Friday, October 31, 2008

Pack sign Rodgers to long-term deal

Obviously, the experiment has worked from the Packers' standpoint: the move to Aaron Rodgers at quarterback has exceeded expectations. Jettisoning ol' #4 wasn't -- still isn't -- popular in some circles. But the fact is, Rodgers is doing the job. Will he play a bajillion consecutive games like Brett Favre? It's doubtful anyone will achieve that mark, and it's really unfair to expect it as part of the new job description for Packers quarterbacks. But to take the helm of a championship level team and not have the wheels fall off as some expected, but rather to perform at one of the highest levels in the league, has proven Ted Thompson right. Rodgers' current passer rating places him eighth in the league, while Brett Favre is currently at 14th.

Having said that, the Packers aren't wasting any time in making sure that they let Mr. Rodgers know that it really is his neighborhood. They today signed Rodgers to a long-term contract extension through the 2014 season. If there was ever any question as to who was going to be the QB of the Pack for the foreseeable future, it just got answered big time. The NFL Network, citing league sources, reported that the contract was worth $65 million over six years, with $20 million guaranteed.

In a video interview, Rodgers said that he appreciated the fact that the Packers were showing this commitment to him at this time since he still had something like a year-and-a-half or so left on his original contract.

When Rodgers was drafted in 2005, 23 teams passed on him. If you recall, there was the distinct possibility that he could have gone #1 to San Francisco; they opted instead for Alex Smith...who was demoted to #2 behind J.T. O'Sullivan -- J.T. O'Sullivan! -- and is currently on injured reserve, and is starting to be considered a bust. In fact, reports indicate that San Fran's general manager, Scott McCloughan, has stated that the Niners expect to release Smith before the 2009 season, when they would owe him a salary of $9.625 million. Gee, do you think they regret not taking Rodgers? And aren't you glad the Packers did? Rodgers was the steal of the draft at the time. And, it appears, now.

Let's just hope that he sustains no serious injuries and can manage the pain with his existiing shoulder injury, which probably won't really heal until after the season.

The Packers have seen the future and it is Aaron Rodgers. Let's hope he celebrates with a great game against the Titans.

You can read more about the contract extension announcement here. A more comprehensive story about the signing can be found here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pack getting ready for the Titans

With just a few days to go before the Pack heads to Tennessee for a meeting with the unbeaten Titans, what do we know?

For starters, the Packers are coming off their bye week and are as healthy as they've been since the start of the season. There are now actually so many players available at some positions that guys are able to catch their breaths during practice. DE Aaron Kampman said exactly that during a radio interview yesterday. For a defensive line that had been decimated by injury for the first half of the season to finally have enough players available to rotate and rest during, that's a luxury. Same in the defensive backfield. In both cases, as well as on offense, where players had to step in to take over for injured starters, the experience gained has added to the overall depth of the squad. Coaches have also been able to get a better read on exactly what the strengths and weaknesses are of each player. This can only be a good thing for the remainder of the season.

As for the Titans, we know that they are the last unbeaten team in the league. We know they are an extremely physical team, with a great two-headed running game and a veteran QB who, while not great, can manage a game and generally not make mistakes...unless pressured. Kerry Collins is a statue in the pocket and if the Pack can get to him they could reap the benefits. Collins is also 0-3 against the Pack.

We also know that the Packers beat the Colts by 20 points and that the Titans just beat the Colts by 10 on Monday night. The Titans are currently favored by 5-1/2 points over the Pack. Some boards, however, have the Pack beating the spread...although that doesn't mean they are predicting an outright win. In fact, while most final predictions have yet to be made, it would seem that few would predict a Packers victory.

Still, this is a tougher game to call than it might seem on the surface. The Packers were really able to get it together in the game against the Colts. Early reports of practice this week sound as if things are still clicking well. The Pack has now had a week to rest and get players healthy and back into the lineup. The catch to winning this game will be whether or not the Pack can match the physicality of the Titans. On the other hand, the Titans might have a let down after their hard-fought and emotional win over the Colts.

I believe the Packers will win this game. But a score prediction will have to wait until game day. So check back on Sunday morning for the final preview prediction.

I hope at least some of you had a chance to hear the replay of "The Instant Replay" game this last Sunday. It really brought back memories. As I noted in my Friday entry, I and some friends were actually at that game against Da Bearz. Listening to the radio call by former Packers' announcers Jim Irwin and the late, great Max McGee, made that game come alive again. I had forgotten some of the key moments. For example, that the Packers scored on their opening drive, leading us to think we were really going to stick it to Da Bearz. Also, I had forgotten that we were driving for the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter, inside the redzone, and turned the ball over on an interception. Had forgotten, too, that we almost sealed a loss on the final drive via a fumble by QB Don Majkowski as he dropped back to pass on third-and-goal; fortunately the Pack recovered, setting up the historic fourth-and-goal play.

Anyway, it was great to hear it all again, and to know that I was among the cheering throng. It was the first time since 1984 that the Pack had beaten Da Bearz...and it was ohhhhhhhh sooooooo sweet...then...and now.

If you want to read Don Majkowski's take on this game, check this out.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What to do on bye week Sunday?

As every green-n-gold-blooded Packers fan knows, there is no game this weekend. Sigh. What to do? There is a void in our day when the bye occurs. On the one hand, we're happy for the players who need the time to heal and get ready for the second half of the season. On the other hand, many of us are faced with the dreaded prospect of actually having to engage with other family members, do those Fall chores that we've been putting off, or actually do something productive for a change. Chilling thoughts, one and all. One might think, depending upon where one lives, that we could savor watching Da Bearz or ViQueens go down in defeat this weekend. Nope. They also have byes. The Lions play Washington...but does anyone really care?

