TAMPA, Fla. – The Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions will battle for the NFC North division title next Sunday at 3:25 p.m. CST – and not in prime time on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. The game will be televised by FOX Sports.
NBC officially announced during halftime of Sunday night’s Seattle-Arizona game that the AFC North battle between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals will be the night game, while the Lions first announced on their website that the game had been moved to 3:25 p.m.
Of course, regardless of when the game was going to be played, the Packers knew the stakes: The winner gets not only the NFC North title but the NFC’s No. 2 seed and the first-round bye and divisional-round home game that come with it.
The Lions clinched a playoff berth on Saturday night when the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Washington Redskins, and the Packers punched their playoff ticket with Sunday’s 20-3 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Lions beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday, 17-14.
“That’s definitely going to be a playoff game,” said Packers right guard T.J. Lang, a Detroit-area native. “When you’ve got a home game on the line, who doesn’t want to play at home, especially the way we’re playing at home? And I know [the Lions] would love to have a playoff game at their field, too.
“So, it’s going to be a big game. It’s going to be a good battle. Obviously we want to do what we have to do to get a game or two in the playoffs at Lambeau, and it all starts with the Lions, getting a win there.”
The loser of Sunday afternoon’s game will be a wild card team and will have to play on the opening weekend of the playoffs – on the road.
“We want to play home,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “It’s going to be awesome if we can get that win. But at the end of the day – when we won it [in 2010], we were on the road the whole time. So it really doesn’t matter. …. It’s been an unusual year. typically we haven’t been as dominant at home. This year we have. Every year is differnet, you hnever know how it’s going to turn out. We’ve been playing good at home, and obviously it would be good to play at home throughout the playoffs.
“But we’re not going to bank on that. We’re in the show, that’s all that counts at this point. We’ve proven we can do it from the last seed if we have to.”
TAMPA, Fla. – Aaron Rodgers can’t guarantee that he’ll start next Sunday’s NFC North championship game, but the Green Bay Packers quarterback does not expect the calf injury he suffered Sunday to keep him out when his team plays for the division title and the NFC’s No. 2 playoff seed against the Detroit Lions.
“I’ll be OK for next week,” Rodgers said after he injured his left calf during the Packers’ second offensive series in Sunday’s 20-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. “[I] hurt my calf pretty good, but the training staff helped me kind of get through it. Just put some heat on and just tried to push through it.”
Asked later if he was concerned about next week’s game, Rodgers replied, “It’s too early to give a 100 percent guarantee, but it would definitely take a lot to hold me out of that game.”
Despite the injury and a flu bug, Rodgers completed 31 of 40 passes for 318 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 108.1, earning his first victory in three tries in Tampa Bay.
Rodgers said the medical staff inserted heel lifts into his cleats to reduce the strain on his calf, but it still affected him.
“It was really tight, so it limited the mobility a little bit, but we were able to make enough plays,” Rodgers said. Later, he said he received treatment at halftime and the calf “loosened up a tad but it was still pretty tight, and I had hard time running. But I was able to move kind of in short segments in the pocket, which was all I needed to do today.”
Asked if there was any discussion of him coming out of the game and being replaced by Matt Flynn, Rodgers replied, "Not from me."
As for the flu, Rodgers said he had battled the illness “the last couple of days pretty bad, and that’s why I was surprised I hurt my calf because I hydrated like no other [week]. I had a great hydration test this week and was drinking a ton of water before the game.
“Unfortunately the calf kind of gave up on me there. But it was a good win for us. Defense played great. Offensively it wasn’t pretty but we had enough points to win.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he thought Rodgers’ injury impacted his play-calling more than it influenced Rodgers’ play.
“I’ve obviously been with Aaron the whole time and you see him do things on the football field as far as making plays. I think really the last couple days, you see what kind of warrior he is,” McCarthy said. “He’s battled whatever illness he’s had the last couple days, and then goes out and strains his calf the first, second series, and didn’t want come out.
“I was probably affected by it more than anybody with some of the play calls. Just a gritty, gritty performance by Aaron.”
