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Nelson on cover of Sports Illustrated

Nov 25, 2014 -- 5:18pm
Photo/Sports Illustrated 
Jordy Nelson is on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, which will be delivered to subscribers’ mailboxes starting Wednesday.

GREEN BAY – Jordy Nelson doesn’t seem like the type to believe in any sort of jinx or superstition, so the Green Bay Packers wide receiver wasn’t concerned about landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, despite the infamous SI cover jinx.

Of course, given how little Nelson cares about attention and accolades, he probably isn’t overly excited about it, either.

Nevertheless, the Packers star wide receiver is indeed on the cover of the legendary magazine, with a story about him by senior writer Tim Layden inside.

The story focuses on Nelson’s upbringing on his family’s farm in Kansas, where he plans to return after his career is over. Nelson returns to the family farm each offseason.

Nelson, who enters Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots having caught 68 passes for 1,066 yards and nine touchdowns, has actually appeared on the cover of SI twice before, but never as the focal point.

He was pictured with quarterback Aaron Rodgers celebrating during Super Bowl XLV in February 2011, and he was shown along with fellow receivers Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jermichael Finley in 2011.

Nelson had eight catches for 68 yards in last Sunday's victory at Minnesota, and although the Vikings worked to take him away in that game (as well as Cobb), he was pleased that the offense functioned effectively with contributions from tight ends Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers and running back Eddie Lacy.

"You want to be able to win games multiple ways. The last couple weeks we’ve had some big blowouts and had some explosive gains. This week was a little more a grind it out type of thing," Nelson said afterward. "We’ve said it all year, too: We’ve got the guys that can step up and they did it, from Rich catching the touchdown, Quarless making big plays, Eddie running, everything. It’s good to see."

Rodgers on Grape Crush-gate: No trolling

Nov 25, 2014 -- 3:16pm
Screen capture/ 
Aaron Rodgers’ tradition of drinking Grape Crush soda after games got some unexpected attention Sunday at Minnesota.

GREEN BAY – If you thought Aaron Rodgers was trying to stick it to the Minnesota Vikings after Sunday’s game by drinking a Grape Crush soda during his post-game press conference, you haven’t been paying attention. Or, the Green Bay Packers quarterback would put it another way.

“Idiots,” he said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and Tuesday.

Rodgers’ beverage of choice after the Packers’ 24-21 victory Sunday went a bit viral on social media when some Vikings and Packers fans assumed incorrectly that he was sending a not-so-subtle jab toward his NFC North rivals by drinking Grape Crush at the podium.

Nevermind that the Packers’ three-point victory was hardly a crushing defeat – or that Rodgers has been drinking Crush throughout his NFL career, washing down his customary peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which he also has after every game.

“Seven years. To all the idiot trolls out there, seven years,” Rodgers said of post-game snacking tradition. “PBJ and Grape or Orange Crush. It’s been grape for the last five, the first couple years it was orange or grape. Seven years.”

Although Rodgers was smiling and chuckling throughout the conversation, he was clearly annoyed that some people thought he was taking a shot at the Vikings.

“Anybody who knows, any of the local media or anybody who’s seen me after a game, I’m always carrying that around with me. That’s probably the only soda that I ever drink – right after the game, when you’ve got to get those nutrients back with you,” he said with a laugh. “So that’s my post-game (snack) – PBJ and the Grape Crush. I do like it, contrary to anybody who thinks I was trolling anything. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s comical.

“I don’t do those kind of things.”

Well, that’s not entirely true.

Now, before and after the game, Rodgers had extremely high praise for Vikings first-year coach Mike Zimmer, whom he credited with pioneering the concept of putting seven and eight defenders up at the line of scrimmage to confuse offenses on which players are rushing and which ones are dropping into coverage.

“I do [like Zimmer]. I don’t like going against him, he’s always had good plans against us, but I give credit where credit’s due. He’s changed the game,” Rodgers said. “He’s come up with a scheme that probably every other team has in their package, those seven and eight up looks. And nobody else was doing that before he was.”

That said, Rodgers did confess to saying some not-so-nice things to one of the Vikings’ assistant coaches at the end of his 18-yard run during the Packers’ final touchdown drive. That run converted a first down and ended on the Vikings’ sideline, where Rodgers whipped his head around and said something to someone in the bench area.