So, we need to turn to the flagship radio station of the Packers, 620WTMJ-AM in Milwaukee, for our Packers fix. Each year during the bye weekend WTMJ airs a classic game of years gone by. This weekend, it is airing The Instant Replay Game. You know what I'm talking about: that 1989 game at Lambeau Field during which the Packers beat Da Bearz in the last minute of the game on Don Majkowski's pass on 4th-and-goal from the 14-yard line to Sterling Sharpe in the south endzone. You know, the game where the zebras originally said Majik was over the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball. The game where the refs then tossed it up to the replay booth. The game where it took the zebras seemingly forever to review the tape and finally declare, "We have a reversal...touchdown."

It was a heckuva game. This writer had the privilege of attending this classic game in person. I know, I know, there are perhaps as many people who now say they were at this game as attended the Ice Bowl game. But yours truly was indeed there. In fact, some friends and I were sitting in that very south endzone and the pass to Sharpe occurred directly in front of us. I can still see Majik scrambling and then drilling the pass to Sharpe. The crowd erupted! Then it seemed like the longest delay you'd ever experience as the officials tried to get it right. They did, of course. (Naturally, if you're a fan of Da Bearz you might have a different fact, I think this loss is designated in Chicago's annals with an asterisk as they still can't accept the reality of the defeat. Deal with it!) That decision then gave all of us a second chance to celebrate all over again. And, as I think back, it seemed even sweeter the second time. That's because Da Bearz had initially thought they had won the game based on the official's initial call. They had been celebrating. And then...ohhhhhhhhhh...snap! "We have a reversal...". That just had to rip the heart right out of 'em. Gives me a warm feeling even now.

Anyway, 620WTMJ will be re-airing this game at 11 a.m. Central time this Sunday. Those within broadcast range or whose local stations are part of the Packers radio network can tune in. It's unclear whether they will be streaming the audio over the Internet, but they may very well be. You'll have to check in to their site Sunday to see if that's available. In the meantime, you can get a review and preview all in one by going here.

Hang in there, Packer fans...the Pack will be weekend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Brett refutes the Glazer story...sort of

In his weekly Jets news conference, former Packers QB Brett Favre gave his side of the story regarding his contact with the Lions the week they played the Packers. Brett said he didn't call Matt Millen, former Lions GM; Millen called him...which is exactly what reporter Jay Glazer, who broke the story on, said.

But, let's let Brett speak for himself about the rest of what went on. And decide.

Read about Favre's news conference here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jay Glazer on the Jim Rome Show re: Brett Favre

The "Benedict Brett" story continues to have legs, as they say. And while it's a hot topic in Wisconsin, of course, the story about Brett allegedly contacting the Detroit Lions with inside info about the the Packers in the week preceding their game is also a national story. Jay Glazer, who broke the story on Fox Sports, was interviewed yesterday on the Jim Rome radio show. It's a fascinating interview on a number of fronts.

You can listen to it here (once there, just click on the link for your preferred media player). For the full story from Glazer's perspective, as well as how solid a story it now -- unfortunately -- seems to be, you need to listen to this.

Bottom line: Glazer says, when asked by Rome if he stands by his story 100 percent, says emphatically, "1,000 percent...1,000 percent."

Monday, October 20, 2008

What the players have to say about Brett's antics

As noted here and elsewhere yesterday, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported that former Packers QB Brett Favre might have been doing his best Benedict Arnold imitation by way of contacting the Lions and giving them the low down on the Packers offense before the Week 2 game. And low down would indeed be the description if all this is true.

Even his former Packers teammates were taken aback at this story. See for yourself here.

As you can well imagine, this story has had fans lighting up the phone lines at radio call-in shows throughout Wisconsin.

Favre did nothing in violation of any league rules if in fact he did this. But he sure violated the standards of good sportsmanship and class. We all know Brett had his ego bruised in the way the split and trade went down. But to go out of your way and do something like this against your old Low. Very low.

Still, we haven't heard Brett's side, other than that Peter King of Sports Illustrated, with whom Brett seems to be quite tight, said on NBC's pregame show yesterday that Favre sent him a text message once word of this report broke, and said the report was "total B.S."

Maybe we'll be hearing more about this as time goes on. On the other hand, maybe it's just time to let it all go.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Did bitter Brett do some backstabbing?

This is a story that is hard to imagine being true. But if it is, one of the greatest legends ever to wear a Packers uniform is no longer worthy to be associated with the franchise.

According to a report today by Fox Sports reporter Jay Glazer, "Several sources have told FOX Sports that Favre earlier this year phoned the Detroit Lions prior to their battle versus Favre's old team, the Green Bay Packers, and gave them a rundown of the nuances of what Green Bay does on offense. According to the sources, Favre actually spent over an hour on the phone with Lions coaches, who were connected with Favre by then-team president Matt Millen."

Whatever it was that Favre might have told the Lions it obviously didn't help; the Lions lost to the Pack, 48-25. Let's face it, nothing can help the hapless Lions it seems, not even insider info.

Now, as Glazer's report notes, there's nothing in NFL rules that prohibits any player from giving some inside secrets away. Usually, however, it's when a player is on a new team playing his old team. If Favre -- who's now on the Jets as everyone in the universe knows -- actually took the initiative to contact a team playing the Packers to tell them what the Packers do, that would have to fall into the category of vindictive. Not to mention unsportsmanlike. And, if true, is definitely about as low class as you can get. If Brett's that bitter, he's doing himself and his already deteriorating reputation in Packerland more harm that he apparently realizes. Maybe he just doesn't care. That would seem to be the case.

