Through Pain, Packers Show Plenty of Game

The Packers enter the bye with a 6-3 record, a pretty remarkable accomplishment when you consider Sunday's game ended with 11 of their 22 preferred starters out with injuries. These aren't your run-of-the-mill starters, either. For proof, look at NFL Network's list of the top 100 players.

The Green Bay Packers enter the bye week 6-3.

It's a remarkable accomplishment when you consider this figure: Of the Packers' 22 preferred starters at the start of training camp, 11 of them were injured by the end of Sunday's victory over Arizona.

That's right, half of the team's starters.

And yet, the Packers have won four in a row. If they can get healthy by the start of December, they should be a dangerous team come playoff time, regardless of whether they can catch Chicago in the NFC North.

"It's huge, especially with all the injuries," tight end Tom Crabtree said of the 31-17 verdict. "We really needed this one. Hopefully we'll get some guys healthy. To still be on a roll is impressive. It speaks a lot about this team – every phase. We've got guys that are stepping up and doing their job."

The 2010 Packers had a lot of players on injured reserve but that injured list can't match the star power on the shelf for this year's surging club.

Clay Matthews (hamstring during third quarter), Charles Woodson (missed second consecutive game with broken collarbone), Greg Jennings (missed fifth consecutive game and had surgery this week on sports hernia), Jordy Nelson (missed last week's game with hamstring and injured ankle in first quarter) and John Kuhn (missed second consecutive game with hamstring) all made the player-selected top 100 list assembled by NFL Network.

If five of the top 100 players in the game doesn't qualify as cruel and unusual punishment: Running back Cedric Benson (foot sprain) missed his fourth consecutive game, cornerback Sam Shields (ankle) missed his third consecutive game, outside linebacker Nick Perry (knee/wrist) missed his third consecutive game, inside linebacker Desmond Bishop (hamstring) is on injured reserve and didn't play a snap in the regular season, right tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip) exited in the second quarter and defensive end Jerel Worthy (concussion) was out. That list doesn't include inside linebacker D.J. Smith (knee), who's on injured reserve, because that would be double-counting injuries since he played Bishop's position.

If this were a playground and you were choosing sides for a Packers intrasquad scrimmage, Aaron Rodgers would be the No. 1 pick but you could argue that Matthews would be No. 2, Woodson would be No. 3, Nelson would be No. 4, Jennings would be No. 5 and Bishop would be No. 7 (with Tramon Williams picked No. 6).

"I like where we're at," Rodgers said. "We've had some adversity early in the season. We've come together. We've taken some heat and it's brought us closer together and we went on the kind of run we need to go on with four big wins in a row to get to the bye week and now we can get healthy. We've got a lot of guys who, if we can have back in the mix, we can really take off."

No, the Packers didn't exactly run through a gauntlet of playoff-caliber teams during their four-game winning streak. After blasting Houston, which might be the best team in the AFC, the Packers beat St. Louis, Jacksonville and Arizona – the three worst offensive teams in the league – by a combined 85-52.

Still, what the Packers have accomplished is impressive. On the clinching touchdown pass to Crabtree, the skill-position players were Alex Green, Jarrett Boykin, Randall Cobb, James Jones and Crabtree. On James Jones' touchdown catch that made it 21-7 late in the first half, the skill players were Jones, Crabtree, Boykin, Green and Donald Driver.

Defensively, instead of Matthews and Perry at outside linebacker, it was Erik Walden and Dezman Moses. Instead of Bishop being the every-down inside linebacker, it's been Brad Jones. Second-year players who didn't play a snap of defense last season, M.D. Jennings and Davon House, along with rookie Jerron McMillian, have filled in for Woodson.

Through it all, the Packers are in complete control of their playoff destiny. Not bad for a team that had a victory stolen from them at Seattle and gave away another win at Indianapolis.

"No, not bad. Could be better," cornerback Tramon Williams said. "Regardless of our struggles the first half of the season, we want to play our best ball coming into the stretch. Hopefully, we can continue putting together more consistent games this second half of the year. Hopefully, it's all clicking when we get into the playoffs and the month of December."

The players were unanimous that the bye couldn't have come at a better time. To overcome the injuries, the debacles at Seattle and Indianapolis, and the self-inflicted wounds, the Packers have had grind and scrap and fight for everything. The Packers badly need a one-week vacation to focus on what lies ahead.

"I think it's important for everybody to take a step back, look at why we're 6-3, the things that we did to get us here at 6-3, pro and con, and, more importantly, be ready to commit and get after the things that we need to get after to improve," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We've got a four-game winning streak. We've done this before. It's important for everybody to step away from it. Family time is highly encouraged. Everybody thinks this just a time to get healthy but it's a time to get healthy mentally, spiritually and get yourself ready for the grind, and the grind starts in Detroit."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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