ESPN Wisconsin Blogs - Jason Wilde
GREEN BAY – Three quick post-game takeaways from the Green Bay Packers’ 38-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field Sunday:
1. Mr. Perfect: Until he missed an open Richard Rodgers in the end zone near the end of the third quarter, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was carrying a perfect 158.3 passer rating. His numbers ended up being OK nevertheless: 19 of 22 for 255 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 154.5 before being lifted for backup Matt Flynn.
The performance marked the sixth straight game that Rodgers did not throw an interception, and extended his career-long streak of pass attempts without an interception to 192. For the season, Rodgers has now thrown 18 touchdown passes against one interception, which went off Jordy Nelson’s hands in the regular-season opener at Seattle.
2. Big-play Clay: Although the official stat book after the game would show only two tackles and one half-sack for Clay Matthews, the four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker had an impact greater than the numbers indicated.
On Carolina’s opening drive, Matthews stuffed Jonathan Stewart for a 3-yard loss. Later, on a Julius Peppers sack, it was Matthews’ bull rush on right tackle Nate Chandler that set up the 6-yard loss. Matthews, who came in with one sack in the first six games, shared a sack with Peppers later in the game, although a questionable taunting penalty overshadowed it. Matthews also had an interception return for a touchdown that was wiped out by a close call on a pass interference penalty on cornerback Tramon Williams, who deflected the pass to Matthews.
In addition, the Packers unveiled a new dime alignment that didn’t have a single true defensive lineman on the field. Instead, defensive coordinator Dom Capers used five linebackers – Matthews, Peppers, Nick Perry, Mike Neal and A.J. Hawk – in various configurations, including with Matthews lining up inside as a stand-up inside rusher.
3. Team effort: Just about everyone on the Packers’ offense got involved Sunday. Wide receiver Randall Cobb not only caught his team-leading eighth touchdown pass of the season, he finished with six receptions for 121 yards. Nelson, who got the Packers going with his 59-yard catch-and-run touchdown on the opening possession, finished with four catches for 80 yards. And No. 3 wide receiver Davante Adams only had one catch, but it was a big one: A 21-yarder that made it 35-3 in the third quarter.
The running backs also got going a bit, although the attempt numbers probably weren’t as high as coach Mike McCarthy would have liked. Eddie Lacy ran 12 times for 63 yards and a touchdown, and James Starks had seven carries for 36 yards and a touchdown before leaving with a left ankle injury.
GREEN BAY – Sam Shields won’t play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, and the Green Bay Packers will be without defensive end Datone Jones for the second straight game as well.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy ruled both Shields and Jones out for Sunday’s game, but he listed cornerback Tramon Williams as questionable, giving the veteran cornerback a shot at playing, even if he doesn’t do much in practice on Saturday.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Friday, in advance of the team’s game against Carolina at Lambeau Field on Sunday:
“He’s better today than he was yesterday. I think [Saturday] will be the biggest indicator, obviously with us going to the practice field,” McCarthy said. “As I stated earlier in the week, we’ll give Tramon Williams every opportunity all the way up to game time to play.
“Tramon Williams definitely [is] very durable. Very impressive athlete in the strength and conditioning – he’s always been impressive in there, takes great care of his body. He’s an old-school pro. I don’t think there was any question when we got back here Monday that he was going to do everything that he could to play in this game. I have great confidence in him.”
McCarthy said Jones, who practiced last Saturday but did not play at Miami, had a setback when he tested the ankle on Wednesday.
“Yeah, I’m a little surprised at the path, but he’s struggling laterally right now and until he gets that back, it doesn’t make sense to push it forward,” McCarthy said. “I thought he fought through last Saturday’s practice but he’s had a setback.”
If Lattimore can’t go, Brad Jones would play in his place, although McCarthy spoke as if the two might share time Sunday.
“As we state all the time, Brad has technically started a lot of games for but we’re going to play with more than 11, and the linebacker position, particularly inside, is something that has rotation to it,” McCarthy said. “He’ll definitely play in the game.”
GREEN BAY – Alex Van Pelt is a pretty smart guy, although he’s no mathematician. And while the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach understands how statistics can be used to support a theory, he also knows what his eyes see when he watches film and what his brain tells him about the idea of quarterback Aaron Rodgers allegedly being too “cautious.”
When told about an article at fivethirtyeight.com that postulated that Rodgers is too risk-averse, Van Pelt listened intently. He even acknowledged that one of the ideas presented in the story – that a quarterback can be too cautious – was valid.
“Oh, it definitely is [possible]. I don’t see it with Aaron,” Van Pelt said Thursday. (At the time of the interview, Van Pelt wasn’t aware of the story and thus had not read it.) “If you’re going to say his touchdown-to-interception ratio makes him too cautious, I say it makes him great. I mean, that’s good quarterback play.”