“The coach said something first,” Rodgers said. Asked what was said to him, and what he said back, Rodgers said with a smirk, “He just said some mean things. … I did tell Harrison [Smith, the Vikings’ safety], ‘Make sure you pass on any apologies necessary if I offended him, and I won’t take any offense to what he said about me.’ That was kind of the message there.”

Wilde's 3-and-out: Packers 24, Vikings 21

Nov 23, 2014 -- 3:00pm
Photo/Getty Images  
Eddie Lacy ran 25 times for 125 yards in Sunday’s 24-21 victory.

GREEN BAY – Three quick post-game takeaways from the Green Bay Packers’ 24-21 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, which moved the Packers to 8-3 on the season:

Defining drive:  Sure, the Packers didn’t make it look as easy as they did in their back-to-back 50-point performances in victories over the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles. But let’s face it: If they’re the NFC’s Super Bowl favorite – as multiple Las Vegas sports books had them entering Sunday’s game – they’re not going to be winning blowout after blowout en route to University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX. They’re going to have to deliver some game-defining, clutch drives in the fourth quarter. And that’s exactly what Aaron Rodgers & Co. did Sunday.

After the Vikings pulled within 14-13, the Packers took advantage of a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty that mad Mason Crosby’s 48-yard field goal possible. But it was the ensuing drive, after a crucial 7-yard sack by blitzing nickelback Micah Hyde led to a Minnesota punt, that was the clinching possession.

Moving 87 yards in 11 plays, the Packers mixed the pass (a critical 11-yard completion to Jordy Nelson on third-and-1 from the Green Bay 29-yard line) and the run (Eddie Lacy’s 15-yard burst to the Minnesota 15-yard line) and threw in a dash of Rodgers scrambling (an 18-yard pickup against a seven-man rush) during a 6 minute 18 second march that ended in a 10-yard Lacy TD on a shovel pass from Rodgers. It was a slow, painful demise for the Vikings’ hopes of an upset.

One very long yard:  It’s hard to imagine a more exciting, entertaining – and longer – 1-yard touchdown pass than the one Rodgers threw to Richard Rodgers during the second quarter. On first-and-goal from the Vikings’ 1, the Packers put three tight ends – Richard Rodgers, Andrew Quarless and Justin Perillo – on the field along with Lacy and fullback John Kuhn. Aaron Rodgers then play-action faked and rolled to his right. Under heavy pressure, he threw back to the opposite side of the field from about the spot where the number 10 delineates the 10-yard line and there was Richard Rodgers, who was so wide open that if you were watching on TV, he was the only person in the frame. The rookie tight end merely waited for the QB’s rainbow to come down to him just a few yards inside the left sideline.

Missing the mark: While the defense did enough to win – barely – it was hard not to watch Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater miss receiver after receiver and wonder what a more accurate thrower might have done. Just as Philadelphia’s Mark Sanchez, the Eagles’ backup behind Nick Foles, was troublingly inaccurate a week earlier at Lambeau Field, the Packers defense certainly benefitted from the rookie Bridgewater missing several throws, frequently high.

Once Bridgewater started hitting his mark – during a touchdown drive that pulled the Vikings to within 24-21 – the Packers were fortunate that it was too little, too late by then. Taking over with 3:23 to go, the Packers were able to salt away the clock with running back Eddie Lacy (25 carries, 125 yards) and hold on to win. You wonder if New England’s Tom Brady, who’s only one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, will have the same accuracy issues next week at Lambeau Field. The guess here is that the defense will have to be much more on its game than it was on Sunday against Bridgewater.

Packers-Vikings Friday injury report: Perry questionable

Nov 21, 2014 -- 4:45pm
Nick Perry is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game at Minnesota with a shoulder injury.

GREEN BAY – Once again, just as Nick Perry was hitting his stride as an outside linebacker, the injury bug has bit him. Now, the question is whether the Green Bay Packers third-year outside linebacker will be able to play through a shoulder injury that has him listed as questionable for Sunday’s game at Minnesota.

Perry, who has three sacks, 18 tackles, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup this season, had been starting at outside linebacker in place of Clay Matthews to accommodate Matthews’ move inside. Matthews is probable with a groin injury.

