Tag Archives: Packers injuries

A Moral Victory of Sorts

In a 16-game schedule, moral victories are usually worthless or reserved for average to below-average teams. But, for this Packers team, Sunday’s performance was a moral victory.

The Packers were shorthanded (as they always seem to be) without Burnett and Hayward, and were starting a rookie LT and second-year, undrafted RT against arguably the best front-seven in football. Yet, despite a minus-2 turnover differential and a really poor day in the return game that left the offense in precarious starting field positions, the Packers held a lead at the halfway point of the 4th Quarter. They were just hanging ’round – alligator blood.

It was a resilient effort – which explains the moral victory. The Packers absolutely shut down the 49ers rushing offense, which was the 4th best last season. The front-seven played with tenacity and energy that has been sorely lacking in recent years. Claymaker was playing with reckless abandon (which ultimately proved costly with the late hit), Raji and Pickett were plugging the middle and making plays down the line, and Nick Perry was setting a hard edge. And I’d be remiss not to mention Jolly’s presence and solid play. It’s hard not to notice the energy he brings not only on the field, but also being a leader on the sideline.

On the other side of the ball, the Packers got nothing going in the run game – which, frankly, wasn’t all that shocking against that defense. But, I’d still call it a successful day for the young line. The biggest indicator of this is the fact that MM did not have to devote another blocker or two to help the young tackles. As a result, the offense was allowed to run their normal offense with multiple receivers sets and not worry about Rodgers getting blasted. And, let’s be honest, for the most part, Rodgers had time to make plays. With that being said, it was disappointing seeing that Sitton proved to be the biggest downfall at times – three penalties from him is unacceptable.

Ultimately, the downfall was our secondary – which, ironically enough, was hailed as our deepest position group coming out of the preseason. I’ll be the first to admit, this onslaught caught me off guard. Boldin is a nice player, but he’s not a 200-yard WR type. He absolutely killed us in the slot, abusing McMillian, Hyde, and Jennings. We simply did not have an answer.

Post-game comments suggest it could have been the result of our game plan to contain the read-option. Maybe. But, I think it had more to do with our inexperience in the back-end and he/them taking full advantage. The losses of Burnett and Hayward proved to be the difference. And unfortunately, both have hammy issues that seem to be the multiple-week variety.

So, the Packers start the season 0-1 again. But, Packers fans have to feel pretty good coming out of this loss. The Packers showed an intensity and resiliency that have been missing. A finesse team showed grit and toughness. And that bodes well going forward.

Packers – 2012 Year in Review

Happy New Years Packernation! It’s been a fun year, full of ups-and-downs for our favorite squad. Here’s a breakdown of the good, bad, and ugly that we endured this calendar year.

The Good – The emergence of young and promising stars on both sides of the ball: Randall Cobb and Casey Hayward. Cobb is the definition of a multi-threat talent. He’s a top-end slot receiver, shown to be a threat out of the backfield, can take any punt or kickoff to the house, and smart – see his heads-up play of making a kickoff out-of-bounds in the Tennessee blowout. He led the league in total yards this year, breaking the all-time Packers yardage record in the process. His emergence has basically made Greg Jennings dispensable this offseason, much to the rejoice of his sister. And the best part of his emergence is his humility. Cobb is simply a team player that says “we” instead of “I.”

Trading up to get Hayward is one of TT's best draft-day decisions.

Trading up to get Hayward is one of TT’s best draft-day decisions.

Similarly, Casey “All I Do Is Intercept” Hayward has already established himself as one of the top cover-corners in the league; and he’s only a rookie. He’s shown an awareness on the field that would make even the savviest of veterans blush. He’s yet to get beaten for a TD, not been flagged, and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the pile – unlike Tramon Williams. Because he didn’t start playing full-time until week 6, he’s unlikely to win the ROY – but he should. His emergence has solidified the Packers’ secondary not only for this year, but for the immediate future.

Honorable Mention: TT’s draft. TT has built this team through above-average draft classes nearly every year. This year’s class is shaping up to be one of his best. Devoting the first six selections to a defense that hemorrhaged yards and points last season paid off. Nick Perry didn’t flash, but showed he belonged and should develop into a solid player opposite Claymaker. The same can be said for Worthy. Hayward is the best selection. And McMillian and Daniels  have provided much needed depth to the line and secondary. McMillian could be in a battle with M.D. Jennings for the starting safety spot for the next couple of years.