Let's hope this is untrue. Or, at worst, that Brett only did this with the Lions. But what if he did this with other teams on his own volition? Not good. Sure, he'll still get a ring on the stadium, etc. But it surely won't have the glow that it would otherwise. And neither will the legacy. We'll reserve judgment until more is known. But it sure sounds...not good.

Here's the link.

Final: Packers 34 - Colts 14

Wow! Wait...I said that in my halftime report, didn't I? 'bout, YOWZA!

The Packers -- in their finest game this season -- dominated the Colts on both sides of the ball. The defense controlled the Colts' vaunted offense. The D-line put enough pressure on QB Peyton Manning to force him into getting intercepted twice for Packers' touchdowns in the second half. Part of that credit also, of course, goes to the linebackers and defensive backs who covered the Colts' receivers like glue.

On the first Colts' possession of the second half, a short third-down pass was tipped by the receiver into the hands of Nick Collins who returned it 62 yards for a score. That made it 24-7. The Pack added another field goal to go up 27-7 in the third quarter. Somewhere along the way, Colts K Adam Vinatieri -- who had never kicked at Lambeau Field -- missed a field goal.

With just under 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Colts drove down to the Packers 6-yard line, aided by several Packer penalties. Aaron Rouse stepped in front of a Manning pass and returned it 99 yards for another Packers TD, to go up 34-7. It was Rouse's first NFL touchdown.

In the Colts' final possession of the game, inside 2 minutes, they had a TD pass reviewed by the booth. It was reversed, as the receiver did not have full possession of the ball when he hit the ground. The Colts went for it on 4th and 7 from the 15 and it appeared the receiver was tackled out of bounds before the ball crossed the plane of the pylon. The refs on the field called it a TD, however. The play was again reviewed by the booth. Upon review, it was determined he fumbled the ball at the 1 before it went out of bounds. The Colts finally scored on the ensuing play to make it 34-14. Yawn.

This was the kind of game we've been waiting to see all season long, Packer fans! It was nice to see, and especially nice going into the bye week where players will have time to reflect on really how good this team could be, as well as give players time to heal.

As I said in the game preview, at 6:30 p.m. today we'd know if we were still atop the division or a game behind. Glad to report we're still atop the NFC North, along with Da Bearz who beat the ViQueens today.

I'm glad my gut about this game was wrong. And as my preseason predictions noted, there would be at least one game the Pack should win that they'd lose and vice versa. They lost the Tampa Bay game, a game I'd thought the Pack would win. Conversely, they beat the Colts, a game I had thought would probably go the other way. So, we have a wash at this point and are apparently where we should be right now: 4-3 heading to a week off.

We have much to look forward to in the second half of the season as players get healthy and return to play. The fact that backups have performed so well in many spots -- especially on the defense -- can only lead to better things down the road.

Go Pack Go!!!

Halftime: Packers 17 - Colts 7

Wow. The Packers are taking it to the Colts in the first half, using a combination of precision passing (at one point near the end of the half, Aaron Rodgers had completed 13 in a row) and the best running game this season out of Ryan Grant. A field goal on their first drive put the Pack up by 3. The Colts then came back with a TD drive of their own. From there, it was 14 unanswered points by the Pack. One TD came on a 12-yard TD pass to Donald Lee having essentially been set up by the run, while the second came on an 11-yard run by Grant essentially set up by the pass. Nice.

The only real negative was a wide left, 36-yard field goal attempt at the end of the half by Mason Crosby that, if good, would have made the score 20-7. It had plenty of trajectory, just looked like he overkicked and hooked it.

The Packers had a roughly 2:1 time of possession over the Colts in the half, as well as a similar advantage in the number of plays. In short, it's exactly what they needed in order to have their best shot at beating Indy: they're keeping Peyton Manning on the sidelines. The Packers offense and defense is also playing with an energy we haven't seen much of this season.

If the Pack can keep it going this same way for another 30 minutes...well, we all know how fast games can change...and how little time the Colts need -- as demonstrated already this season -- to stage a comeback.

It was a great first half. But we need one more.

Packers - Colts Preview

By 6:30 p.m. or so this evening, the Packers will either still be tied for first place in the NFC North or, at worst, behind by one game going into their bye week. Given the fact that there was a three-game losing streak in the midst of these first seven weeks of the season, given the change at quarterback, given the rash of injuries on this team, the Packers are probably fortunate to be in either position following the game today.

Prior to the season starting, this was -- frankly -- one of those games I looked at as falling into what I projected to be one of the Packers' six season losses.

However, a review of the comparative stats shows these two teams have been surprisingly similar so far, as evidenced by the Pack's 3-3 record and the Colts' 3-2 tally. But in reality much of the stats comparability is perhaps due more to the Colts floundering about for the first part of the season more than anyone expected. Unfortunately for our Packers, the Colts seemed to have finally gotten their act together last week versus Baltimore. Of course, the Pack ended its skid, as well, in Seattle. And we're playing at home. But that hasn't meant much lately, as Lambeau Field has been the site of two out of three of the team's losses.

The Colts main running back, Joseph Addai is out for the game. That should help minimize the run threat. But with the Colts, that's not really the main problem anyway, is it? The problem comes via someone by the name of Peyton Manning. He also is the master of the no-huddle offense, which will put much pressure on a depleted Packers defense, especially the defensive line. While the Packers were able to generate a few sacks last week against a third-string QB in Seattle, Manning gets the ball away as quickly as anyone. If KGB (remember him?) and Aaron Kampman register any sacks today it will have to come through some major breakdown on the Colts' part rather than via blitz packages or other such schemes. Blitzes could open the door for Manning to light things up. Good thing our defensive coordinator is reluctant to use them anyway.