TAMPA, Fla. – Three quick post-game takeaways from the Green Bay Packers’ 20-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium Sunday, which clinched the Packers’ sixth consecutive playoff berth:
Playoff bound: It wasn’t especially pretty, and whether it was a flu bug or the lower left leg injury he suffered early in the game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers yet again wasn’t looking like his MVP-caliber self for much of the game. Nevertheless, the Packers made sure they punched their postseason ticket, marking the sixth straight time and seventh time in coach Mike McCarthy’s nine-year tenure. They were put in a win-and-they’re-in scenario when Philadelphia lost to Washington on Saturday night.
Nevertheless, they still have work to do. A victory next Sunday at home over Detroit at Lambeau Field – in a game that could very well end up being flexed onto Sunday Night Football on NBC – would give the Packers their fourth straight NFC North title and the NFC’s No. 2 playoff seed, meaning a first-round playoff bye and a divisional-round home game. At the same time, a victory by the Lions, who haven’t won on Wisconsin soil since 1991, would give them the NFC North crown.
Defensive dominance: Let’s be honest: The Tampa Bay offense, which came into the game ranked 30th in the 32-team NFL, is awful. Technically, they don’t even have an offensive coordinator, after Jeff Tedford, Rodgers’ college coach at Cal-Berkeley, underwent a heart procedure in preseason and never returned to full-time work. Tedford has since fled to the Canadian Football League, which is probably good for him, since the Bucs’ offensive ugliness wouldn’t look good on his resume. That said, no matter how bad an offense they were facing, a dominating performance like Sunday’s has to count for something. The Packers recorded seven sacks, including 2.5 by Clay Matthews and two by Julius Peppers, and late in the fourth quarter, the Bucs finally eclipsed the 100-yard total offense mark – only to fall below it after back-to-back sacks by Peppers and Matthews. The Buccaneers finished with just 109 yards and six first downs.
Not bad, all things considered: Rodgers didn’t look like himself on Sunday, and if you didn’t look at his statistics throughout the game, you might have been taken aback by them: He completed 31 of 40 passes for 318 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 108.1. Although he did lose a fumble and was clearly not moving the way he normally does inside and outside of the pocket, he found a way to get it done with some help from running back Eddie Lacy, who carried 17 times for 99 yards (putting him over 1,000 yards for the season) and a quick-throwing game plan that made sense against Bucs coach Lovie Smith’s famed Tampa-2 defense. Lacy left the game with cramps and only had one fourth-quarter carry.
TAMPA, Fla. – Bryan Bulaga is the only starter on the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line to have missed a game this season due to injury.
It appears he won’t miss a second with the concussion he suffered last week at Buffalo.
The Packers upgraded Bulaga to probable on Saturday for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium, one day after listing him as questionable on Friday’s injury report.
That likely means Bulaga passed the final portions of the NFL-mandated concussion protocol and was able to participate at some level in the team’s light Saturday practice.
On Friday, Bulaga expressed optimism that he would play, saying, “I think we’re on a good track right now. So we’ll see what comes about tomorrow and go from there. I think I still need to go through a few more steps in testing and seeing the independent neurologist check that we have to do. [So] I think I have a couple more steps.”
Those steps apparently have been passed. Bulaga said he believes he’d had two previous concussions before this one.
“I had one in college, I think I had one when I was five years old falling off a swingset, at least that’s what my parents tell me,” Bulaga said.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Saturday:
Since rookie center Corey Linsley replaced an injured JC Tretter after the third preseason game following Tretter’s knee injury, the Packers’ preferred starting offensive line of left tackle David Bakhtiari, left guard Josh Sitton, Linsley, right guard T.J. Lang and Bulaga has lost only one start due to injury – when Bulaga missed the Packers’ Week 2 game against the New York Jets with a knee injury suffered in the Sept. 4 opener at Seattle.
Since then, Lang left the Oct. 26 game at New Orleans with an ankle injury that he’s played through ever since, and SItton suffered a toe injury against the Saints that he has played through, too.