If Perry can’t go, it could limit how much the Packers can use Matthews inside. The other options at outside linebacker are Mike Neal, Julius Peppers and rookie Jayrone Elliott, who didn’t play last week because of a groin injury.

Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Friday:

Out –  TE Brandon Bostick (hip).
Questionable –  CB Jarrett Bush (groin), LB Nick Perry (shoulder), DE Datone Jones (ankle), OLB Jay Elliott (hamstring).
Probable –  LB Clay Matthews (groin), G T.J. Lang (ankle), G Josh Sitton (toe).
Out –  RB Matt Asiata (concussion).
Questionable –  DT Sharrif Floyd (knee), WR Greg Jennings (rib), T Matt Kalil (knee), WR Jarius Wright (hamstring).
Probable –  LB Anthony Barr (knee), T Mike Harris (ankle), RB Jerick McKinnon (back), DE Scott Crichton (hip), DE Everson Griffen (neck), CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle), TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Perry is “improving” and that he would take a look at Perry during Saturday’s practice before the team departs for Minneapolis.

Asked if the Packers’ defensive game plan would change without Perry available, McCarthy replied, “It will adjust, no doubt. Certain reps will go to different players obviously. But we’re prepared for that. That’s really why you operate in the different personnel groups during the week, which we have. We’ll be ready to go either way.”

Meanwhile, Jones reinjured the ankle in practice Thursday that he initially hurt against the Vikings on Oct. 2. 

Packers-Vikings Thursday injury report: Guards work, Matthews OK

Nov 20, 2014 -- 4:10pm
Both T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton were back at practice Thursday on a limited basis.

GREEN BAY – For the first time since they suffered their injuries at New Orleans on Oct. 26, Green Bay Packers starting guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang took part in a practice in pads Thursday inside the Don Hutson Center.

Lang, who suffered an ankle injury against the Saints, and Sitton, who tore a ligament in his left big toe, haven’t missed any games with their injuries, having started and played in victories over Chicago on Nov. 9 and Philadelphia last Sunday, and they were expected to play at Minnesota this week whether they practiced or not.

But after both sat out Wednesday’s work, they were in pads and ready to go Thursday, although they were listed as limited participants. Last Thursday, both were listed as having taken part in practice on a limited basis, but their work this week was clearly more extensive.

Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Thursday:

Did not participate –  TE Brandon Bostick (hip), CB Jarrett Bush (groin), LB Nick Perry (shoulder).
Limited participation –  OLB Jay Elliott (hamstring), LB Clay Matthews (groin), G T.J. Lang (ankle), G Josh Sitton (toe).
Did not participate –  RB Matt Asiata (concussion), DT Sharrif Floyd (knee), WR Greg Jennings (rib).
Limited participation –  LB Anthony Barr (knee), T Mike Harris (ankle), RB Jerick McKinnon (back), WR Jarius Wright (hamstring).
Full participation –  DE Scott Crichton (hip), DE Everson Griffen (neck), CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle), TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after practice that he still doesn’t feel the need to overwork the two guards, who are seeing what they need to see in jogthroughs and in meetings.

“T.J. and Josh have different injuries, so it’s something that’s evaluated throughout the week,” McCarthy said. “I’m not really concerned about their team reps because they do all the walkthroughs and pre-practice stuff and so forth, so they’re still getting their reps, they’re just not getting the full-speed team reps.”

McCarthy all but officially ruled out Bostick, and he didn’t sound particularly optimistic about Perry, who has been starting outside since Matthews moved inside.

“Just getting better. That was what they told me. Once again, we’ll get through tomorrow and see what he can do Saturday,” McCarthy said.

Meanwhile, Matthews said his groin injury isn’t as bad as the one he suffered at Detroit in Week 3, which wasn’t severe enough to keep him out of the following week’s game at Chicago but did limit him from running full speed at times against the Bears.

“I feel good. So, I don’t think there were will be any limitations going into this weekend,” Matthews said. “I think we’re just being more cautious than anything. I was able to go out there against Chicago, cautiously, of course. I feel like the progression I’m making this week as opposed to maybe Week 3 and 4 is ahead of where I was."