As for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers should once again perform well. Ryan Grant, for the first time last week, seemed oh-so-close to finally breaking a big run. He will need to have his best day of the year if the Packers are to have a shot at beating the Colts today. Grant's running style, however, isn't the kind which is ideally suited to beating the quick pursuit of the Colts. A little "shake 'n bake" running ability -- quick cut backs, etc. -- are what's needed. Perhaps that will come in the form of one of the backup RBs.

Whatever it takes, the Packers must control the ball and time of possession to keep Manning off the field...that's the best defense the Pack could possibly have today.

The Colts are favored by one point. My Packer fan perspective of course has me calling for the Packers to win this one in a high scoring shootout. But my gut tells me that my preseason prediction of this one going in the Packers' loss column is probably more likely.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Did Brett or didn't Brett call?

The answer to the question, rhetorically posed in some circles, as to whether former Packers QB Brett Favre not only called Dallas QB Tony Romo to encourage him to play with his broken pinkie finger but also called Aaron Rodgers with the same encouragement about his shoulder injury, would be..."No."

Actually, that wasn't just a rhetorical question that may have entered some people's minds; it was a question that had to eventually get asked. And it was.

According to the Packers Blog section of the online edition of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Asked whether it bothered him Favre called Romo and not him, Rodgers said: 'Nope. That doesn't really bother me. At all.'

He then flashed a big smile. Read into it what you will."

Now, other than Romo being a Wisconsin native and Favre obviously having played in Wisconsin, what connection would Favre have with him? Sure, the quarterback fraternity and all that. But Rodgers was his teammate for the last three years. Wouldn't you think that he would have gotten the encouragement call? Guess not. And it appears, sadly, that Rodgers really wasn't surprised by Favre's behavior about this either.

Anyway, you can read the comments of readers -- the majority of whom have seemed to become less-favorably enamored of ol' #4 than in prior years -- here. Some real insights into how far Brett's reputation has fallen in some parts of the Packer universe.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The walking wounded report

It's no surprise to any Packers fan that there are a host of injuries on the team. So far, those players having to step in have performed well for the most part. Tramon Williams, replacing Al Harris, for example, has had three interceptions in the last three games. But Harris might be back sooner than expected from his spleen injury. Harris actually participated in practice today for the first time since being injured in the Dallas game on September 21. According to reports, he wore a protective jacket around his abdomen while doing individual running and pass-catching drills. Head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that they would follow the doctors orders, of course. Translate that into Harris possibly seeing some limited action against the Titans after the bye week, which gives him another three weeks to heal.

Atari Bigby also seems closer to playing this week than the last several. He had some limited practice yesterday and McCarthy said if Bigby can practice this week he may see action against the Colts on Sunday.

QB Aaron Rodgers threw for the first time in practice today, albeit lightly. McCarthy said Rodgers took about 50 percent of the first team snaps. It's a good sign. But Rodgers has performed spectacularly well without practice the last two weeks. He'll likely need to light it up Sunday in what could be a high-scoring game.

The news isn't so promising, though, for nose tackle Ryan Pickett and his triceps strain. Coach McCarthy said Pickett was probably 50-50 for the Colts game. Not having Pickett available for a game like this would be a definite blow to the defense.

As to the return of DT Justin Harrell and how it might affect the defense, no one knows for sure. Not even Harrell. The oft-injured and top Packers' pick in the '07 draft saw his first practice of the year yesterday. But apparently, according to McCarthy, he looked good. Harrell admitted to tiring, which is not surprising. Whether Harrell sees any action Sunday is still to be determined. But at this point, given the thinness on the defensive line, even getting a few snaps out of Harrell would be a plus. Heck, that would be a plus whether it's this game or any other.

Now, to be fair, all those who are close to the scene -- including normally cynical sports pundits -- have said repeatedly that Harrell is a young man who you just have to root for. He has faced injuries in college and in his pro career, such as it has been. It's not his fault that GM Ted Thompson decided to roll the dice and take him at #16 in the 2007 NFL Draft, which many fans and analysts all felt was a reach. But reports are that Harrell has worked hard to recover from the two off-season back surgeries he had and is in very good physical condition. So, all we can do is to hope Harrell finally catches a break and stays healthy...for both his sake and the Packers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pack passes on Gonzalez

You can't say the Packers didn't try. In a bid to acquire veteran Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez from Kansas City, GM Ted Thompson was willing to trade a third round draft pick. It was the best offer the Chiefs received. But KC wanted a second-rounder, and that was just too much for Thompson to part with even after apparently increasing his offer several times throughout the course of the day's conversations. It apparently went right to the wire of the 3 p.m. trade deadline yesterday before the Pack called it quits.

According to reports, Gonzalez was ready to get on board with the Packers and said he would play three more seasons. And, clearly, Gonzalez would have been a great veteran presence in a very young Packers locker room, not to mention providing his still-exceptional receiving and blocking ability that would have added another great weapon to the Pack's offense.

But as Thompson has demonstrated in the past -- passing on Randy Moss and Michael Turner, for example -- he's very tightfisted in making blockbuster offensive trades. For Gonzalez' part, a report in today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel cites an NFL source that says he was "livid" that the hapless Chiefs wouldn't trade him for a third-round pick. Gonzalez wanted to go to a playoff contender. Now, he's stuck in KC for a while longer. At least there's great barbecue there.

For more on this story, check out the Journal-Sentinel article here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Final: Packers 27 - Seahawks 17

The Packers scored 24 unanswered points before allowing the Seahawks to score a meaningless TD late in the 4th quarter. Final score: Pack 27 - Seahawks 17.