Rodgers enters Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers having thrown 15 touchdown passes and one interception. In 100 career NFL regular-season games, he has the highest passer rating (105.3, ahead of Peyton Manning’s 97.5) and the lowest interception percentage (1.7 percent, just ahead of New England quarterback Tom Brady’s 2.0 percent) in NFL history. He has thrown 203 career regular-season touchdown passes against 53 career interceptions.
“I see a good decision-maker. That’s first and foremost. He makes great decisions – when to throw it, when not to throw it,” Van Pelt said. (Rodgers spoke to reporters on Wednesday, before the story came out.) “A lot of guys would try to fit it in there and end up with picks. And he doesn’t. It’s smart quarterback play. The first lesson you learn as a quarterback is, ‘I’m going to protect this football. Period.’
“We’ll win games if we don’t turn the ball over. If you want to criticize that, then go right ahead, but he’s getting great grades in my room for not turning the ball over.”
In the fivethirtyeight.com story is something author Benjamin Morris calls “The Gunslinger Hypothesis,” that you can throw too few interceptions as well as too many. As evidence that Rodgers is too risk-averse, Morris points out that Rodgers has never engineered a comeback victory when his team has been down by nine or more points in the second half.
(Morris had an interesting back-and-forth with Paul Noonan on Twitter earlier Thursday about the topic, with Noonan making some valid counterpoints.)
By Morris’ count, Rodgers has faced a deficit of nine or more points 21 times in his career, including four games he entered after Brett Favre started. Noonan counted 17 regular-season starts by Rodgers that resulted in such large second-half deficits, plus three playoff games.
Earlier in the article, Morris writes that he was surprised to find that Rodgers has been “great” in comeback situations like the one he faced against Miami in last week’s 27-24 come-from-behind win. In the fourth quarter, with his team needing a touchdown to tie or take the lead – so trailing by 4 to 8 points – only Peyton Manning has led his team to a higher percentage of touchdown drives.
Van Pelt acknowledged that there are times when making riskier throws is OK, if your team is trailing.
“I’ve said it in meetings before, ‘Hey, we’re down 14 here, it’s a tight throw, but we’re down 14,’” Van Pelt said. “That might the right time to let go and take a chance.”
Asked if it might be a valid criticism then of Rodgers, Van Pelt shook his head.
“Not with him. Just with other guys I’ve been with,” Van Pelt replied. “He knows when to make a play.”
GREEN BAY – Datone Jones isn’t ready for action.
A day after he participated on a limited basis for the first time since suffering a sprained ankle against Minnesota on Oct. 2, the Green Bay Packers second-year defensive end was back on the sideline on Thursday – which is where the Packers’ two starting cornerbacks remained, too.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Thursday in advance of the team’s game against Carolina at Lambeau Field on Sunday:
Jones, who didn’t not play last week at Miami, showed progress before the team left for South Florida that encouraged the medical staff that he might be able to return, but after testing the ankle Wednesday, it did not respond.
“He’s not recovering as fast as we thought,” McCarthy said. “He made some progress at practice Saturday but it’s not coming along.”
McCarthy said he had no updates on Shields or Williams, who both sat out their second straight practice. The team no longer practices on Fridays, so the two will have a last chance to practice on Saturday.
“”Getting better,” McCarthy said. “Tramon is still further ahead of Sam.”
GREEN BAY – Although there were two notable names missing from Wednesday’s participation list – starting cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams – the rest of the Green Bay Packers’ injury news was positive.
Inside linebacker Sam Barrington, wide receiver Jarrett Boykin and defensive end Datone Jones, all of whom were inactive for last Sunday’s game at Miami, took part in practice on at least a limited basis and have a realistic chance of playing Sunday against Carolina at Lambeau Field.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report:
McCarthy indicated that even if Williams and Shields, who were injured against the Dolphins, don’t practice on Thursday, they still could play against the Panthers.
“Them being veteran players, we’ll give them every opportunity to get ready,” McCarthy said, adding that Williams is closer to being able to play than Shields at this point.
Meanwhile, McCarthy said Lattimore, who left the game with what was termed a neck injury, suffered a stinger.
GREEN BAY – This was not the way JC Tretter wanted to start his NFL career – one that, technically, hasn’t really started yet since he’s yet to play in an NFL regular-season game.
“It’s not exactly ideal,” the Green Bay Packers second-year center said Wednesday. “You have to take you lumps, readjust your mind and move forward and focus on getting back as soon as you can. Obviously, not great.”