The Bad – The Packers have suffered a rash of injuries. The following players have been injured at various points this season (and I’m bound to miss a few): Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, JerMichael Finley, Bryan Bulaga, T.J. Lang, Cedric Benson, James Starks, Alex Green, Jerel Worthy, B.J. Raji, Mike Neal, C.J. Wilson, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Frank Zombo, Desmond Bishop, D.J. Smith, Sam Shields, Charles Woodson, Sean Richardson, and Davon House.

To put this into different perspective, the Packers have been without their top 3 RB’s, a combination of their top-3 WR’s, the top TE, the starting RT and LG, multiple starting defensive linemen, their starting outside linebackers, their top-2 inside linebackers, a combination of two of the top-4 CB’s, and Woodson. Heck, Jennings and Jordy just played their third game together in week 17.

It’s been a season that’s tested the mettle of this team. But, in a glass half-full approach, it bodes well for the overall depth and talent of the roster going forward.

Ole!

Ole!

Honorable Mention: Tramon Williams’ run “support.” AP ran roughshod over this team to the tune of 409 yards on 55 carries, good enough for a ridiculous 7.4 ypc. Minnesota ran directly at Williams repeatedly in both games, obviously knowing that he’s unwilling to take on a block or attempt to tackle AP. Williams isn’t the sole reason for AP’s dominance. But his decision to play ole with AP makes him a primary culprit.

The Ugly – January 15, 2012. Giants 37, Packers 20. I don’t want to relive this date anymore by rehashing the specifics. But needless to say, it was the definition of ugly.

Our potential playoffs dagger.

Our potential playoffs dagger.

Honorable Mention: Mason Shanksby. As Bob Uecker would say, juuuuuust a bit outside. Shanksby is 21 of 33 on the year. That’s 63.6%, 13% below his now lower career average. And if you had any doubts, he’s dead-last in kicking percentage. Though he’s hit four in a row (nothing says a K is in a slump like celebrating four consecutive makes), Packers fans are queasy anytime Shanksby takes the field.

Rube v. Roob: Playoffs or Bust Edition

Sunday will be the 104th installment of what’s quickly become one of the best rivalries in football: Green Bay vs. Minnesota. Green Bay holds the series edge at 54-48-1. The Packers have won eight of the last ten, including the last five games. But this game is different for two distinct reasons. If the Vikings win, they are in the playoffs. If the Packers win, they lock up the second seed and the all-important 1st-round bye. In the regular season, it does not get any bigger than this. The drama level for this one is at eleven. Out of respect to the visiting squad, we will let the Packer Roob fire the first shot:

The drama level will be at a peak this Sunday. With playoff positioning at stake, there will be that little extra...that difference between 10 and 11.

The drama level will be at a peak this Sunday. With playoff positioning at stake, there will be that little extra…that difference between 10 and 11.

Packers Roob:

Thank you for your courtesies. I do not anticipate such courtesy will last long in this debate. I am not sure you need me to explain how I feel about my squad. Just see my latest post. So, with that out of the way, I look at this weekend as really a win-win situation. Either the Packers win and get a bye, or we lose and still get a bye because there is no way the Vikes beat us twice.

Vikings Rube:

Let it be confirmed that I tried to take to the high road. Tried to be courteous. Not surprisingly, the Roob dodges the analysis and goes right for the low blow, cheap shot. How very Woodson-like. Before getting into this weekend, it is that very reaction that makes Packers believers so insufferable. When their squad shows even a flash or two of dominance, all of sudden they are not only the best team in the league, but likely the best team of all-time. This is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for as long as I can remember. Reaching the peak of insufferability during the Brett Favre MVP years.

What!!! Is that present for me??? And that one too?? Both of Burnett's INTs in the last game might as well have been gift-wrapped.

What!!! Is that present for me??? And that one too?? Both of Burnett’s INTs in the last game might as well have been gift-wrapped.

Oddly enough, Packers fans were not chirping like that after they got their early Christmas present from Christian Ponder at Lamblow a few weeks ago. More like running away from the House that Moss repo’d like they stole something. The Vikings dominated the first meeting of the season, and if not for some incredibly bone-headed plays — you are welcome Morgan Burnett — the Vikings take down their bitter rivals and are playing for the 2nd seed this weekend. But that is not the reality of the situation. So let’s get to the reality.