The Pack did what they needed to do. While the game wasn't overly exciting, it was very solid. The offense scored, the defense got three sacks (Aaron Kampman had two) and two interceptions, special teams didn't blow it, penalties -- compared to prior games -- were kept to a minimum. The Pack also controlled the time of possession, holding the ball nearly 15 minutes longer than Seattle. So not much to complain about.

How did the pack get their last 10 points of the game? The Pack went up 24-10 early in the quarter on a 1-yard pass from Aaron Rodgers to FB John Kuhn -- the first TD catch of Kuhn's three-year NFL career. Congrats, Mr. Kuhn! About three minutes later, kicker Mason Crosby added the final 3 points on a 51-yard field goal which was set up by a Charles Woodson interception. That made it 27-10. Seattle got their last points with a little more than 3 minutes left in the game. They followed that score with an onside kick, which was recovered by Jarrett Bush. And, no, Bush did not incur a penalty in the process. How refreshing!

From there on, the Pack was able to run out the clock and seal the deal on a nice 27-17 victory making them 3-3 on the season.

Three-way tie for first
The win makes for a three-way tie for first in the NFC North. The ViQueens squeaked out a last second 2-point win over the hapless, and winless, Lions. And, other than the Packers' win today, the next best thing to happen was a gut-wrenching loss by Da Bearz to the Falcons. After being dominated by Atlanta the entire game, Da Bearz got a glimmer of hope in the last 2 minutes or so of the game. Ahead by 6, the Falcons set up for a 36-yard field goal by veteran Jason Elam...who hadn't missed a field goal attempt all season. You know what happens next: he misses. This is the way Da Bearz have pulled wins out of their ying-yangs for years. And it almost looked like they would again, after QB Kyle Orton threw a 17-yard TD pass with 11 second to go, putting Da Bearz ahead 20-19. But after a short squib kick gave Atlanta a prayer, rookie QB Matt Ryan connected with a receiver on the sideline for 26 yards and one second left on the clock. Elam had his shot at redemption with a 48-yard field attempt. And redeemed he was! Falcons over Da Bearz, 22-20. Sweet!

So, the Pack showed progress on a number of fronts and kept Rodgers healthy. They come home next week to take on -- unfortunately -- a resurgent Colts team that has finally seemed to get its act together. They wiped the floor with the Ravens today to the tune of 31-3. The Colts are now 3-2.

We'll talk more about the upcoming game in the days ahead. For now, let's just enjoy the first Packers' win after 3 straight losses. Oh, yeah, and savor that heartbreaking loss for Chicago, too. A good day all around.

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 17 - Seahawks 10

The Packers dodged a bullet early in the quarter when a 51-yard run right up the middle by Julius Jones was called back on a holding penalty by former Packer Mike Wahle...thanks, Mike!

The highlight of the quarter was a 45-yard TD pass from Rodgers to Greg Jennings to put the Pack up 17-10 with just under 6 minutes left in the quarter.

Aaron Kampman registered his second sack of the day. Aaron Rouse was replaced by Charlie Peprah in the defensive backfield after Rouse suffered an unspecified head injury. And Jarrett Bush, whom you can always count on for a stupid penalty, registered a facemask penalty on a Packers' punt return.

The Packers' running game still seems stuck in the mud, with Ryan Grant finally hitting the 60-yards tally in the quarter.

If the Pack just takes care of business, doesn't commit a turnover or an inopportune penalty, this should be the Packers' game.

Halftime: Packers 10 - Seahawks 10

The Seahawks started off the second quarter by getting in position for a field goal, to tie the game at 3. On the first series after taking the ensuing kickoff, QB Aaron Rodgers kept the ball too long on a drop back, was hit, and fumbled the ball at the Packers' own 33-yard line. It wasn't long thereafter that Seattle was up 10-3.

The Packers then took their next possession down to the 1-yard line. They lined up no running backs and had Rodgers attempt a sneak. The linesman said his momentum was stopped, while replays clearly showed the opposite, and had in fact stretched the ball over the goal line for a TD. The booth review determined that Rodgers' knee never touched the ground and the ball had broken the plane of the endzone: touchdown, Packers, with about 30 seconds left in the half to tie things up at 10-10.

This was the second time in the half that the Packers used Rodgers on a sneak. Even the booth announcers were questioning why they would expose Rodgers' shoulder to more possible injury by running sneaks. It's a good question. No doubt Coach McCarthy will be asked about this later on.

End of 1st quarter: Packers 3 - Seahawks 0

Not exactly a scintillating quarter. Not that the Packers have played badly, just nothing spectacular. The defense is doing a fine job so far, but the Seahawks started to finally get some first down conversions toward the end of the quarter. Looks as if they are going to try to run Julius Jones as much as possible to take the pressure off backup QB starter Charlie Frye.

The Pack's own running game shows signs of life. But on a drive down inside the red zone the Pack once again had to settle for a field goal...something that has been a disconcerting trend this season.

Speaking of the running game, backup Brandon Jackson is not active today after apparently becoming ill, so just-activated DeShawn Wynn is the main backup to Ryan Grant today.

The really only unusual aspect to the quarter was that the Packers used two timeouts, one on some confusion as to whether to try a 60-yard field goal -- yes, you read that right -- or punt...thankfully, the decision was to punt. The second came as the play clock was running out on Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers seems to be so-so with his passes today. Some are spot on, and some aren't really close. It's the shoulder, ya know?

Packers - Seahawks preview

So, we have a 2-3 team going on the road against a 1-3 team which is either a 1 or 2 point favorite, depending upon which spread you pay attention to.