Bush, who has missed just six of a possible 132 games in his career with injuries, said he expects to play, too.

“I’m not really worried. I plan on playing,” said Bush, who missed four games last season with a hamstring injury. “I’ve got the itch to get out there but I have to be smart at the same time.”

Pitch Perfect Packers sing (Tweet?) way into sequel

Nov 20, 2014 -- 10:12am
Screen capture/YouTube 
T.J. Lang, Clay Matthews, Don Barclay, David Bakhtiari and Josh Sitton have a cameo in the Pitch Perfect sequel.

GREEN BAY – At the end of training camp, David Bakhtiari strutted around the Green Bay Packers’ locker room wearing a crew t-shirt from Pitch Perfect 2.

Now we know why.

Although the second-year left tackle and his offensive linemates have never been shy about being fans of Pitch Perfect, the popular 2012 a cappella comedy starring Anna Kendrick, they did a good job of keeping this secret: They’re in the sequel.

The Pitch Perfect 2 trailer appeared on YouTube on Thursday, and included is a scene with linebacker Clay Matthews, Bakhtiari and fellow Pitch Perfect-obsessed offensive linemen T.J. Lang, Don Barclay and Josh Sitton during a competition. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' younger brother, Jordan, is also in the group.

The process appears to have started last December, when Bakhtiari Tweeted to actress Alexis Knapp, who plays Stacie in the first film. The linemen had been liberally quoting the film and talking openly about how much they loved it, both on social media and in casual locker-room conversation.

Barclay and Lang later added to the conversation:

The film opens May 15. The Packers appear in the trailer around the 1-minute mark.

Packers-Vikings Wednesday injury report: Vikings add Tate

Nov 19, 2014 -- 4:43pm
Packers coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson watch practice Wednesday.

GREEN BAY – Although it made sense that the Minnesota Vikings claimed ex-Cleveland Browns running back Ben Tate on waivers Wednesday with suspended running back Adrian Peterson unlikely to play, one look at the Vikings’ injury report revealed another reason: Top running backs Matt Asiata (concussion) and Jerick McKinnon (back) did not practice Wednesday.

That means Tate could very well see action Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at TCF Bank Stadium.

Here’s a look at the full, official injury report from Wednesday:

Did not participate – TE Brandon Bostick (hip), CB Jarrett Bush (groin), G T.J. Lang (ankle), LB Nick Perry (shoulder), G Josh Sitton (toe).
Limited participation – OLB Jay Elliott (hamstring), LB Clay Matthews (groin).
Did not participate – RB Matt Asiata (concussion), T Mike Harris (ankle), WR Greg Jennings (rib), RB Jerick McKinnon (back), WR Jarius Wright (hamstring).
Limited participation – LB Anthony Barr (knee), DT Sharrif Floyd (knee), DE Everson Griffen (neck), CB Xavier Rhodes (ankle).
Full participation – DE Scott Crichton (hip), TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

While the Packers’ injury list was longer than expected, with the team not having announced any injuries after last Sunday’s 53-20 victory over Philadelphia, coach Mike McCarthy didn’t sound overly concerned about any of the injuries, including Matthews’, who strained his groin earlier this eason.

“Just speaking with him, he doesn't have high concern,” McCarthy said of Matthews. “We'll see how he feels tomorrow."

McCarthy said Perry, who has been starting in Matthews’ old outside linebacker spot with Matthews working inside, probably won’t practice Thursday, either, although he “maybe, maybe might get some limited work.” Perry was in the locker room with a large icepack contraption on his right shoulder Wednesday.

McCarthy wasn’t worried about Bush, who seldom misses practice.

“Jarrett is a tremendous worker, so I think sometimes we have to protect him from himself,” McCarthy said. “I just felt that he needed to, not take a day off, [but] it's just we're going to smart with him today and tomorrow.”

Sitton said that despite not doing anything in practice the past two weeks, he may do some limited work on Thursday.

Masthay keeps fatherhood, failures in perspective

Nov 19, 2014 -- 4:24pm
Photo/Getty Images  
Tim Masthay had a rough game Sunday, getting a punt blocked and dropping an extra point snap.

GREEN BAY – Tim Masthay was still beating himself up on Wednesday, although the Green Bay Packers punter was also able to appreciate the big picture.