Unlike the Packers roob, I am going to take off the purple-and-gold glasses and look at Sunday’s tilt with an objective eye. This game, like many others in the NFL, is going to come down to who controls the line of scrimmage. The Minnesota Moving Co. has been downright filthy in the last nine games. Even though AP did not rush for 100 yards last week, it took 9 or 10 in the box to slow him down. Plus, he still did enough damage to allow Ponder to shot put footballs to his wide receivers and tight ends. If the Minnesota Moving Co. can keep it going, they will not need the 210 yards AP got a few weeks ago to win this game.

Ball control is what won the day against the Texans last week. The Vikings did not have one 3-and-out and their average drive consumed nearly 3 minutes of game time. That same game plan is what is needed this week. In Lamblow, the Vikings dominated the ball for 2 ½ quarters. They need to bring it for a full 4 quarters and there is no doubt they can win the game. Controlling the line scrimmage, maintaining ball possession, and keeping Aaron Rodgers off the field are the ingredients for a Vikings win. Even though the Packers have their precious Claymaker back, they are still susceptible to the run. The Roob will try to point at how well the Packers run defense has been the last few weeks. But AP and Toby are on another level compared to the RBs the Packers have seen in those games. Chris Johnson and Matt Forte are shells of their former selves. Neither is much of a threat. Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure are…well… Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure. Nothing more to say there.

Packers Roob:

Seeing #28 in the backfield has not been a pleasant experience for any opposing defense this year. The Packers are probably still having nightmares about AP's last performance.

Seeing #28 in the backfield has not been a pleasant experience for any opposing defense this year. The Packers are probably still having nightmares about AP’s last performance.

This league is all about when you play teams. And when the Vikes and Pack last played, the Pack fielded half a team. Only four defensive linemen were healthy and Clay was out. Insert 3 undrafted FAs at OLB – a critical part to any 3-4 – and not enough big bodies to stay fresh, and you get a 210 effort by AP. Not that it matters when you are facing a beast like AP, but for argument’s sake, the Packers are 10th in total defense, including a respectable 14th against the run. In fact, all season, the Packers have given up more than 100-yards to only 2 rushers – Frank Gore and AP. And this is with a squad that’s had injuries on top of injuries on top of injuries. That is not the case this time around. The following players are back healthy: Claymaker (and the new sack dance: The Clayboy), Mike Neal, Jerel Worthy, and, hopefully, C.J. Wilson.

The loss of Claymaker simply cannot be understated. He is close to, if not, the best defensive player in the league. He is elite in all phases: rushing the passer, run defense, and even dropping into coverage. He’s tenacious and gets after the ball wherever it is on the field. In his place, were the likes of Frank Zombo and Dezman Moses. A bit of a drop off in talent, to say the least.

Standout rookie Casey Hayward will need to have another strong performance if the Packers are going to slow down AP & Co.

Standout rookie Casey Hayward will need to have another strong performance if the Packers are going to slow down AP & Co.

So, yes, AP rolled up on the Packers last time. But, that is not happening this time around. And even if he does post 100+ yards, it won’t matter because you still have Christian Steele and his noodle arm throwing the ball around to the Gustavus Adolphus WR corps. Don’t let last week’s performance fool you. Ponder is not a NFL QB. He’ll be lucky to be in the league in five years at this rate. And this week he is going up against an elite secondary, one that houses the top 1-3 level of CB’s in the league: Tramon, Shields, and Hayward. He won’t have anyone open to throw the ball to. Remember, last time around – when Shields was hurt – Ponder completed only 3 passes to 2 different WRs for 38 yards. So the game will come down to AP and AP alone. 210 yards was not enough last time around. Assuming he does not put up another monster game, how do you expect to beat the Packers this time around?

Vikings Rube:

210 was not enough?? It was more than enough. Unfortunately, Ponder gift wrapped two INTs for that vaunted Packers secondary and completely ruined the Vikings chances. In the last three games since those idiotic moments of charity, Ponder has only one INT and a QBR that is more than 20 points higher than his season average. Has Christian Ponder been Aaron Rodgers in the last three games? No. I am not foolish enough (read: drunk on the Kool-Aid) to suggest that. That would be like trying to say the Grant/Green combo has been AP-like in their last three games (something I am sure you were going to say later on). So even though the Vikings are 32nd in the league in passing, can Ponder shot put enough completions to get the Vikings a victory on Sunday? Absolutely.