Who needs a win more? Both the Packers and Seahawks are getting desperate. And both are also riddled with injuries. In fact, the Packers placed another player -- rookie RB Kregg Lumpkin -- on injured reserve with a hamstring injury yesterday. More on that below. As for the Seahawks, their receiving corps is basically down to old-timer Bobby Engram as their primary threat. It's also uncertain as to who exactly will be throwing the ball for Seattle today. Both starter Matt Hasselbeck and backup Seneca Wallace are listed as questionable. That means third-stringer Charlie Frye could play today. The primary running back for Seattle is Dallas cast-off Julius Jones.

Of course, the Packers have a starting QB who again didn't practice to any extent this past week -- although judging by his performance against Atlanta, Aaron Rodgers can do just fine without it. The running game showed signs of life last week for the first time this season. But the defense has no pass rush, nor can it seem to stop the run. And of course penalties on both sides of the ball are rampant.

So, perhaps today it's not a matter of which team is more desperate as much as which team is able to somehow overcome their own problems. Last week's loss to Atlanta was one of those games I mentioned in my preseason overview as a game which the Pack should win but would lose. Looking at the Seattle game then -- and now -- I see this as a game which the Pack should win. Of course, that was before all the injuries and problems manifested themselves.

Still, I'm sticking with the Pack today. If the Pack can get any semblance of a running game going, Rodgers and the receivers could then also enjoy a big day. Seattle is in worse shape than the Packers on a number of levels. And if the Pack doesn't do themselves in, this is a game which should go in the "W" column. I'm taking the Pack 27-21.

Lumpkin on IR
As noted above, the Pack placed rookie RB Kregg Lumpkin on injured reserve Saturday. The Packers were so excited about the undrafted Lumpkin at final cut time that they kept him and released veterans Noah Herron and Vernand Morency. Lumpkin has been plagued with a nagging hamstring injury since the Dallas game, though, and despite seemingly making progress through this week was shelved for the season. In his place, the Pack signed running back DeShawn Wynn from the practice squad. Wynn will be the third back, behind Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson. It's not certain yet whether he'll be active for today's game or not.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Rodgers OK, White cut

The news out of Green Bay this morning was that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers' injured shoulder was better this week versus the same time last week. Coaches are again, however, limiting Rodgers' activity. They may allow him to throw a bit tomorrow just to see where he is, but based upon last week's performance it seems as if Rodgers could again play without many if any reps. In fact, the early word from Coach McCarthy to the media is that he fully expects Rodgers to start Sunday in Seattle. Thank goodness. Rodgers and the passing game have been about the only thing that has been keeping the Packers alive, despite the now thee-game losing streak. The offense ranks fifth overall in the league with 133 points and 11th with an average of 337.4 yards per game. That should translate to a record better than 2-3.

The Packers' problems were especially on display this last game: penalties, lack of running game, lack of a pass rush, lack of ability to stop the run, lousy punter...pick an area -- other than QB and receivers -- and you can find problems. And if the coaching staff somehow isn't able to scheme differently or get more out of the players they have, it's going to be...not so good.

LB White cut
The Packers cut LB Abdul Hodge this summer because supposedly they felt LB Tracy White would be a better back up, especially because he was also the best performer on special teams. Hodge was signed by the Bengals. And now, the Packers cut White and replaced him with Danny Lansanah who was signed from the practice squad. Lansanah was an undrafted free agent out of UConn. White had been with the Packers for three years after previously playing for Seattle and Jacksonville. He was a free agent this past off-season and turned down offers from Pittsburgh and Denver to re-sign with Green Bay. So much for that idea, eh? Not surprisingly, Lansanah will play on most if not all the Packers' special teams.

Here's what GM Ted Thompson had to say about Lansanah, according to media reports: "We just felt like Danny is a guy that we believe, based on the way he played in pre-season and the like, that he can add a little bit more juice to us. He's a guy that we want to have on our team." Thompson added, "We're kind of excited about Danny. We think he's ready to play. We thought he had a good summer and he's done well so far. I think he's one of those guys that can play in a lot of different spots. He has the athleticism to run and do some things in coverage and he's also a big guy that can hold his ground. Looking forward to seeing what he can do." Thompson also noted that this move had nothing to do with current starting linebacker A. J. Hawk's ongoing groin injury.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Final: Packers 24 - Falcons 27

After dodging a bullet in the form of a sure-thing TD pass by the Falcons, thanks to an acrobatic interception by Tramon Williams, the Packers were able to drive for a TD to tie the score at 17-17. On the ensuing kickoff, however, the Packers gave up a 54-yard return to set up the Falcons in great field position. The defense held Atlanta to a field goal, to go up 20-17. The Packers had a chance to go down to at least tie the score, but another holding penalty and then an intentional grounding penalty left the Pack with a 3rd-and-19 from about their own 20. Rodgers rolled to the right and underthrew an open receiver, allowing for an easy interception and return to about the Packers' 30. A few plays later and the the Falcons were up 27-17 with just under 4 minutes to go.

The Packers made a final drive for a TD, a little shovel pass to Donald Lee for 4-yard TD with just under 2 minutes to go.

They followed with an onside kick, which K Mason Crosby almost whiffed on, getting no bounce and going right into the arms of the Falcons at about midfield, essentially sealing the defeat. The Packers were forced to spend their remaining timeouts, and the defense was unable to prevent a first down, letting Atlanta run out the clock.

This was a game that made me nervous before it even started. The flatness of the start, the penalties throughout, the lack of a pass rush, missed opportunities...all contributed to a disappointing loss at home. That's now three losses in a row...for those who are counting.

Rodgers, despite the ailing arm, threw for over 300 yards with 3 TDs and 1 INT.