Asked Friday why the line has been so good this season, Lang replied, “No. 1, it’s probably that we’ve done a good job of staying healthy. No. 2, I do believe that we have very smart guys on the line that just play with great awareness. We’ve been able to stick together as five guys throughout most of the season. If you build that chemistry with each other, you get that cohesiveness where you’re just trusting the guy next to you.”
Meanwhile, Bulaga said he remembered Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes hit on him, which came on an interception return and was reminiscent of Tampa Bay’s Warren Sapp blindsiding Packers left tackle Chad Clifton in 2002. The NFL did not fine Hughes for the hit, however.
“He took the shot, and that’s that. No flag on the play,” Bulaga said. “As an offensive lineman, we have chances to take those type of shots at every play, and we don’t. That’s just kind of the way I look at it. As an offensive player, you get those type of angles on pretty much every play.”
Eddie Lacy run like Earl Campbell, but if he’s going to bear a resemblance to any Pro Football Hall of Fame running back this weekend, it’s more likely to be Eric Dickerson.
The Green Bay Packers running back, who has been limited in practice because of his eye but is expected to play Sunday at Tampa Bay, has had multiple people suggested he wear Dickerson-style goggles if he can’t put his contact lenses back in for the game.
Let’s just say he’s not a fan of the idea.
“I refuse …” Lacy said Thursday before stopping himself. “I don’t want to say I refuse, because I might [have to] because I think it will be better than wearing contacts. But that’s kind of old-fashioned.”
Perhaps, but as Lacy demonstrated for reporters at his locker Thursday, he’s blind as bat without his contacts. As he peered across the locker room, he couldn’t read the nameplate above backup quarterback Scott Tolzien’s locker. Lacy said he was coming back from an autograph signing when his eye started bothering him.
“Let’s just say I’m very blind,” Lacy told reporters. “I can’t see Scott’s name over there if I close my right eye.”
Meanwhile, the Packers got some encouraging news on right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who still hasn’t practiced because of a concussion but did attend practice Thursday.
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Thursday:
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Bulaga is still in the concussion protocol process but is “doing good.”
“When they let him out of the building and go down to the Hutson Center, that’s a good thing,” McCarthy said of Bulaga attending practice.
Aaron Rodgers was less than thrilled when the Green Bay Packers let veteran center Evan Dietrich-Smith leave via free agency this spring, ensuring that the Packers quarterback would be taking snaps from his fourth opening-day center in four years.
As it turned out, Rodgers ended up dealing with even more chaos at the position, as intended starter JC Tretter suffered a knee injury in the third preseason game, pressing rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley into service. Linsley joined Scott Wells (2011), Jeff Saturday (2012) and Dietrich-Smith (2013) on the list of opening-day centers – a run that began with the Packers opting not to pay Wells in free agency, either.
And while Rodgers remains friendly with both Wells and Dietrich-Smith, ever since Linsley started and played well in the Packers’ Sept. 4 season-opening loss at Seattle, Rodgers has felt good about the position – and its future.
Asked Wednesday when he realized the Packers were going to be just fine at center, Rodgers replied, “After Week 1. Corey played really well in the first game. There was chatter that week about them trying to get into his head and [how] he and I hadn’t taken a snap in a live game up to that point. After that game, I was pretty convinced that he was going to be OK. And then after two or three, I think we all realized that we had something special.”
Meanwhile, Dietrich-Smith has done just fine for himself, which is why he said in a conference call Wednesday that he harbors no ill will toward his former team as his Tampa Bay Buccaneers prep for Sunday’s game at Raymond James Stadium.
“I had more than enough games there to prove what I can do,” said Dietrich-Smith, who signed a four-year, $14.25 million deal ($7.25 million guaranteed) that the Packers could have afforded if they’d wanted him back. “I don’t really care. I see it as another game, a game that we want to go out and win. I don’t think they’re going to sit there and say, ‘Hey, we need to get after this guy or that guy,’ or, ‘We’ve got to make sure we don’t let Evan do X, Y and Z.’”
