Bye Comes at Great Time for Rodgers, Packers

The Packers are confident that their star quarterback will be healthy following a well-timed bye. Aaron Rodgers' ailing hamstring isn't the only issue that needs mending following a blowout loss at New Orleans. (Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY)

“So far, so good,” is how Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy described star quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ injured left hamstring on Monday.

Rodgers was injured during the third quarter of the Packers’ 44-23 loss at New Orleans on Sunday night. With the Packers hopelessly behind, Matt Flynn relieved Rodgers for the final 3:16 of the game. A well-timed bye week, however, should have Rodgers ready to face the Bears next Sunday night.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” McCarthy said.

Rodgers was injured during Green Bay’s opening possession of the third quarter. At the time, the game was tied 16-16 and the Packers were marching toward the go-ahead score. Less than 15 minutes of playing time later, Rodgers had thrown two interceptions and the Saints were in command at 37-16.

“Not much,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said the impact of the play-calling after the injury. “Just stayed away from designed quarterback movement plays, but he still moved around fairly well. So, it’s not as if we had to revamp the whole plan.”

Rodgers finished 28-of-39, with his 418 passing yards being the second-most of his career. The interceptions, however, were his first since Week 1. The first interception of the night, coming just a couple plays after the injury, snapped a streak of 213 consecutive passes without an interception. The turnover also was one of the team’s three failures in the red zone – an area where Green Bay had ranked third in the league entering the night.

“I thought the production was excellent,” McCarthy said. “The turnovers and the field goals in the red zone were the two things that hurt us there. It’s a tough loss. It was an opportunity to play on a national stage. We knew we were going into a hot situation against a very good football team that needed to win the game. I loved that opportunity. It was something that we needed. We did not take advantage of that, but with that we’ll learn from it.

The timing of the bye helps a few other injured players. Green Bay played without three defensive starters – safety Morgan Burnett (calf), cornerback Sam Shields (knee) and defensive end Datone Jones (ankle). Another starter, guard T.J. Lang, injured an ankle on the first series and was done for the night.

The defense was bludgeoned without those players. Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes compared to five incompletions en route to 311 yards and a rating of 138.4. And Mark Ingram, the disappointing 2011 first-round pick who had only one 100-yard game in his career, ran roughshod for 172 yards.

Burnett’s injury was felt most severely. He’s the key communicator on defense and has been one of the unit’s top tacklers this season.

“He’s our quarterback back there,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “It’s a guy that a lot of people depend on in terms of making those calls and getting everyone set and all of that. We’ll welcome him back.

“Morgan’s been around here for a while and he’s played a lot of ball. He anticipates (well) and that takes time at the position.”

The loss snapped Green Bay’s four-game winning streak. Nonetheless, the Packers are in good shape. They’re 5-3 with a favorable schedule – five games at home and three winnable road games.

“I wouldn’t say satisfied. I think you have to be realistic is probably a better view for me to express to you,” McCarthy said. “I’m realistic with our strengths and continue to work at the things we have to do better. I think you definitely identify yourself as a team after six, seven, eight games. I think the first four games are kind of going through it. We had some very unusual games earlier in the year, but I think the last four weeks we identified who we are. We need to stop the run. We can be explosive on offense, take care of the football, take the football away. We’ve established that. Last night, we did not. We need to be more than a football team that just has to rely on winning the turnover ratio. This game is about making big plays and taking care of the football, and taking away – those are two of the most critical components of it. But to get to where we want to go, we have to overcome when we just don’t play right straight to our identity or our format. We did not do that last night.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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