The Packers are now 2-3, looking up at the Da Bearz atop the NFC North at 3-2 after Chicago beat the Lions today. The Pack travel to Seattle next weekend, followed by a game at home against the Colts before a bye week.

The Packers have some serious problems on defense, particularly in terms of no pass rush whatsoever as well as no ability to stop the rush. Looking ahead to the next two games -- if the Packers can't figure out a way to fix these problems -- we could be sitting at 2-5 going in to the bye week. And that will not be the fault of Aaron Rodgers, by the way.

End of 3rd quarter: Packers 10 - Falcons 17

The Packers held the Falcons to 0 points in the 3rd quarter, and controlled the time of possession. Faced with bad starting position on three consecutive series -- averaging on about their own 3.5 yard line -- the Packers were finally able to squeak out a 50-yard field goal near the end of the quarter, to make it a 7-point game heading down the stretch.

However, after his last couple passes, Aaron Rodgers was seen holding and hanging his throwing arm a bit. Obviously, he's starting to experience more pain and discomfort than at the outset of the game. He still appears to have sufficient arm strength but the question will be whether or not he can make it to the end of the game.

A lot depends on whether or not the defense is able to hold the Falcons scoreless in this final quarter, and whether the Packers' running game is able to help move the ball and take pressure off Rodgers.

Halftime: Packers 7 - Falcons 17

The Packers decided to wake up a bit in the second quarter, playing with a bit more energy. Aaron Rodgers answered any questions about his injured shoulder and arm strength with a beautiful 44-yard TD pass to Donald Driver, dropped in right between two defenders.

The second Packers score-that-wasn't-a-score (stay with me now...) came with under 2 minutes left in the half. On third-and-four from about the Falcons 20, Rodgers was sacked, setting up a 43-yard field goal. Kicker Mason Crosby made it with no problem, only to be confronted with a holding penalty on rookie Jermichael Finley...the Packers' league-leading 13th holding penalty...and now making the kick a 53-yarder...which Crosby missed badly, giving the Falcons good field position at about their own 40 yard line with about a minute to go. The Packers were able to hold, however, forcing a punt to basically end the half.

The Packers are making Falcons WR Roddy White look like Jerry Rice, however. He is getting wide open and has 132 yards receiving already in the game, as well as a TD. a game in which the Packers are struggling to show energy and get any kind of offensive rhythm or defensive pass coverage, and penalties take points off the scoreboard...I'm seeing a lot of what I was nervous about before kickoff.

Coach McCarthy will have some choice words to say to his players in the locker room during halftime. Whether that will be enough to turn this game around or not, we'll have to see.

The Packers will receive the kickoff in the second half.

1st quarter impressions: Pack flat

It seems like there is always at least one game -- and often at home -- when the Packers just seem listless and flat. This is it. At the end of the first quarter, the Falcons are making the Packers look like they're sleepwalking. The opening play of the game for the Falcons was nearly a 40-yard pass play in which Charles Woodson fell down, allowing a wide open receiver. Later in that same series, Patrick Lee fell down covering the same receiver for another large gain. Easy touchdown on the first drive, even if the Falcons did have to go for it on fourth and goal from about the one-yard line.

The Packers? Three and out on the first series, followed by a lousy punt. Same on the second series. Ditto the punt. Between the two series, the Falcons got a field goal.

Packers 0 - Falcons 10 at the end of the quarter.

Coach Mike McCarthy can be seen on the sidelines barking at the defense and offense as they come off the field. The TV announcers stated that apparently this was a problem all week, that McCarthy thought the energy level was lousy. Seems like it has, unfortunately, carried over.

The offense is doing nothing, and the defense is letting the Falcons operate almost at will.

If the Packers don't get their act together soon, this game will be going to the Falcons.

Packers - Falcons update: Rodgers will start

According to a report just now by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers will start today's game. Mortensen said it is not certain whether Rodgers will wear a harness or some other apparatus to protect his throwing shoulder, but he will start.

Here's hoping that no further damage is done and that Rodgers can be effective.

Packers - Falcons preview

Hmmm...Packers at home...favored by 4...but mounting injuries...weak (to put it kindly) running game...and not sure who'll be at quarterback....

Somehow, I think this game will be a lot tougher than was initially thought when looking at the schedule before the start of the season. After all, both the Packers and the Falcons are 2-2. And if you look at the comparative stats, Packer fans, in many categories the edge goes to the Falcons: average number of first downs, yards per game, rushing yards per game (nearly double the Pack!), yards per rush, interceptions, sacks allowed, field goals, possession time, points allowed, first downs allowed, yards per game allowed, rushing yards allowed per game, yards per rush allowed, and passing yards allowed per game. In short, on most of the major stats of the game, the edge goes to the Falcons.

A big part of Atlanta's offense is the thunder and lightning running back duo of Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood. While not the equal of the Cowboys' Marion Barber - Felix Jones combo, Turner and Norwood are similar to the extent they present the Packers defense with the same kind of problems. Turner is the power guy who could gash the Pack up the middle while Norwood could do damage -- as Jones did -- running to the outside using his speed. If the Packers defense doesn't contain that running game it could be a long afternoon. At the same time, the "D" must get pressure on the rookie QB, Matt Ryan. This will be even more difficult than it has been so far this season for the Packers with the loss of Cullen Jenkins.

On the offensive side of things, there are two big questions for the Packers going into today's game: can the Packers generate any semblance of a running game, and who will be the quarterback? So far this season, Ryan Grant has been ineffective. Of course, it's hard to run through a hole when there is no hole to run through. The offensive line -- and the zone blocking scheme -- is again out of sync, as last season, in these early games. If there is no running game again today, all the pressure goes on the QB. This is a problem whether an injured Aaron Rodgers is able to play today or whether rookie Matt Flynn gets the start.

