NFC North: Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Two days after defensive coordinator Dom Capers suggested something was ailing Green Bay Packers cornerback Casey Hayward during Sunday's game against the Jets, the third-year pro was not practicing on Wednesday.

Hayward did not play any snaps on defense in Sunday’s win, although he appeared to take his usual work on special teams. Hayward missed all but three games last season because of a hamstring injury.

Linebacker Brad Jones, whose quadriceps injury kept him out against the Jets, did not return to practice on Wednesday.

The only other player not practicing was Andy Mulumba, who said he has a torn ACL.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who practiced last week but did not play against the Jets after being listed as questionable because of a knee injury, was back on the field. So was safety Micah Hyde, who sustained a knee injury against the Jets.

The full injury report will be available after practice.

Packers lose linebacker Mulumba to ACL

September, 17, 2014
Sep 17
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The "significant injury" that coach Mike McCarthy referred to on Monday when discussing Green Bay Packers backup linebacker Andy Mulumba turned out to be a torn ACL.

The second-year pro injured his knee Sunday against the New York Jets while playing on the punt coverage team.

Mulumba tweeted the news on Wednesday morning.

While Mulumba had not played at all on defense this season, he was a key member the Packers' special-teams units.

Last season, Mulumba made the team as an undrafted rookie from Eastern Michigan and because of injuries at the outside linebacker spot, he played 355 snaps (or 31.8 percent of the defensive plays in 2013). He recorded one sack and 34 tackles in 14 games (including three starts).

The Packers will eventually place Mulumba on injured reserve, but they have not added anyone to take his place on the roster. They don't necessarily need to add a linebacker, given that they kept 11 on their roster.

Rodgers wants to keep targeting Nelson

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If there's a downside to the fact that Jordy Nelson has an NFL-leading 18 catches for 292 yards through two games -- and there may not be one -- it could be that the Green Bay Packers have become too reliant one player.

At this point, the man throwing Nelson the ball does not see that as a concern.

While admitting it's a departure from what they normally do, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show that he does not see a downside to it.

"If teams are going to start rolling some coverage to Jordy, then we need our other guys to step up and we need to be able to run the ball more effectively," Rodgers said on his show.

In Sunday's comeback win over the Jets, Rodgers targeted Nelson 16 times. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers had never before thrown that many passes toward a single receiver in one game. The previous week, Rodgers went to Nelson 14 times.

"That's a lot of targets," Rodgers said. "We've spread the ball around pretty good over the years because that's the way we run our offense. We throw to the open guy, we go through our progressions and a lot of guys have opportunities to be the No. 1 on various plays.

"But I think we've found ourselves targeting him more and realizing that there's a lot of good things happen when the ball's thrown his way. I'm happy for him. I'm not surprised. The guy makes incredible plays every day in practice. He is constantly looking for ways to help out our offense, and he does the little things as well. He's a great blocker, he's a great route runner, he has great second and third reactions. Just going to keep trying to find ways to give him the football."

Debating Clay Matthews' new role

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
GREEN BAY, Wis. – It was third-and-4 from the Green Bay Packers' 29-yard line in the first quarter of Sunday's game against the New York Jets, and Clay Matthews lined up in the middle of the defense, nearly 4 yards from the football.

He blitzed up the middle and hit Geno Smith in 2.4 seconds just as the Jets quarterback released the ball, which would turn into a touchdown pass to Eric Decker.

[+] EnlargeClay Matthews
AP Photo/Bill KostrounClay Matthews hasn't rushed as much through two games in 2014 as he has in the past.
It was a prime example of one way defensive coordinator Dom Capers is using Matthews in his new 4-3 front.

But it's not the only way.

Through the first two games this season, Matthews has dropped into coverage far more often than he did last season, when he lined up primarily as an edge rusher in Capers' 3-4 scheme. Capers still does some of that with the four-time Pro Bowler but not anywhere near as much as he used to.

Last season, Matthews dropped into coverage on just 52 opponent dropbacks and rushed 284 times, according to ProFootballFocus. That's a rush rate of 84.5 percent.