Tretter, a 2013 fourth-round pick who didn’t play a single snap as a rookie last year because of a broken ankle suffered in the first organized team activity practice that offseason, suffered an impaction fracture in his left knee in the Packers’ Aug. 22 preseason game against Oakland and is on injured reserve with the designation to return. He became eligible to practice on Wednesday and did so, although he cannot be activated from IR for game action until the Nov. 9 game against Chicago.
“It felt great to be back around the guys and just be out there participating and being around the whole system again,” Tretter said. “It felt good to be back out there.”
But things are vastly different than when he left. Tretter took every rep with the No. 1 offense throughout the offseason and training camp, but because rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley has played so well in his place at center, it is highly unlikely that the Packers would bench Linsley and give Tretter his old job back.
That leaves Tretter in limbo, uncertain of what his role will be once he’s able to return to action.
The most logical move would be to make him the offensive line’s sixth man, like third-year tackle Don Barclay was supposed to be this season before suffering a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during training camp. Tretter would have to be able to play both guard and tackle in that scenario, in addition to backing up Linsley at center, and it’s unclear if Tretter has that versatility.
“If this was Madden, yes. Unfortunately, you can’t just click a button and be able to play a different position,” said Tretter, who did play both tackle and guard in college at Cornell.
“Obviously, I need to rep it and practice it. I don’t know. It’s been awhile since I played tackle, it’s been awhile since I played guard. So obviously we’d have to work a bunch of new things. I couldn’t really give you an answer.
“[But] anything’s possible, as Kevin Garnett once told me.”
If Linsley remains entrenched at center, the Packers’ top three right tackles – Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod and Barclay – are all free agents next year, which could mean a move for Tretter. (Bulaga and Sherrod are unrestricted, Barclay restricted.) But for now, Tretter is merely focused on the next few weeks.
“I can’t get my starting job back for at least the next three weeks, so I’m not really worrying about it or thinking about it, I’m just going out there and playing football again,” said Tretter, who said he has been running “for the last couple weeks” with Wednesday having been the target for his return. “I’m just enjoying practicing again.
“I’ve always been a team player and whatever the coaches want from you, that’s what this job is, I’ve just been focused on getting back and being healthy. Right now, there’s really no need to worry about it. There’s three weeks until any decision needs to be made about anything.”
As for where his career is headed, Tretter acknowledged that he’d like to merely play in a game that counts. The rest he can worry about later.
“Careers go different ways, and there’s been a few bumps in mine,” he said. “You just have to stay focused in what you can do and move forward and move past it and just keep grinding away. That’s really all you can do. You can’t get down on yourself. You stay positive as much as you can and just keep working.”
GREEN BAY – He wasn’t thinking about what a great come-from-behind victory he’d just engineered, or the critics whose mouths he’d just shut – or left agape, whatever the case might’ve been.
No, as Aaron Rodgers lay flat on his back after his 4-yard game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Quarless to beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers quarterback was thinking only one thing.
“I’m exhausted,” Rodgers said with a chuckle during his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday as he looked at a photo of himself in that moment.
“Literally, exhausted. It was a hot day, it was humid.”
Rodgers did celebrate with an emphatic fist-pump after throwing the pass before collapsing to the SunLife Stadium turf. Although guard T.J. Lang said after the game that he looked into Rodgers eyes and could see how much the win meant to him, Rodgers said it’s was more fatigue that fuzzy feelings that he was experiencing.
“There’s a lot of joy, yeah, but I was exhausted. I was,” he said. “It was a long day.”
Meanwhile, Rodgers dismissed the notion that his comeback victory meant more because it silenced the critics who’d said his lack of come-from-behind victories lessened his greatness as compared to other MVP quarterbacks.
“I feel absolutely nothing but the pure enjoyment of winning a football game in that moment captured [in the photo] after we threw the winning touchdown there,” Rodgers said. “There will always be critics and critics thrive on bringing new stuff all the time. So there’s always going to be things that they will look for and spin or highlight to make their point valid.
“And as long as there’s going to be critics, there’s going to be opportunities to prove those critics wrong. When you prove them [wrong] in one situation, then they’ll find another situation. So they’re always going to be there. You can’t spend any time or energy worrying about what people are going to try and say about you. They’re always going to be there. I’m just going to keep playing the way I’m playing, and hopefully win a lot of games here.”
GREEN BAY – Davante Adams apparently didn’t see a sign from Aaron Rodgers on the fake-spike play that helped the Green Bay Packers beat the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The rookie wide receiver may have thought he saw a signal from his quarterback, but Rodgers said Tuesday that he never did anything to let Adams know that he was throwing him the ball.
Rodgers said Tuesday on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com that he never let any of his teammates know that he was planning to fake a clock-stopping spike and improvised the play on the fly. While he made eye contact with wide receiver Randall Cobb before the play – and Cobb consequently ran a pass pattern – it wasn’t until after he’d gotten the snap that he and Adams connected.