Although he had a nightmare of a game last Sunday against Philadelphia with a blocked punt and a mishandled snap on an extra point, he knew that on balance, he’d still done OK for himself, as wife Amanda gave birth to the couple’s second child, son Paxton, on Friday night.

“Despite what happened in the game, I definitely came out ahead on the weekend, for sure,” Masthay said with a smile.

And while Masthay wouldn’t blame sleep deprivation for his struggled, he should be better rested and more effective Sunday at Minnesota.

“I was fine. Friday night I spent the night in the hospital, but then Saturday night I was with the team in the hotel,” said Masthay, who brought Amanda and Paxton home from the hospital on Sunday morning, before kickoff against the Eagles. “The truth is, obviously having a child is a huge, huge deal. It’s as big as it gets in life. But guys are always dealing with all kinds of personal stuff. You’ve got to do your job even though you’ve got personal stuff going on. To me, that has nothing to do with it.”

On the punt block, special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said that Masthay was “a little slow” on his get-off time but that the play blew up because long-snapper Brett Goode broke down in protection. Nonetheless, just as Slocum absolved him of the punt he had blocked at Miami on Oct. 12, Masthay took responsibility for it.

It was the botched PAT that bothered him more, though – even though the Packers won, 53-20.

“First of all, anytime you get a punt blocked, that stinks pretty bad,” Masthay said. “I could’ve gotten the ball off a little quicker, I drifted a little bit to the right, toward a little bit more vulnerable part of the protection with the call we had in, so that’s my fault.

“The thing that really, really, really gets me is dropping the PAT snap. I know that sounds overly dramatic, especially in light of the score of the game. It’s not like it had any effect on the outcome of the game. But I’ve spent so much time and energy year-round working on my hands and went my entire collegiate career and the first 4 1/2 years of my professional career without dropping a snap, and honestly thought I’d go through my entire career and not drop one. So that one hits me right to the core. I’m really, really disappointed that that happened.”

Most important, though: Mom and son – and big sister Emory – are doing just fine, despite some frazzled moments on Friday afternoon.

“I was sitting in the ice tub. I do a long ice tub session on Fridays, and that’s the only day I take my phone in there,” Masthay said. “I happened to get a text right when I got in the ice tub. She was at gymnastics [with Emory] and in early labor. So I rushed out of the facility, went and got her and took her to the hospital. Good to go.”

NFL suspends Peterson, won't play Sunday against Packers

Nov 18, 2014 -- 8:22am
Photo/Getty Images 
Adrian Peterson has been suspended for at least the remainder of the 2014 NFL season, meaning he won’t play Sunday against the Packers.

GREEN BAY – It appears Adrian Peterson won’t be playing against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. And barring an expedited, successful appeal through the NFL Players Association, the Minnesota Vikings star running back won’t be playing again this season.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell informed Peterson Tuesday morning that he had been suspended for at least the remainder of the 2014 NFL season.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy had said Monday that he wasn’t preparing for the possibility that Peterson might be facing his team on Sunday.

“[We’re] not really focusing on it,” McCarthy said. “[I] don’t really know the specifics of everything that’s involved. We’re planning on playing against what we see on video. That’s always been our approach and then if something happens, we’ll adjust.”

In 14 career games against the Packers, Peterson has carried 302 times for 1,648 yards (5.5 yards per attempt) and 11 touchdowns. No team has given up more yards to Peterson than the Packers.

Peterson was placed on the commissioner's exempt list on Sept. 18 following his indictment for felony child abuse in Texas. He pleaded no contest last week to a lesser charge of misdemeanor reckless assault and was given probation.

On Monday, arbitrator Shyam Das conducted a hearing regarding Peterson's effort to be reinstated from the commissioner's exempt list.  If Das rules that Peterson should be removed from the list, he could start practicing with the Vikings in advance of Sunday’s game and it would set up a legal showdown in which Peterson could conceivably play while awaiting his appeal.