So far this season, Matthews has rushed on just 72.5 percent of opponent passing plays for which he was on the field (50 rushes, 19 drops), according to PFF. That would be the second-lowest rate of his career. His 2012 number (84.4 percent) was an almost exact match to last season. Prior to that, his rush percentages were 77.5 percent (2011), 78.5 percent (2010) and 70.1 percent (2009), according to PFF.

Against the Jets, he was on the field for 34 passing plays. He rushed 22 times and dropped into coverage 12 times (a rush rate of just 64.7 percent). Given that Matthews has lined up away from the line of scrimmage more than ever, it makes sense that his rush rates have dropped.

But is moving Matthews farther from the quarterback the best use of his talents?

"I think he's equally as good in terms of rushing and dropping out of there," Capers said. "I think it just gives us more versatility in terms of what we can do with him."

Coach Mike McCarthy wholeheartedly endorsed the way Capers has used Matthews so far.

"When you have an exceptional football player, when you line him up in the same place every single time, you help the offense," McCarthy said. "If you want to chip him, if you want to slide to him, if you're able to practice it all week, Clay Matthews is over there or Clay Matthews is over there, it's an easier training process for the opponent. It's just really having Clay do the same things he's always done and just move him around."

Matthews registered his first sack of the season on Sunday against the Jets. It came when he was lined up at his traditional outside linebacker position.

After the game, Matthews was not seen in the locker room by the time it opened to the media. That same was true on Monday. But during OTAs, when the changes in Matthews' role were just becoming apparent, he did not think his pass-rush numbers would decline.

"I doubt I'm going to have to sacrifice statistics because I always feel like I can make my plays, but at the same time there will be some opportunities to present some mismatches," Matthews said at the time. "So it may not be your traditional line up here, line up there. There might be a little more difficulty for the offense, narrowing in on certain players, especially with the personnel that we brought in, myself included moving around a little bit more and just having fun with it."

But at least one former Packers linebacker thinks Capers and McCarthy have erred with Matthews' new role. Brady Poppinga, who played for the Packers from 2005-2010, responded to a tweet posted Monday about something McCarthy said about Matthews' new role.

Poppinga then offered his advice about how to use Matthews and Julius Peppers.

It's safe to say Capers disagrees.

"I think for him, when you look at the big picture, if he's lined up on the end and he's got a 330 pound tackle blocking him all day, I just think over the long run this is going to be better for him, too," Capers said.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy wasn't necessarily accusing the New York Jets of any funny business, but he expressed surprise that they were not surprised by his surprise onside kick in Sunday's game.

McCarthy made the call to try the onside kick with 3:12 left in the second quarter after a field goal cut the Jets' lead to 21-9. Mason Crosby popped the ball up, but the Jets were ready for it and easily recovered.

"I felt like they were in our huddle, frankly," McCarthy said Monday. "Just the way they lined up to it is disturbing to me. It's something we've never shown. It's a formation we've never been in."

Special teams coach Shawn Slocum said Crosby hit the kick exactly how he was instructed, which should have given the Packers a better chance to recover it.

It was a bold move at the time, but it did not cost the Packers anything because cornerback Tramon Williams picked off Jets quarterback Geno Smith on the ensuing possession.

"I kind of pushed the envelope there," McCarthy said. "I was trying to steal a series back, frankly, that we lost at the beginning of the game, and the fact that they had the ball coming out in the second half. Like a lot of times when you make those kind of decisions, a lot of those variables are looked at before the game, so you're able to react to it. The timing of it, I thought the risk was definitely worth it."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers have lost one of their core special-teams players, backup linebacker Andy Mulumba, to a knee injury, but starting safety Micah Hyde appears to have avoided a major injury.

Both were injured in Sunday's win over the New York Jets.

Hyde, who was injured at the end of a second-quarter punt return, said Monday that he has some swelling in his left knee but believes it was just a bruise.

"I just took a little shot on the knee cap, nothing serious," he said. "Nothing major. Just a little soreness."