Dietrich-Smith said he has been giving his offensive coaches as much insight as he can into the Packers’ defense, having practiced against Dom Capers’ scheme “ever since I’ve pretty much been in the league.” He’s also seen plenty of film of Linsley, since the Buccaneers and Packers have had a bunch of common opponents this season and Dietrich-Smith has seen Linsley on tape of upcoming opposing defenses.
“I think he’s done a good job. Obviously, it’s a big help three of the smartest guys on offense – two of them right beside you, one of them right behind you – all the time,” Dietrich-Smith said of Rodgers and guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang. “I guarantee that helped his learning curve.”
Bryan Bulaga is progressing through the NFL-mandated concussion protocol, and there is a good chance that the Green Bay Packers veteran right tackle will be able to play Sunday at Tampa Bay.
Two days after offensive coordinator Tom Clements, in a departure from what most assistant coaches do when asked about injured players, said he expected Bulaga to be available this week. On Wednesday, Bulaga did not practice but apparently worked out in the weight room – giving further credence to Clements’ prediction.
“[He] looks great,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “[I] saw him in the weight room, in the meetings this morning. [He’s] making progress.”
Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Wednesday:
McCarthy said Lacy’s eye issue is “just a situation he has going on with his eye that’s not game-related,” which would indicate that Lacy wasn’t poked in the eye during last week’s game or sustained some sort of other injury.
“I think we’ll be fine there.”
McCarthy said he didn’t think Matthews’ biceps injury “is of serious nature” and said Neal, who has had abdominal muscle injuries in the past, was simply “being proactive with some treatment.”
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers’ locker room is an easy place for a player to avoid these days. Given all the recent renovations and countless places to go when reporters invade the locker room, you don’t need an Ivy League education to figure out when and where to go.
Second-year offensive lineman JC Tretter – a man who does, in fact, have an Ivy League education, having graduated from Cornell – knew what he was getting himself into earlier this week when he came in anyway, with a host of reporters lying in wait.
And when he arrived, he wanted no part of the idea of that coach Mike McCarthy, by his own admission, had put him in a tough spot at right tackle the end of last Sunday at Buffalo, as Bills defensive end Mario Williams beat Tretter off the edge to knock the ball out of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ hand in the final minutes, resulting in a safety that sealed the Packers’ 21-13 loss. Tretter was playing because starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga had suffered a concussion earlier in the game.
“That’s not unfair. That’s my job. That’s why I’m on this team – to come in and play that position, no matter how many reps I’ve gotten,” said Tretter, who was set to become the team’s starting center this season – before a knee injury in the third preseason game shelved him for the first half of the season, during which rookie fifth-round pick Corey Linsley entrenched himself as the starter.
“That’s the position. That’s what I’m supposed to do. So it’s not unfair.”
Tretter ended up playing 15 snaps – including a couple as an extra blocking tight end in goal line/short yardage situations – and actually graded out OK. You know, except for the play that scuttled any chance of a come-from-behind victory in the final 2 minutes.
“I thought JC did some good things,” said McCarthy, who after the game said he called the wrong play and reiterated that on Monday. “I think everybody wants to look at the last play; that would be one of the calls I wish I had back. I wish I would’ve went with my second call there. The protection result of it would’ve been different. I thought JC did a good job.”
It’s unclear whether Bulaga will be cleared for this Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay, although offensive coordinator Tom Clements said he expects Bulaga to play.
“I think Bryan will be available,” Clements said Monday.
If not, Tretter said he will be ready. Since returning to the 53-man roster off the physically unable to perform list, Tretter has worked at all five offensive line spots in practice, as he is viewed as the team’s sixth man off the bench. If Bulaga hasn’t passed the requisite concussion protocols in time for Wednesday’s practice, Tretter predicted he’d get additional work at right tackle but would work the other spots, too.
“I’m extremely comfortable (at tackle),” said Tretter, who played tight end and left tackle in college but worked exclusively at center all camp. “I’ll probably take more right tackle reps than I have been just because it’s the position of most need right now, but I’ve been preparing for all the positions every week for the past several weeks now anyways, so I don’t think anything is going to change preparation-wise. I’ll probably just get a few more reps there, but that’s it.”
And while he may have made for a very good starting center, Tretter says he is fine with not having a defined position.