While I admit that the Packers defense is better now than when these teams saw each other a few weeks ago, the same can be said of the Vikings defense. They absolutely throttled the vaunted Texans’ offense, holding them to just a tick more than 200 yards of total offense. And while the Rams actually put up some yards against the Vikes two weeks ago, most of it was in garbage time after the game had been decided. Even though he might not be Casey Hayward, the addition of Chris Cook to the Vikings secondary certainly made the squad better as it meant less Josh Robinson field time. Teams were absolutely destroying Robinson in coverage.

What is nice about having Chris Cook back, is that he does not have to be an elite CB. The one thing the Vikings defense has done consistently well all year, and will need to again on Sunday, is get home with 4 or 5 defensive linemen. This makes Chris Cook that much better because he is not on an island. Now, the potential loss of Brian Robison hurts us here; though, the latest reports are that he is going to give it a go. Robison was having a really good season prior to dinging up his wing a couple of weeks ago. Everson Griffen stepped in nicely for him last week. But the Vikings rotation of linemen, particularly having Griffen rush from the interior, had been the secret to theVikings’ success. Having to move Griffen to the edge hurts our ability to create that push up the middle.

Thankfully, we still have Ten Gallon Allen. The guy who’s poster is on the Clayboy’s bedroom. With 2 more sacks against the Pack in the last match-up, that brings his total to 13.5 in his last 7 games against the green and gold. He just feasts on the Packers and, considering the Packers’ current patch-work line, I would expect more of the same on Sunday.

Packers Roob:

You are partially right. The only way the Vikes win is if its D-line absolutely dominates. Allen is a beast against us, but we held the rest of that line to 0 sacks. And even with Allen’s dominance, the Packers absolutely controlled the game last time around, with the game-winning drive going for 11-minutes. Let me repeat that… behind a “patch-work” line that had EDS at guard (who is terrible there) and Lang at RT (for a half) and Don Barclay replacing him (his first game action of his career), the Packers went on an 11-MINUTE game-clinching drive. Barclay is not perfect, but he has been solid since being inserted at RT. And Lang is an above-average guard. Heck, our line is so good right now that we replaced our Pro Bowl center: Jeff Saturday. The luxuries we have with such a deep talent pool along the line. Clearly, our line will be better this time around.

And because of that improvement, we have discovered a respectable running game. Packers have changed their rushing attack somewhat by doing more zone traps than stretch plays, and there have been more pulling linemen. The result is a rushing attack that’s gone for 100-yards in each of the last five games, including against that alleged dominant D-line the Vikes sport.

At the end of it all, Rodgers is the x-factor. If he keeps rolling, the Vikes will be hard pressed to get a win. Pressure him and the Vikes will be playoff bound.

At the end of it all, Rodgers is the x-factor. If he keeps rolling, the Vikes will be hard pressed to get a win. Pressure him and the Vikes will be playoff bound.

Congrats on holding Bradford and Schaub in check. But, it is another beast to tame Rodgers. The reigning MVP is finally hitting his stride with the passing game. Against a Bears defense that normally controls our passing game, Rodgers shredded them – on the road – to the tune of just under 300 yards and 3 TDs. Mr. Domestic Abuser is not your answer to solving our passing attack. The only way this passing attack does not continue its recent strong play is if Cobb is not healthy enough to play. Unfortunately, reports seem to point to him missing the game. Thankfully, Jordy returns. And a healthy Jordy and Jennings are more than serviceable “replacements” of Cobb.

Vikings Rube:

No doubt that Rodgers will be the difference maker (just like last game). Though as mentioned above, when he is running for his life, his effectiveness is greatly reduced. The Packers’ running game is not a concern. I hope that Grant and Green get 20+ carries a piece. If that happens, the Vikings chances of winning are greatly increased. Anything to get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands.

You are absolutely right about our resident Erik Walden, he is not a Pro Bowl caliber CB. He is not the answer. But he is a significant improvement over Josh Robinson. Frankly, that is all we need. If we are going to talk about the Vikings’ secondary, we need to give the appropriate due to rookie Harrison Smith. The Golden Fundamental has exceeded expectations in his rookie season. He is a heady football player who makes all the right plays and a few exceptional ones. For example, his tackles at the goal line and on third down against the Texans last week almost single-handedly changed the outcome of that game. He picked Rodgers in their first meeting and he will looking for the hat trick of INT for TDs this Sunday.

