bears

 

 

Mike McCarthy Pregame Show on 620 WTMJ:

One game:  Everything you do throughout the whole preseason, regular season, the ups and downs, all comes down to one game. Means our whole season.

Reprieve by Bears loss: : Obviously it was a lift – it was  microcosm of our season -it’s been so up and down.

Rodgers rust?: I can’t really worry about it. He’s practiced for 3 weeks. We have great faith in him as the leader of our offense. We feel they may try to be aggressive with us.

Cobb: We’re going to ge him in on some plays and see how it goes. Not practical for Randall to play 50 plays today.

Lacy: Eddie will start the game and we’ll see how he goes. We feel good about our one-two punch with he and Starks. Khalil Bell will also get some chances today.

Cutler. Very talented…can make all the throws.  The man’s played a lot of football…he gets better and better with each opportunity in this new offense.

28

December

Alshon Jeffery, Bears offense present test for Packers

Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery has developed into one of the league's top big targets in his second season.

Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery has developed into one of the league’s top big targets in his second season.

A year ago, Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was–if anything–a detriment to Chicago’s offense when the Bears and Green Bay Packers met at Soldier Field in December. As the Packers clinched the NFC North title, Jeffery was flagged for three offensive interference penalties and failed to catch a pass.

Jeffery totaled just 367 yards in 10 games last season. Four weeks ago at Minnesota, Jeffery racked up 249 yards and a pair of scores in one game alone, boosting his stat line to a near-1,000 yard spike in production up to this point of the season.

And with Jeffery on one side, Brandon Marshall on the other and Matt Forte reaping the benefits underneath, the Bears suddenly boast one of football’s more explosive offenses.

With backup Josh McCown at quarterback in the Nov. 4 meeting at Lambeau Field, Jeffery caught five passes for 60 yards and a touchdown–a marked improvement over last year’s seven total yards in two meetings. Head coach Marc Trestman and the Bears have remained consistent throughout their “quarterback controversy,” making it clear that Jay Cutler would be the starter as long as he’s healthy.

Cutler carries his 1-8 career record against the Packers into Sunday’s win-and-in scenario, while Aaron Rodgers makes his return for the Packers after a seven-game absence. And while Rodgers has tilted the game in the Packers’ favor in Vegas, Cutler and Chicago’s offense is gearing up to make Sunday’s game a shootout.

When the Packers have the ball, they’ll likely feature a heavy dose of Eddie Lacy and James Starks against Chicago’s leaky run defense. Rodgers figures to take more downfield shots than Matt Flynn in recent weeks, but the Packers’ run-heavy offense will likely continue this week.

If the Packers are able to run the ball effectively and control the clock, then Chicago’s offense, which has scored 30 points six times this season, will be limited to a certain extent.

Coming into the season, cornerback appeared to be one of the Packers’ deepest positions. Last year’s leader in interceptions, Casey Hayward, figured to help mask the loss of turnover creator Charles Woodson, while Sam Shields stepped into the No. 1 cornerback role, veteran Tramon Williams was recharged and youngsters Davon House and rookie Micah Hyde looked to build on a strong preseason.

27

December

Rodgers puts Packers back in championship contention

With Aaron Rodgers set to return, the Packers are eyeing a division championship. And perhaps more.

With Aaron Rodgers set to return, the Packers are eyeing a division championship. And perhaps more.

When news broke Thursday that quarterback Aaron Rodgers was slated to return Sunday for the regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears, the outlook for the rest of the Packers’ season changed dramatically.

Without Rodgers, the Packers went 2-4-1, not including the first Packers-Bears game in which Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on the game’s first possession. Coming into that game, the Packers were 5-2 with a favorable schedule and perhaps the hottest quarterback in football.

But despite a newly-feared running game providing balance to their offense, the small crack in Rodgers’ collarbone looked like a death blow to the Packers’ season, as Seneca Wallace would be starting the following week against the Philadelphia Eagles and for the foreseeable future. But Wallace was forced out of the lineup after the first possession, giving way to recent practice squad call-up Scott Tolzien. Then, the Packers signed a recycled Matt Flynn, who would get his chance a few weeks later against the Minnesota Vikings.

Flynn quarterbacked the Packers to one of their most embarrassing defeats in recent memory—a 40-10 Thanksgiving thumping at the hands of the Detroit Lions. For a team who had two All-World quarterbacks for the better part of two decades, the 2013 season was a slap in the face for a (let’s face it) spoiled fan base.

But somehow, at 8-7-1 with one game to play and Rodgers ready to roll, the Packers remain in contention for the NFC North title. A week 17 win in Chicago would punch the Packers’ ticket into the postseason, and they’d host either the San Francisco 49ers or New Orleans Saints in the wild card round January 4 or 5.

And as is the case year after year in the unpredictable NFL, anything can happen in the league’s 12-team tournament.

Typically, there’s a “hot team” that hits its stride late into the season and enters the postseason with a head of steam, much like the Packers’ unlikely run to Super Bowl XLV in 2010. Last year’s Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens backed into the playoffs after losing four of their last five games, but once the regular season is over, a new season begins. The Ravens 2012 regular season didn’t end well, but their postseason ended with a flood confetti and a Vince Lombardi Trophy.

27

December

Packers Periscope: Week 17 at Chicago Bears

The Past: The last meeting in this storied rivalry did not go so well for the Packers; losing the game was actually the smaller matter as the Packers season essentially spiraled out of control with Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone, which would eventually take 7 weeks to heal.  The Packers did do a couple things well, notably Eddie Lacy rushing for 150 yards and James Starks chipping in for another 40 but without Jay Cutler being, well Jay Cutler, the Bears played an efficient and mistake free game with Josh McCown under center and ultimately won 27-20.