However, Mulumba was not as fortunate. He was injured while covering a punt in the fourth quarter and sustained what coach Mike McCarthy called a "significant" injury. That's usually code for a torn ACL, although McCarthy declined to give specifics.

"It didn't look good during the game, and it doesn't sound very good," McCarthy said.

The most puzzling injury situation, however, was to cornerback Casey Hayward. He did not play at all on defense after playing 36 of 70 snaps in Week 1.

Against the Jets, the Packers used Davon House as their No. 3 cornerback, which was in the plans all along. However, Hayward also did not play in the dime (Jarrett Bush got that call) and defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Hayward may have been dealing with a hamstring injury -- the same injury that limited him to three games last season. Yet Hayward still managed to play 11 special-teams snaps.

McCarthy said Hayward was checked out by the team’s medical staff on Monday but did not have any update. The team does not have to file an injury report for this week's game at the Detroit Lions until Wednesday.

The Film Don't Lie: Packers

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
A weekly look at what the Green Bay Packers must fix:

What was the seventh-best rushing attack in the NFL last season has been rendered ineffective through the first two weeks of this season, and reigning offensive rookie of the year Eddie Lacy has not found much running room.

The Packers rank 24th in the NFL in rushing yards (160), and nearly 18 percent of that total has come from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers rank 26th in yards per carry (3.7) and it might not get any easier to fix that this week, considering they play in Detroit against the Lions, who through Sunday's games have allowed just 57.5 yards rushing per game, the second-lowest total in the league.

In Sunday's win over the New York Jets, Lacy carried 13 times for 43 yards, but only three of those runs went outside the tackles and he broke only one tackle, according to

"There was obviously a commitment to take Eddie Lacy out of the game," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the way the Jets defended his team.

Regardless, the Packers need to take some of the pressure off Rodgers and receiver Jordy Nelson, who is about the only consistent offensive weapon they have right now. Nothing would do that better than re-establishing the running game.

Mike McCarthy: No more bench penalties

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Whether it was Rob Davis or Edgar Bennett or someone else on the Green Bay Packers' sideline, coach Mike McCarthy vowed that it won't happen again -- that there won't be any more penalties on his bench.

It happened in the second quarter of Sunday's comeback win against the Jets, and at the time it looked like a costly mistake. The Packers trailed 21-3, and Jordy Nelson had just picked up 17 yards on a catch near the sideline. The Packers wanted a late hit on Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who drove Nelson to the ground near the sideline.

Not only did they not get that call, but they were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for apparently arguing the no call. It appeared Davis, who is not a member of the coaching staff but works with players off the field, or Bennett, the team's receivers coach -- or perhaps both -- were upset that the play carried on outside the boundary. Line judge Byron Boston heard something he deemed unruly from the Packers.

"That's disappointing," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Byron called it on our bench. He said someone said some things to him, and he reacted quickly. Obviously at the end of the play, I don't remember who exactly was going out of bounds, but there looked to be a potential late hit. Things were said and a flag went up.

"I've talked to a number of people, I talked to Byron about it a couple times. I don't know who he threw it on. That's what's kind of in question. But the penalty was on our bench, which is not ... we're not going to do that no more."

Nelson's catch would have put the ball at the Jets' 28-yard line, but the flag backed up the Packers to the 43. They still managed a field goal on the drive after failing to score a touchdown despite having first-and-goal at the 5.

Packers rookie Adams makes his move

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Somewhere in the middle of Jordy Nelson's career-best day against the New York Jets on Sunday, another Green Bay Packers receiver showed up as a playmaker for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

And it was not Randall Cobb, despite his two touchdown catches.

In fact, when it was suggested to Cobb that he had a big day, the fourth-year receiver replied with what he thought was his receiving yardage total.

"[I had] 34 yards," said Cobb, who actually had 39 but his point that it wasn't much was clearly understood.

But in Sunday's 31-24 comeback win over the New York Jets, rookie receiver Davante Adams made his first appreciable contribution to the Packers' offense. The second-round pick from Fresno State caught five passes for 50 yards, including 24 on a third-down slant during the Packers' 97-yard touchdown drive late in the second quarter.