Packers Roob:

What?! Rodgers running for his life results in his effectiveness being greatly reduced?! Have you seen Rodgers outside the pocket? He’s the best QB in the league, due in part to the fact that he is the best outside the pocket. He can run for first downs and make all the throws even while on the run. If the Vikes want to successfully stop him, it’s best to keep him contained in the pocket, forcing him to step up in the pocket.

And trust me, if we run the ball 20+ times, we win the game. I cannot find the actual record, but the Packers own a ridiculous winning percentage during MM’s tenure when they run it more than 20-times. We do not run it when we are trailing. So if we run it that much, we are in cruise control.

— Predictions —

Packers Roob:

I almost feel bad the Vikes won last week to get your hopes up for this week. But this is what Minnesota fandom is all about: major letdowns. The domefield advantage won’t be enough. After all, Rodgers has hung 64 points in his last two trips to the Dome.

Like I said, it is all about when you play teams and you are catching a Packers team at the start of its run. The team is finally getting healthier. And all aspects of the Packers game is trending in the right direction – minus Mason Shanksby. With a 2-seed in the balance, I foresee a motivated team looking to quash those playoffs aspirations.

Pack 28 Vikes 16

Vikings Rube:

This is not going to be an easy game to win. And you are right, this is lining up for the classic end to the Vikings season. Make a miraculous run, win 3 straight, and then lose at home to our most-hated rival. Sounds like I will be earning another horn stamp on my Vikings fan card. Two more and I get a free dome dog. All kidding aside, the Vikings had the first match-up in their grasp and Ponder threw it away. Or failed to throw it away, depending on how you look at it. They will not make the same mistake twice. AP gets his 2,000 yard season, falls short of the record, but the Vikings get the victory. On to Lamblow for Round 3.

Vikes 23 Pack 21

And, if you want to try and watch this Sunday’s game in person, do not forget to visit our friends at Ticket King. They have all the options covered for this HUUUUGE game.

Border Battle: Lots of Ugliness

While enduring an ugly game, we exchanged pleasantries analyzing what was a crucial game for both teams. The 103rd installment of this rivalry proved dramatic, while ugly.

Packers Roob: 

You ready to roll!?! Packers get ball to start. They are terrible this season on their first drive. It’d be huge to get some points to start fast!

TOUCHDOWN!!! Pack march down the field. Jones posterizes Jefferson with a sick TD grab! Two notes: JMike caught the first pass his way – can’t be a good omen for Vikings fans – and the Packers had a semblance of a running game. As I said in the preview, this could get ugly!

Vikings Rube:

Well, it seems the horseshoe that was lodged firmly up Bielema’s derriere last night was airmailed to Green Bay in time for the start of today’s tilt. Finley and Jones catch balls they normally would bat down like they are in rec league volleyball game?!? Not a good sign at all for the Vikes.

Then, following a quick three and out on offense, the Vikes defense finally slows down the Rodgers train in the red zone. Only to have Crosby doink one in off the upright. I think the Vikings primary goal should be locating and destroying that horseshoe. After all, they are not spending any time scheming anything that resembles an offensive game plan.

Packers Roob:

What are you talking about?! Packers got screwed by another phantom holding call that erased another TD. Tough enough to win in this league when you are playing the team. But, it’s not fun having a twelfth man in the zebras to contend with as well! Just garbage.

Worst news is Jordy tweaked his hammy. Story of the season. Jennings returns, Jordy goes down.And here comes the Vikes’ direct-snap to AP offense

Vikings Rube:

Always right to the officials. Typical. Losing Jordy definitely helps the Vikes, but no one wants to wish for a guy to hurt. Hopefully he is okay.

In more exciting news, how about that direct-snap to AP offense!! Sprinkle in a little bootleg and an elite TE, bake at 350 for 14 minutes, and touchdown!!! All seriousness aside, that was definitely Dr. Ponder on that drive. He looked methodical, making most of the right decisions. And of course, the best RB on the planet did his thing too.

Now, following the three and out of the Packers offense, we get to see if it was all just a fluke…

Packers Roob:

Ugh. I hate the Kuhn handoff play. 2 times for 0 yards and a missed 3rd-and-1. Bag that play please!