For the Packers, this started a team collapse, starting first with the uncertainty at quarterback; Seneca Wallace was injured and placed on IR the next week, Scott Tolzien played with glimpses of potential, but costly mistakes ultimately caused the Packers to call on their old friend Matt Flynn, who had been released by Seattle, Oakland and the Bills in this season alone.  While Flynn was completely overmatched against the Lions in the Thanksgiving game and has been a below average quarterback, he also has shown the moxie that got him drafted by the Packers in the first place, managing to win two comeback games by 1 point, something that many critics have argued Aaron Rodgers has failed to do.

Ironically, while the Packers have done about as well as can be expected without Rodgers, they shouldn’t even been in the playoff race right now as the rest of the NFC north has had an even more inexplicable collapse.  Naturally the Vikings and notably Adrian Peterson weren’t going to be able to repeat their magical season from last year one more time, and more importantly seem just as confused about their quarterbacks as they were last year.  The Bears have been an enigma this year as well; sometimes it looks like they are finally becoming a dominant offensive team, other times it looks like they really wish they had their stalwart defense, at times crushing the Dallas Cowboys 45-28 but then getting destroyed by the Philadelphia Eagles 11-54.  Most startling is the fall of the Detroit Lions, who should have clinched the NFC North months ago.  The Lions have clearly one of the most talented teams in the NFL and unlike the Bears, Packers and Vikings have had a stable quarterback position the entire season, which should have won them the division right there.  Add to that a ferocious defense, and a powerful passing game spearheaded by Calvin Johnson and the Lions should have been the cream of the black and blue.  However, in the last 6 games, the Lions have only beat the Packers and basically killed their playoff hopes by letting a kicker beat them and then sealed their fate with a loss against the Giants.

24

December

Game Balls and Lame Calls: Steelers 38, Packers 31

Eddie Lacy had his way with the Steelers' defense and could be in for a bigger day against the Bears if he's able to suit up.

Eddie Lacy had his way with the Steelers’ defense and could be in for a bigger day against the Bears if he’s able to suit up.

After the Green Bay Packers lost a home heartbreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers’ playoff destiny fell out of their control.

But Jay Cutler and the division-leading Chicago Bears were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles later Sunday night, and now it’ll be Packers-Bears in the final week of the regular season for the NFC North crown and a spot in the playoffs.

And for the umpteenth week in a row, a good portion of ALLGBP’s Game Balls and Lame Calls post will be centered around the increasingly unknown status of Aaron Rodgers, which got even cloudier when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen cited potential tension between Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy on NFL Countdown prior to Sunday’s game. Mortensen tweeted Rodgers remains at “extraordinary risk” with his fractured collarbone.

But the whole will-Rodgers-play-or-won’t-he-play debate or the why-isn’t-Rodgers-playing question seems kind of pointless, doesn’t it? Clearly, Rodgers isn’t ready to play right now. He hasn’t played since November 4, and he wants to play. Whether the final call falls with Rodgers, McCarthy, Ted Thompson or Dr. Pat McKenzie, the fact still remains: Rodgers isn’t ready to play right now.

During the pregame segment, Mortensen said Rodgers pushed the “organizational decision” narrative that he and McCarthy used so often last week as an attempt to defend his toughness in hopes of fending off comparisons to Brett Favre, who undoubtedly would have played through a broken leg and a freshly amputated throwing hand.

But while I think the Rodgers debate really comes down to semantics, the Countdown segment raised some questions to me. Rodgers is who he is. He’s probably the best quarterback in the NFL, and he’s probably better in 2013 than Favre was at any point of his career, in my opinion. Naturally, comparisons will exist between Favre and Rodgers just as they did with other eternally-linked quarterbacks such as the 49ers’ Joe Montana and Steve Young and last year’s draft class that produced Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. People like to compare people to other people.

7

November

Packers Fans Should Blame Injuries, Not Ted Thompson

Clay Matthews towel

How easy is it for Ted Thompson to replace talent at this level?

I feel like I’m listening to a broken record. Except when this record plays, it’s only after the Green Bay Packers lose a game. For some strange reason, I never hear this record after wins. So it’s been a while that this song has played. The Packers won four straight games before losing to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Throw a bye week in there, and it’s been rather blissful for a good solid month.

But now the axe-grinding fans are crawling back out of the woodwork to lambast Ted Thompson for putting together a weak roster.

The last time I addressed this crowd was after the Cincinnati Bengals game, when the Packers blew a gigantic lead to end up losing. While fingers were being pointed in all sorts of directions, there seemed to be few fans dealing sensibly with the problems of the team.

One theme that has persisted between then and now, however, is the injury bug. The Packers have it bad, and it’s starting to cost the team. Yet for some reason, we don’t give this fact its due consideration. Should teams be able to find success beyond their key starters? Absolutely. General managers need to put together a roster that can handle the adversity of a football season. But injuries to enough key players can be crippling.

Take a look at the following names for a moment:

  1. Nick Perry
  2. Derek Sherrod
  3. Bryan Bulaga
  4. B.J. Raji
  5. Clay Matthews
  6. A.J. Hawk
  7. Aaron Rodgers

Figure out the common thread yet? Yes, those are all of the Packers’ first round draft picks that are currently on the team’s payroll (listed in reverse chronological order). Now I want you to look back at that list and count the number of players who played a majority of the Packers-Bears game. What do you get?

Yup, two. Out of seven.

That means five first round draft picks were absent from the game on Monday. What do you expect Ted Thompson to do in a situation like this? There aren’t any players wandering around on the streets who can make up for that level of talent. And when one of those players is the highest paid quarterback in the league right now – and arguably one of the best three quarterbacks in the league – then you’ve got a problem on your hands.