"It's plays like that that give you a lot of confidence as a young player, and I'm really proud of him," Rodgers said. "He stepped up. He played really well. I think he'll start to settle in, and you'll see even more big plays from him."

In the process, Adams supplanted Jarrett Boykin as the No. 3 receiver, at least for the remainder of the game.

"It was big," said Adams, who did not have any passes thrown his way in Week 1. "I feel like I'm just scratching the surface though. I've just got to continue to grow from here and that type of stuff is only going to make me better."

Adams appeared to be pushing for the No. 3 receiver spot early in training camp but never made a serious run at Boykin. However, after Boykin dropped one pass and couldn't connect with Rodgers on another during the same second-quarter drive, Adams got the call.

"He's earned those opportunities; he's been coming on,” coach Mike McCarthy said. "You're giving him a shot, see if he can give us a spark, and he made some plays. That's the beauty of competition. You want all these guys competing each and every day. Boykin, I love the young man. He's going to play a lot of football for us. When someone makes plays you keep him in there."

Linsley, Rodgers overcome bad snap

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
GREEN BAY, Wis. – For all the concern over rookie center Corey Linsley heading into last week's season opener at the Seattle Seahawks, it came as a bit of a surprise that the first exchange problem he had with quarterback Aaron Rodgers came in the Week 2 home opener against the New York Jets on Sunday.

After performing without much of a problem in the noise at Seattle, Linsley's first snap at Lambeau Field turned into a disaster.

Under center for the first play from scrimmage, Rodgers did not get the ball cleanly from Linsley and fumbled. Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson recovered it at the Packers' 16-yard line to set up an easy touchdown.

"Aaron said it was a little short, so it was a little short," Linsley said. "And that's all I've got to say about that."

Rodgers, who yelled at Linsley last week against the Seahawks after the two had a problem with one of the snap counts, did not make much of an issue out of the fumble. After the play, he, Linsley and offensive line coach James Campen had a brief conversation near the bench.

"We started off terribly with a fumbled snap that hasn't happened here in, I would dare say six years, possibly," Rodgers said. "It's been a while. So that was a bad start."

Nelson's big day powers Packers again

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- At some point, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers might need to start spreading the ball around.

But not if Jordy Nelson keeps this up.

One game after he was targeted 14 times, Nelson saw 16 passes come his way in Sunday's 31-24 comeback win over the New York Jets. And it did not matter for a second that the Packers made no effort to hide the fact they were going to force-feed him the ball.

[+] EnlargeJordy Nelson
AP Photo/Mike RoemerJordy Nelson has been targeted a whopping 30 times (18 receptions) through two games.
Nelson, fresh off his four-year, $39 million contract extension this summer, torched the Jets for a career-high 209 yards on nine catches, including an 80-yard touchdown in the third quarter that turned out to be the game winner.

"Jordy spoils us," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He plays that way all the time. He practices the same way. He's just a clutch, clutch player."

With the Jets focused on taking away the Packers' running game, they kept their base defense on the field even when McCarthy went to his standard three-receiver set -- a personnel group that usually causes defensive coordinators to use their nickel package to get another cornerback on the field.

That not only left Randall Cobb with a favorable matchup in the slot, either against a safety or a linebacker, but it gave Nelson more one-on-one coverage than usual on the outside.

That's exactly the coverage Nelson saw when he lined up wide to the right on first down from his own 20-yard line with 2:21 left in the third quarter. That time, he was the only receiver in what looked like a clear run formation. With the Jets in a one-high safety man coverage, Nelson ran a 10-yard out and when Jets cornerback Dee Milliner broke on the out route, Nelson turned it up the field.

"At that point in time, I was pretty confident we were going to hit it," Nelson said. "Just didn't know where the safety would be, if he'd be playing over the top or what."

By the time safety Calvin Pryor came over, it was too late. Nelson already caught the ball at midfield and did the rest himself.