Head coach Mike McCarthy told Rodgers that he needs to know 90 minutes before kickoff whether he is going to be able to play today or not. According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, Rodgers is on the field right now warming up, seeing if he can go. Rodgers was quoted this week as saying, "It's going to be a matter of, can I make the throws I need to make? The pain is something I can deal with." It will probably go right down to about 10:30 a.m. when the game inactives have to be turned in. There's a better than 50-50 chance that Flynn will get the start today. Regardless of how Rodgers feels, it might be that McCarthy decides the possibility of long-term injury requires him to sit Rodgers. Matt Flynn has been preparing all week as if he would be the starter, getting the majority of snaps. Fellow rookie, Brian Brohm, has been getting the snaps as #2.

I'm hoping I'm wrong, and that Rodgers is healthy enough to play and be effective. But my guess is that Matt Flynn will be the first rookie to start a game for the Pack since Don Majkowski in 1987.

I question this game as much as any this season, given the combination of factors noted earlier. And if the Packers play no better than last week, they have a real chance of losing this game. Still, I think the Pack will find some way to win at home...somebody will step up and make a key play, perhaps on special teams or via a turnover. It may be ugly. But I think it will be a Packers' win. I'm taking the Pack 20-17.

Friday, October 03, 2008

For the ultimate Favre fan

If you're one of those who covet all things Brett -- as in ol' #4, the former QB for the Packers, the guy who is still lightin' it up for the Jets -- then you'll want to get hold of this: Favre's former Green Bay home.

That's can now own the home that Brett resided in during his days in Green Bay. Actually, the home is in Ashwaubenon (pronounced ash-waw-be-non), one of the Green Bay suburbs. According to an Associated Press report, real estate agency Micoley and Company is listing the 3,000-square-foot ranch home. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and assessed -- according to Brown County property records -- at $424,900. The asking price? $475,000. C'mon, Packer fans. Surely one of you out there can ante up that kind of coin for a one-of-a-kind piece of Packer -- and Favre -- history. Then, be sure to invite all of us for a housewarming!

Rodgers will be a game-time decision
Head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters today that whether or not QB Aaron Rodgers will play Sunday will be a game-time decision. He said he'd give Rodgers until 90 minutes before kickoff to make his decision as to whether he can go or not.

I think if there is any way Rodgers can even start the game, he will. But from the sound of reports coming out of Green Bay all week, it would be more likely that rookie QB Matt Flynn will play most if not all of the game...barring some miraculous, Favre-like healing on the part of Rodgers.

Hmmmm...maybe if Rodgers went and sat in Brett's house for the next few days...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Rodgers still a question mark for Sunday

According to reports out of Green Bay, QB Aaron Rodgers did not throw a pass at yesterday's practice. He handed off a few times, but mostly observed. The coaching staff is getting rookie Matt Flynn prepared as if he will be the starter.

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean Flynn will be the man under center come noon Sunday against the Falcons. A lot will have to do, not so much with how Rodgers will handle the pain of his "sprained" shoulder, but whether he will have the arm strength to make the passes he needs to make. If he can get even close, he'll probably play.

There's an article in today's Green Bay Press-Gazette which relates that Rodgers talked to former QB and good friend Trent Dilfer over the last few days, and Dilfer told Rodgers that he had dislocated his throwing shoulder 10 times over the course of his 14 years in the NFL -- and never missed the following game. How? Painkillers, of course. And that would be the way Rodgers would have to go, as well, if he has any possibility of playing Sunday.

You can read more about the shoulder situation here.

Combined with losing Cullen Jenkins for the year and Al Harris indefinitely on the defensive side of things, and the Pack's inability to run the ball, having Rodgers at QB will be a necessity this weekend. The Falcons may not be great. But they are certainly good enough to present challenges to a banged up and/or unproductive Packers squad. More on that as the game nears.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Will it be Rodgers or Flynn?

Today is the day, following two days of physical rehab, that the coaching staff will probably know if the Packers will have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback on Sunday or whether rookie Matt Flynn will be the man under center.

Rodgers has been saying all along that he'll be ready to go. No doubt he's got the will. But whether his "sprained" throwing shoulder will allow him to perform effectively is another thing. If he can't go, GM Ted Thompson's and head coach Mike McCarthy's gamble on backing up Rodgers with two rookies will certainly come under scrutiny. Actually, that happened before the first snap of the regular season. But, it is what it is, right? Ya go with who you ya got, as they say. And we have two rooks to fall back on.

In this case, it will be Matt Flynn, who came in for a couple series in Sunday's game. But this week, he's preparing and being prepared as if he will be the starter. But, it's not like he'd be the only rookie QB on a NFL football field. Actually, all he'll have to do is look across to the opposite sideline and he'll see Matt Ryan, the rookie starting QB for the Falcons. Granted, Ryan was the #3 overall pick in this year's draft and Flynn was #209. But Flynn has some credentials too. MVP of a Peach Bowl as a fill-in QB. And, lest we, forget, Flynn led LSU to the National Championship last season.

But that's college. This is the pros. Still, the young man seems like one who doesn't get too rattled. If he has to get a start, going against Atlanta at Lambeau wouldn't be a bad way to break in. But that's assuming the Packers' heretofore (big word alert! look it up!) moribund (ditto on looking it up!) running game is somehow able to gain more than 30 yards in a game. Unless Ryan Grant can finally get his game in gear, and take some of the load off whoever is starting at QB, the Pack will have a long day on the field offensively.

If you want to know a little more about Flynn, and what the Pack is doing to get him ready -- just in case -- check out this article.