“I’m whatever this team needs me to be, whenever they need me to be it,” he said. “That’s the role I have and that’s the role I want to be able to have at this point – I want to be able to do whatever this team needs me to do.”
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Three quick post-game takeaways from the Green Bay Packers’ 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, which ended the Packers’ five-game winning streak and leaves them at 10-4 with two games to play.
Who are you, and what have you done with Aaron Rodgers?: Remember when the Packers quarterback seemed “off” at the start of the season, when the team stumbled to a 1-2 start and Rodgers had to tell everyone to R-E-L-A-X? It seems so long ago given how well the potential NFL MVP had played since, as his team reeled off nine wins in its next 10 games, but on Sunday, Rodgers was the worst he’s ever been statistically. He completed just 17 of 42 attempts – the most incompletions of his career – for 185 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 34.3. Before Sunday, his worst statistical game had been in a Sept. 28, 2008 game, during his first year as the starter, when he had a 55.9 passer rating in a loss at Tampa Bay. The second of his two interceptions, which went off the hands of No. 4 wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, killed a drive on which the Packers had driven from their own 2-yard line to the Buffalo 34 and had the Bills defense on its heels.
Dropping it like it’s hot: While Rodgers certainly struggled, he also was the victim of the highest number of drops in the NFL this year – and the most drops he’s seen during his seven years as the starter. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Packers would-be pass-catchers dropped seven passes during the game, the most in the league this year and the most of Rodgers’ career. The biggest drop came during the drive that ended in the INT off Boykin’s hands and came from an unlikely source: Presumptive Pro Bowl wideout Jordy Nelson. On a second-and-8 play from the Packers’ 6-yard line, Rodgers pump faked and had Nelson wide open and all alone for what very well might have been a 94-yard touchdown. Instead, Nelson butterfingered it at the Green Bay36-yard line. Had he caught it and scored, the Packers would have taken a 17-16 lead.
What a way to end it.: Despite all their problems, the Packers still had a chance to drive for the game-winning score in the final 2 minutes. After the defense, which gave up 12 points on the day, got the offense the ball back with 1 minute 58 seconds left to play, Rodgers lined up in the shotgun for the first play. But with starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga in the locker room with a possible concussion, his replacement, JC Tretter, was beaten badly by Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who with his left hand poked the ball out of Rodgers’ right hand for a fumble. Running back Eddie Lacy recovered – making it a dead ball, as NFL rules state that only the fumbling player can recover the ball in the end zone with under 2 minutes to play – for a Bills safety, ending any hope of a comeback win.
AMHERST, N.Y. – At midweek, safety Chris Banjo was leaning against a table in the Green Bay Packers locker room, talking about the challenge of spending the season on the practice squad after seeing action in all 16 regular-season games last year.
Eligible for the practice squad because of a change in the rules this season, Banjo was resigned to spending the year there and his goal was to be named the practice squad player of the week, which would have earned him a seat on the team charter on Saturday.
Instead, he received a spot on the 53-man roster, as the Packers called Banjo up from the practice squad to replace inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve with an ankle injury.
“I have a lot of respect for Chris Banjo. I call upon him in meetings as if he’s up and active on game day and it keeps his mind fresh,” safeties coach Darren Perry said during the week. “Chris has a great heart. He’s a great teammate.
“I like to think Chris has gotten better and he’s continued to grow [while on the practice squad]. We just haven’t been able to see it on Sundays, but you see it in practice, you see it in meetings. Chris is working his butt off. I’m blessed to be able to coach him and hopefully he’ll get his opportunity.”
That opportunity came Saturday. Although Banjo called this season “bittersweet,” he was prepared to spend all year on the practice squad and merely help out wherever he could. While he may not be on the active 46-man game-day roster Sunday, at least he’s taken another step.
“Obviously as a competitor, you want to be at the highest level you can possibly be at – be able to compete and play every week,” Banjo said on Wednesday. “Obviously I’m not gaining playing experience, but being here and taking things off of film, I try to grow as a player every single game, even though I didn’t play in the game. I still feel like I’m making strides.”