Are the Packers cursed?!?! Lang just got his ankle rolled up on. Next man up… is there a next man left?!? Unreal.

Vikings Rube:

As I said before, no one likes to see guys get hurt. And you are right, Lang’s injury reaaaaally hurts. Hopefully he can come back later in the game.

That being said, what a brutal call on Griffen!! That was not a personal foul!!!!!! I cannot stop typing exclamation points. Takes an INT away from ole Ten Gallon. Despite the injuries, the horseshoe appears to be back.

Packers Roob:

I was right about this getting ugly. Just not what part. This O-line with Barclay will have Rodgers running for his life the entire game. I just want to thank Griffen for placing a lot of $$ on the Packers. What else would explain his three stupid penalties so far?!

I also want to thank the Vikes coaching staff for sidelining AP during their last possession of the second-half. A gift 3-and-out for the defense.

Vikings Rube:

The offsides penalties were legit, but that roughing the passer call was tewible. Not even close. And then Jared Allen takes a stupid penalty to give Crosby a chance?!?!? Thankfully there are not any uprights near the corner of the end zone. Just not a strong finish from the Vikes.

Packers Roob:

This is disgusting. Even without AP’s ridiculous run, Packers are getting manhandled right now. The quick start did not give way to a dominating effort. Instead, the injuries to the line has opened the flood-gates to Rodgers. And the run game has all but vanished. The result is an offense that can’t move the ball – even against this defense.

And, oh yeah, Crosby sucks. Time to bring in Kaeding.

2nd Half

Packers Roob:

Did I mention Crosby sucks?!?

Vikings Rube:

As if there were any lingering doubts, Mr. Ponder is back!!! Ponder loses his mind, thinks he is Joe Cool, and tries to throw across his body to THE Michael Jenkins in the back of the end zone. Tewible decision and Christmas comes early for Morgan Burnett. This could be the turning point of the game. Vikings looking to get another TD right out the gates and Mr. Ponder takes it away. Not good.

Packers Roob:

More great play-calling by the Vikes. AP is single-handedly winning this game for the Vikes. On short goal-to-go, Vikes get clever and go play-action. Mr. Ponder rewards them with a great pass to Morgan Burnett.

Rodgers is trying to take this game over. He willed them into FG range. And in a shock, Crosby split the uprights! Blind squirrel theory in play.

Cool play design on Cobb toss-back to Rodgers for deep bomb. INT is good as punt. But, if there was ever a need for further proof that the Packers play-action is non-existent, this play is Exhibit A. First time ever running a throw-back with Cobb and no one was open.

Vikings Rube:

Stop me if you heard this one, despite dominating for much of the first half, the Vikings have come out in the 2nd half with no adjustments or schemes to counter 15 guys in the box. Following the go-ahead TD by the Pack, the Vikes look primed for another 4 yards and a cloud of dust. Is Bill Cowher ready to come back to coaching??

Packers Roob:

Seriously, the Vikes should direct-snap it to AP every play!! Ponder is just awful. 5/13 for 36 yards and 2 INT’s. I’m actually worried we might see the re-start of the Joe Webb era.

Vikings Rube:

Remember in our prediction we talked about how Ponder needed to do just enough to get out of AP’s way. As it stands right now, he has been the Packers best way to stop Adrian. And if not for Ponder, Peterson might have 300 yards on the ground. Of course, that would require coaches that know when to run the ball and to pass it. Seems like asking a lot.

Packers Roob:

Like I said, Rodgers is willing this team to victory. And he did on this prolonged game-clinching drive – 11:00 minutes in fact. Multiple third-down conversions, many long distances too, and killed the clock and hopes of the Vikes. Crosby clutches up and nailed a 31-yarder – down the middle even – to apply the dagger (knock on wood)!

Vikings Rube:

There is no doubt. Rodgers was the difference. We agreed on that coming in and it could not have been more true. His ability to pick up 3rd downs against the Vikings base defense, because evidently Allan Williams thought we were not allowed to blitz, was clutch. Have to give him credit for that.

Packers Roob:

Blair Walsh evidently went to the Crosby school of kicking. And there, officially, is your dagger!