“I yelled ‘Clock!’ which means spike, and I didn’t spike it and threw it to Davante. Anything that anybody else has said about it, my apologies to those people, but it is probably slightly exaggerated,” Rodgers said. “That’s really what happened.”
Asked after the game about the signal Rodgers gave him about the fake-spike play, Adams said, “It’s real subtle, because he’s doing it so other people are going to be able to pick up on it. He’s doing his job, and I’ve got to make sure I see it because it’s on me if I don’t do it right.”
Said Rodgers Tuesday: “I don’t know what he’s talking about, and that’s the truth.”
Whatever happened, it worked. Adams caught the pass, taking advantage of the large cushion cornerback Cortland Finnegan was giving him to get 12 yards before getting out of bounds with 6 seconds left at the Dolphins 4-yard line.
“The last thing I did [before the snap] was make sure we had a legal formation,” Rodgers said. “So I looked out to the right and made sure we had a legal formation and as I did, I noticed that the corner was way off of Davante. Knowing that we had second-and-6ish from outside of the 10, I thought we might be able to get some cheap yards. And all that is happening in a very short amount of time, and you’ve got to make a quick decision.
“[If] you spike it, you have two plays. You fake spike it and get out of bounds, he got 12 yards. Obviously there’s a big difference between two plays from the 16 and two plays from the 4-yard line.”
On the next play, tight end Andrew Quarless caught the game-winning touchdown.
“I was glad Davante was looking at him,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the non-spike. “Because I’ve known Aaron, when he does the fake spike in practice, when they don’t look at him, it’s not a good thing.”
GREEN BAY – A few years ago, Aaron Rodgers had no interest in still playing football at age 40.
His predecessor as the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback, Brett Favre, was completing his career with the Minnesota Vikings, and Rodgers didn’t have any interest in being a fortysomething and still lacing up his cleats.
Now, though, having had a recent revelation about his offseason training and seen changes to the way the game is officiated, Rodgers can indeed see himself playing at age 40.
Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show and later on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com, Rodgers said Tuesday that he’d like to keep playing until he’s 40, which would take him through the 2023 season.
“I’d love to. I think it’d be a great challenge,” Rodgers told Patrick. “I like to play a certain way, I like to move around, I like to keep plays alive with my feet, so I don’t want to be a guy who is a real diminishing player at the end of my career. I’d rather walk out still knowing I can play, there’s an extra bit of pride in that.
“So I want to be able to play the way I want to play and that’s going to take a lot of hard work, especially in the offseason to keep up with my conditioning and my level of fitness that I have right now…. I think I can do that for a while, and 40 would be a great challenge.”
That’s not what Rodgers said in November 2011, however, when he was a month shy of his 28th birthday and only in his seventh NFL season.
Rodgers, who turns 28 on Dec. 2, said he doesn’t plan on playing more than another 10 years.
“I don’t really see myself 10 years from now still playing ball. I don’t,” Rodgers said during the first year of his radio show. “I’m in my seventh season. When you come in the league you want to get to five, and feel like that will be an accomplishment. When you get to five, you kind of want to get to eight. You get to eight, you get to 10, you think, ‘Man, that’s a decade of playing football.’ And anything after that is an added bonus.
“I just don’t see myself being 37 and still playing. Not that I wouldn’t enjoy it if I’m still healthy and playing the way I want to play, but I just see 12, 15 years, something in there, and it being quite an accomplishment, and something that I can be proud of.”
Rodgers is now in his 10th NFL season and seventh as a starter. He turns 31 on Dec. 2, and it was during the offseason last year that he started to think playing until 40 was a possibility.
“I think it was last year I started to make some really healthy changes with my offseason habits with my workouts and flexibility [along] with being smart about my diet,” Rodgers explained. “[That’s what gives me the] feeling like I can really keep up the way I’m playing for longer than maybe I initially thought. I think there’s so many ways to train yourself to stay in tip top shape and do cutting edge things, flexibility stuff and eating right and there’s so many holistic medicine, holistic health and wellness that is now becoming more mainstream and I think can add years to your career.
“I’ve said, I played nine, I’d like to play nine more. I believe that nine more would be, would it not be 39 turning 40?”
Rodgers also said the way the game if officiated makes it more realistic to play quarterback longer. Favre was 41 during his final season of 2010; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who is set to break Favre’s career touchdown pass record, is 38. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady turned 37 in August.
“I think the rule changes have definitely helped,” Rodgers admitted. “But I think health and wellness has changed as well in the last 20 years. There’s more studies, more information about things you can do to maintain for longer.”