Per the NFL, Peterson won’t be considered for reinstatement until at least April 15. In a letter to Peterson, Goodell wrote in part, “The timing of your potential reinstatement will be based on the results of the counseling and treatment program set forth in this decision. Under this two-step approach, the precise length of the suspension will depend on your actions. We are prepared to put in place a program that can help you to succeed, but no program can succeed without your genuine and continuing engagement.  You must commit yourself to your counseling and rehabilitative effort, properly care for your children, and have no further violations of law or league policy.”

One of the reasons for the suspension, Goodell wrote, was that Peterson has “shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct.”

Not long after the suspension was announced, the NFLPA issued a statement saying it would appeal. 

“The decision by the NFL to suspend Adrian Peterson is another example of the credibility gap that exists between the agreements they make and the actions they take,” the statement read. “Since Adrian’s legal matter was adjudicated, the NFL has ignored their obligations and attempted to impose a new and arbitrary disciplinary proceeding.

“The facts are that Adrian has asked for a meeting with Roger Goodell, the discipline imposed is inconsistent and an NFL executive told Adrian that his time on the Commissioner’s list would be considered as time served.

“The NFLPA will appeal this suspension and will demand that a neutral arbitrator oversee the appeal.

“We call on the NFL Management Council to show our players and our sponsors leadership by committing to collective bargaining so a fair personal conduct policy can be implemented as quickly as possible.”

Wilde's 3-and-out: Packers 53, Eagles 20

Nov 16, 2014 -- 6:28pm
Photo/Getty Images 
Jordy Nelson was one of two Packers receivers to eclipse the 100-yard mark Sunday against Philadelphia.

GREEN BAY – Three quick post-game takeaways from the Green Bay Packers’ 53-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field on Sunday:

Dee-fense! Dee-fense!:  Sure, the Packers’ offense delivered another tour-de-force performance, and Aaron Rodgers was fabulous yet again. But give the guys on the other side of the ball their due. That was the No. 5 ranked offense in the league that they throttled, and Philadelphia came in averaging 31.0 points per game – third-best in the 32-team league. Yes, it was Mark Sanchez at quarterback instead of an injured Nick Foles (collarbone), and yes, it helps to play from ahead – which is what the Packers defense has been doing a lot of lately, especially at home. Nevertheless, from Letroy Guion’s sack leading to the Eagles’ first punt, to Mike Neal’s third-down sack leading to Micah Hyde’s 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, to Julius Peppers’ 52-yard interception return for a touchdown, this was an impressive showing that shouldn’t be downgraded like others have been for quality of competition.

Mister Rodgers neighborhood:  It’s hard to picture the Packers’ offense – and, specifically, Rodgers – playing much better than they have in the first half of the past two weeks’ games. On Sunday, he was 18 of 25 for 279 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 135.2 while building a 30-6 lead. Coupled with last Sunday night’s six-touchdown performance in the first half, Rodgers’ combined numbers in those two first halves? 36 for 49, 594 yards, eight TDs, no INTS, 153.4 rating. That’s not bad. For the game, Rodgers finished 22 for 36 for 341 yards with three TDs, no INTs and a passer rating of 120.3.

But once again, Rodgers didn’t do it alone. Although he did have three touchdown passes – a 6-yarder to Davante Adams, a 27-yarder to Jordy Nelson and a 32-yard catch-and-run by Eddie Lacy. But three of their other four TDs came from somewhere other than the offense: Peppers’ 52-yard interception return for a touchdown, Hyde’s 75-yard punt return TD and Casey Hayward’s 49-yard fumble return after an errant shotgun snap sailed over Sanchez’s head.

First-place tie:  Thanks to the Arizona Cardinals’ 14-6 victory over the Detroit Lions in Phoenix, the Packers pulled into a first-place tie with the Lions atop the NFC North standings at 7-3. Although the Lions are technically ahead on the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of their 19-7 victory at Ford Field on Sept. 21, the teams meet again on the final weekend of the season, Dec. 28 at Lambeau Field. The game is currently a noon game but could be flexed to a late-afternoon or prime-time game.

Since that loss to the Lions, the Packers have won six of their last seven, and of those six victories, five have been by 21 points or more: a 38-17 victory at Chicago on Sept. 28; a 42-10 victory over Minnesota on Oct. 2; a 38-17 victory over Carolina on Oct. 19; a 55-14 victory over Chicago on Nov. 9; and Sunday’s 53-20 victory over the Eagles.

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