Final Score: Packers 23 Vikings 14

Closing Thoughts

Vikings Rube:

52-2. That was the record for teams who had a player run for more than 200 yards. Only the Vikes could find a way to add to that kind of record in a negative way. AP was a beast today. With even decent QB play, the Vikings win this game. Mr. Ponder throws two red zone picks killing two Vikings drive. That is at least 6 points and possible 14 points off the board. And those are just the direct examples of his tewibleness. Add in the fact that most college QBs could complete the downfield throw to AP when he had two steps on the linebacker – that is likely another 6.

Now, I know the Vikes were without Harvin. And you cannot overstate his importance to this team. But unless Mr. Ponder figures out how to limit the mistakes and make smart plays, this team will not challenge for the playoffs. They will only go as far as AP will take them. And 200+ yards is evidently not enough.

Packers Roob:

Rodgers simply willed this team to victory. The 11-minute game-clinching drive was clutch – an exhibit of elite QB play. He converted multiple third-and-longs on the way to a clinching FG.

Beyond Rodgers’ play, the running game showed up down the stretch. Packers amassed 152 yards against a decent run-stopping unit – and that’s behind an offensive line that is primarily a bunch of backups. And though the defense let AP go gangbusters – not sure any defense could contain him right now – it did what it had to do in forcing the critical turnovers. The poor tackling needs to be shored up.

As always, Packers fans will be watching injury reports closely this week. Pack can ill-afford another injury to a lineman. And Jordy’s hamstring injury basically puts the passing attack back in the same position it was in while Jennings was out. Next man up, as always, but we’re getting dangerously close to not having a next man up.

Binders Full of Injuries

There’s one word to define the 2012 Packers season so far: Injuries. At the bye, the Packers are 6-3, good enough for the fourth-best record in the NFC. Comfortably in playoff contention, the Packers have five remaining divisional games in which to defend its division title. Typically, such a position in the standings is reason for optimism. But with a slew of injuries, you can’t help but wonder whether the mounting injuries will prove too much – even for a team as deep and talented as the Packers.

Banged up, the Packers hoped to get through the Cardinals game with a victory in-hand and no more additions to the injury list. The former was accomplished. Not the latter.

Already without its veteran leader – Charles Woodson – the defense is set to lose Clay Matthews for “a couple weeks” because of an annual hamstring injury. On the offensive side, the Packers lose perhaps its best lineman in Bryan Bulaga to a hip injury that appears serious. And not to be outdone, Jordy Nelson, returning from a one-game absence, couldn’t make it through the first quarter without injuring his ankle. This appears to be the least worrisome out of the three new injuries.

Lose your hard-hitting MLB in the preseason? No worries. Next Man Up.

So let’s review. Here’s as full list of the Packers’ injuries this season (and forgive me if I’ve missed one or two – it’s a long list): Cedric Benson, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Bryan Bulaga, Jerel Worthy, Nick Perry, Desmond Bishop, D.J. Smith, Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, and Sam Shields. And this does not include injuries that have limited players at some point this season: JerMichael Finley, Mike Neal, B.J. Raji, Davon House, and Jerron McMillian. Finally, we can’t forget players that started the year on the PUP list: Derek Sherrod, Frank Zombo, and Andrew Quarles.Removing the names from the discussion, consider this: the Packers are without their season-opening starter at RB, WR1, WR2, RT, DE/DT, OLB, OLB, MLB1, MLB2, S, and CB. Out of 22 potential starters, that’s 10 different starters and a third-stringer for the MLB position.

The Packers pride themselves on the “Next Man Up” mantra. And so far, this mantra has worked as even the loss of Charles Woodson was minimal due to the emergence of so many promising, young defensive backs. The loss of the top two WR’s has resulted in a career year for James Jones and the emergence of Randall Cobb. And even the loss of first-round pick Nick Perry went unnoticed because of Erik Walden’s play.

But, it’s the most recent set of injuries that may prove the breaking point for this team. Clay Matthews has almost single-handedly carried this defense to respectability. He leads the team in sacks and effort. He played almost every defensive snap and forced defenses to account for his whereabouts on every play. Without him, the defense loses its identity. And you can be sure it loses its hold on the top spot in the league for sacks.

Unlike other injured players, there is simply no way you can come close to replacing Matthews. And it’s not just replacing his stats. It’s a trickle-down affect that impacts the rest of the defenses play. Without offenses devoting game-plans to stop Matthews, that effort can focus on the likes of Raji, Walden, Worthy, etc. The pass rush will suffer. Without a strong pass rush, the pass defense reverts back to 2011 levels. It’s a scary proposition.