"Jordy gives you those opportunities to really make some special plays," said Rodgers, who threw for 346 yards, three touchdowns and registered the largest comeback (from down 18) of his career.

It can be habit-forming to rely on one player, even one as good as Nelson. Sure, Cobb caught a pair of touchdowns, but he totaled just 39 yards on his five catches. Rookie Davante Adams had something of a breakout game with five catches for 50 yards after getting shut out in the opener against the Seahawks.

"Everybody needs help," Adams said. "Otherwise, if you've just got one guy, then you just double that guy and you can shut a team down."

The Seahawks did that to a degree -- holding Nelson to 83 yards despite nine receptions in the Packers' Week 1 blowout loss -- but the Jets could not. It was all Nelson, whose 209 yards was the biggest day by a Packers receiver since Don Beebe posted 220 in an overtime game against the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 14, 1996.

At this rate, Nelson is on a 144-catch pace, which is about as realistic as the Packers throwing him to an average of 15 times per game. Before Sunday, Rodgers had never targeted one receiver 16 times in a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information, perhaps leaving it open to wonder whether the Packers have enough other options.

But as Sunday's game was winding down, there was Nelson with 194 yards receiving to his name, something Cobb reminded him. And when the Packers needed one more first down to complete the comeback, Rodgers, of course, went to Nelson, who came up with 15 more yards.

"One-ninety is good, 199 is great but 200 just sounds better," Nelson said.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Green Bay Packers' 31-24 victory against the New York Jets on Sunday at Lambeau Field:
  • If fans in the stands or those watching on TV were in a panic over the Jets' apparent 36-yard touchdown pass that would have tied the game late in the fourth quarter, the Packers were not. To a man, every player interviewed in the locker room said the same thing -- that they heard the officials blow the whistle to grant the Jets a timeout shortly before the snap. Cornerback Tramon Williams, who was in coverage when Geno Smith heaved the ball to receiver Jeremy Kerley on the dead play, said, "I heard it before the snap. I heard it during the play, too. I think they might have blown it four or five times. So I heard it then."
  • Nelson
  • Receiver Jordy Nelson doesn't normally come to the media auditorium for his postgame interviews, but after catching nine passes for a career-high 209 yards, that's where he found himself. And Nelson, who does not like the spotlight, said: "I’m going to hate this, so go ahead," as he walked to the podium. Nelson posted the fourth-highest single-game receiving total in team history.
  • It was alumni day at Lambeau Field, with dozens of ex-Packers players on the field before the game and at halftime. But there was one major absence -- Bart Starr, who sustained a mild stroke last week. "We obviously miss Bart Starr here today," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Bart, we're thinking about you."
  • With 346 yards passing, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers moved past Starr and into second on the team's career passing yardage list with 24,732. He trails only Brett Favre. Said Rodgers: "It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence with him. You know, thinking about him today a lot as it was alumni day, and I got to see Willie [Davis] and Fuzzy [Thurston] and actually some guys that I played with, which starts to age you a little bit. But I was definitely thinking about Bart and I wish he’d been here. I wish him the best. We're thinking and praying for him. Personally, you know him and I have become close over the last few years and it's been hard seeing him go through this."

Rapid Reaction: Green Bay Packers

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' 31-24 win over the New York Jets on Sunday at Lambeau Field:

What it means: At this point, all we can say for sure is the Packers avoided what would have been a disastrous start to the season. Down 21-3 in the second quarter, 0-2 was looking like a distinct possibility. Maybe the comeback just masked some greater defensive problems that will plague the Packers all season long, but it could be the kind of early-season momentum changer that sends them on a run to another playoff appearance. Either way, for now, disaster has been averted.

Stock watch: Coach Mike McCarthy doesn't like undisciplined penalties from his players. You can believe he won't be happy about the one on his sideline in the second quarter. That's what happened to at the end of a 17-yard catch by Jordy Nelson in the second quarter. The Packers' sideline was upset that there was not a late-hit called against the Jets after it appeared Nelson was hit late out of bounds and after arguing the no-call, it was the Packers' bench that got penalized for unsportsman-like conduct. Referee Walt Anderson did not say who the penalty was on, but Rob Davis, the team's director of player engagement, appeared to be vehemently arguing with the nearest official. The Packers still got a field goal on that drive.