Similarly, Jordy’s loss leaves a once-deep position rather bare. Jones and Cobb, though dangerous, are not the same players when they are the ones lined up against the oppositions best CB’s. Particularly for Cobb, he needs protection from the likes of Jordy and Jennings out wide to create room for him to operate out of the slot. Without Jennings and Jordy, the offense has stumbled the past two games. Rodgers has struggled connecting with these two, demonstrated by a Christian Ponder-esque 47% completion percentage against Arizona.

Finally, Bulaga’s loss shines a light on the thinnest position on the roster: the offensive line. To replace him, the Packers will move LG T.J. Lang to RT and insert Evan Dietrich-Smith at guard. What’s left, due to Sherrod’s injury, are undrafted free agents Don Barclay and Greg Van Roten. The Packers can skate by with Dietrich-Smith and Lang. But one more injury – say to a long-in-the-tooth center – and, well, things could get ugly. Fast.

A pissed off Rodgers is nearly unstoppable.

Despite the negativity, all is not lost. The Packers are still 6-3 and still have #12. Remember, Rodgers thrives on haters and doubters. Even with a depleted roster, look to Rodgers to take this team over and will it to key victories. I have little doubt the Packers land a playoff berth. And when that happens, watch out. A healthier Packers team, fueled by doubt is as dangerous as they come.

The Impact of Woodson’s Injury

The improved Packers defense is well-positioned to handle the loss of its leader.

News broke mid-afternoon that Charles Woodson is out for 6-weeks due to a broken collarbone, the same collarbone he broke in Super Bowl XLV. It’d be fair to think that replacing an 8-time Pro Bowler, 2009 Defensive MVP, and a pure playmaker in the secondary would be difficult for a defense fresh off putting together one of the worst statistical seasons ever for a collective defense. Amazingly, that’s not the case with this new and young defense.

At age 36, there is no denying the fact that Woodson has lost a step. Because of this, he moved to safety in the base defense and plays the slot in sub-packages. His savviness, game knowledge, and veteran leadership have enabled him to seamlessly make this transition. But, his stats bear out the fact he’s not the player he once was.

In the 7 games so far, Woodson has only 1 INT, 1 FF, and 1.5 sacks. His tackling numbers are consistent with years past, though he has more assisted tackles this year already than all of last year. These numbers support what the eye can see. He’s simply not the playmaker we’ve grown accustomed to over these past seven seasons. And he’s been getting called for holding and clutching WR’s like he hasn’t in years past.

In Woodson’s place will slide a number of young and talented DB’s. In the base package, you can expect more Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings, the same safeties that take over in the sub-packages. McMillian is the more willing tackler of the two and has already shown a knack for being strong in run support. I expect to see more of McMillian in the base for this reason.

In sub-packages, which the Packers play greater than two-thirds of the plays, the Packers are sitting pretty with four young players that have proven they belong: Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey “All I Do Is Catch Interceptions” Hayward, and Davon House. Of course, Williams will man the outside along with Shields when he returns. Hayward will get the nod for Woodson’s role. This is a fitting replacement given Casey’s knack for the ball. And when the Pack go dime, they still bring in Davon House – who very well could be the starting CB in place of Shields had he not gotten injured. In his first game back, House showed well last weekend with strong, physical play, and showing mostly tight coverage. Needless to say, the Packers are well-stocked with four players that could all start for many NFL teams.

The biggest unknown will be how much Woodson factored into getting the defense aligned pre-snap. It will be incumbent upon Morgan Burnett and Tramon Williams to become the vocal leaders in the defensive backfield.

It is also worth noting that the Packers’ schedule sets up nicely for the six games Woodson will miss. Two games remain before the bye week. Both at home, against offensively challenged teams. Off the bye, the Packers travel to play the free-falling Detroit Lions. The toughest game will be the following weekend at NYG. But then, the sixth week is a home game against the Vikes, who also have challenges in the passing game. If the original prognosis is true, the Packers are well positioned to handle these next six games.

Let’s be clear: Charles Woodson is a special player that, even at an advanced age, brings a lot to the table that cannot be replaced. He’s a pro’s pro and the veteran leader on a young team. Though he’s lost a step, he’s savvy and has made game-changing plays few others could make. But, with a stable of young talent in the defensive backfield, the Packers are well-positioned to handle the six weeks without their defensive leader.