Unpopular call: When the Packers ran the ball on third-and-goal from the 5 -- and got 3 yards from Eddie Lacy -- in the second quarter while trailing 21-3, that seemed to be a precursor to going for it on fourth down. Not so. Instead, coach Mike McCarthy opted to kick the field goal anyway, drawing boos from the crowd.

Injury report: Starting safety Micah Hyde and backup linebacker Andy Mulumba both left the game with knee injuries and did not return.

Game ball: Nelson is the best thing the Packers have going for them on offense, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers knows it. Time after time, Rodgers looked to Nelson, who delivered with nine catches for a career-high 209 yards and a touchdown.

What’s next: The Packers play their first NFC North game next Sunday at the Detroit Lions.

Packers' Hyde leaves with knee injury

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Green Bay Packers starting safety Micah Hyde was taken to the locker room midway through the third quarter of Sunday's game against the New York Jets because of a knee injury.

Hyde was injured late in the second quarter while returning a punt but came back out of the locker room and appeared ready to play. However, rookie first-round pick Ha Ha Clinton-Dix started the second half in place of Hyde.

Hyde spent the early portion of the third quarter riding the stationary bike before going back into the locker room.

The injury also left a hole in the dime defense, where the Packers inserted Jarrett Bush rather than Casey Hayward.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The way Mike McCarthy talked on Friday, it was almost as if the Green Bay Packers coach wants Jamari Lattimore to never relinquish the starting spot he will occupy Sunday against the New York Jets in relief of the injured Brad Jones.

It would not be the first time a Packers linebacker won a job that way.

Desmond Bishop was an injury replacement for Nick Barnett early in the 2010 season and did not give up the job until he was injured in the 2012 preseason. And midway through the 2012 season, Jones took over that spot after an injury to D.J. Smith.

Could it be Lattimore's turn?

Jones has a quadriceps injury that may or may not have contributed to his poor play in the season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks and has been ruled out for Sunday's home opener.

"I would think anytime you get a chance to go and perform, if you perform at a high level, you don't want to give that spot back," McCarthy said Friday. "I think that's the part of injury. You look at the history of the National Football League, some of the greatest careers were started because of an injury in front of that particular player. This is a big opportunity."

But it's not Lattimore's first shot.

He started four games last season -- three in October plus the regular-season finale -- while Jones had hamstring and ankle injuries. Lattimore played well early in the season, including a career-high 14 tackles (with a sack) against the Browns on Oct. 20, but was not as effective in Week 17 against the Bears.

What no one outside the Packers knew until Friday was that Lattimore was dealing with an illness the entire time. Although the fourth-year pro did not disclose all the details, he said Friday that it was stomach-related and also had to do with allergies. He said he was on medication all of last season.

"I don't like to talk because it was bad for me," said Lattimore, who has no lingering problems from the illness. "So I don't really like to bring it back up."

The illness, which he said he still doesn't know exactly what it was, never kept him out of a game. The only game he missed was because of a quad injury. Other than the four starts, most of his action came on special teams, where he was voted as a team captain for the playoffs.

"I had no choice," he said. “It's my job. I've got to go and play. But I didn't feel good. But you just have to suck it up."

In the offseason, he was tendered as a restricted free agent at the lowest rate, $1.431 million, with no promises that another shot at the starting job would come with it. But here he is, a week into the regular season with that shot again, even if he's not quite looking at it that way.

"It's not a break," said Lattimore, who came into the league in 2011 as an undrafted free agent. "Every play is important to me because when I'm on the field I get to make a play. For me, yes, it's an opportunity, but it's just doing your job. What they brought you in here for, for you to do your job, for you to play that position. It's all up to the player to be accountable. It's not necessarily a big stage or first time. It's doing your job."