Packers Keep Winning, Injuries Keep Piling Up

Posted: December 12, 2011 by Kodi in NFL, Pack It Up

The Packers winning streak continued to 19 games

They crushed the Oakland Raiders but lost WR Greg Jennings to injury

They have lost players all over the field and three back-ups made a big impact in Sunday’s game

The Green Bay Packers welcomed the Oakland Raiders to Lambeau Field after the team’s most challenging match-up against the Giants in New York last week. It was the closest game the Packers had played all year and one of the few games that wasn’t determined before the beginning of the 4th quarter. Actually it took a picture perfect final drive by Aaron Rodgers to allow Mason Crosby to come on and kick a field goal to win the game as time expired.

Green Bay prepared to make a statement and it turned out to be a unlucky situation for the Raiders who would serve as the Packers whipping post. This has turned out to be quite a memorable week for the Packers as they began selling team “stock” to help pay for the expensive renovations that are planned for Lambeau. The last stock sale took place in 1997 and this year’s sale has been far more successful nearly doubling the total sale in a mere 48 hours.

Through the first 48 hours the Packers had sold over $43 million worth of stock after selling just 120,000 shares at $200 apiece for 17 weeks in 1997. It is just the 5th stock sale in the franchise’s history and there has been scrutiny from others who wonder why Packers fans would pay $250 for a “piece of paper”. For those of us who do understand, there is little need to explain why we invest in our team. The Packers are the only publicly owned franchise in all of professional sports and paying $250 to have even more of a connection to the team you love is a mere afterthought, especially after this week.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers sold another couple million dollars worth of stock before the Raiders and Packers headed to the locker room for halftime. After an interception on the Raiders first drive the Packers headed onto the field without RB James Starks but RB Ryan Grant was ready to fill a role he was used to. The Raiders are the most penalized team in the league and on their first defensive play they held true to their reputation and were called offsides and gave the Packers a free 5 yards. The very next play Grant burst through and rumbled downfield for a 47 yard TD run, the longest rushing play of the Packers season.

Green Bay would eventually score another 27 points without allowing the Raiders to score and headed into the locker room with a 34-0 lead. Ryan Grant added a 2nd TD and would finish the game with 85 yards on 10 attempts along with his 2 scores. Rodgers would add two passing TDs in the first half, his first a 4 yard pass to TE Ryan Taylor which was his first catch of the year. In the 2nd quarter he hit a streaking WR Jordy Nelson down the right sideline for a 37 yard TD which was his 10th of the year and Rodgers 39th of 2011.

Rodgers would eventually be pulled from the game late in the 3rd quarter but it’s surprising that the Packers biggest win could easily be argued as Rodgers worst game. In the first half he threw a good ball to TE Jermichael Finley who had the ball in the corner of the end-zone but eventually lost possession to a Raiders defender, which was upheld after review and Aaron had thrown his 6th pick of the season. That interception turned out to be Rodgers 4th incomplete pass in a row, something he had not done all year long. Did you comprehend that? He hasn’t thrown more than 3 incomplete passes in a row in the previous 12 games, pretty unfucking believable.

Rodgers would finish the game 17-30 with 281 passing yards the 2 TDs and 1 interception. He had a pass completion percentage of 56 which was the first time all year it was below 60. Rodgers posted a quarterback rating of 96.7 and the first time all season that it was below 100. His 281 passing yards was the 3rd lowest total of the season but it wasn’t his fault because he was pulled midway through the 3rd quarter. That decision was probably made by a skeptical HC Mike McCarthy who had seen star WR Greg Jennings leave the game with an apparent knee injury. The game was in the bag and Rodgers stats weren’t the most important thing to the Packers, it is his health.

On Monday McCarthy told the media in his press conference that Jennings suffered a knee sprain and he would miss 2-3 weeks but he would “likely” be back for the playoffs. Jennings was targeted 5 times and caught 2 balls for 20 yards before he was carted off the field. Jordy Nelson was the most targeted Packers receiver with 7 and had 3 catches for a team leading 81 yards and a TD. WR Donald Driver was the 2nd most targeted receiver with 6 and he caught 4 balls for 75 yards. With Jennings injury Driver will become a bigger role in this offense and WR James Jones will be given the opportunity to make a larger impact.

What was surprising was that TE Jermichael Finley’s only target was the end-zone pass that he allowed a Raiders defender to take from his hands. Finley has had ups and downs all season long but everyone sees the talent that he has, he just needs to live up to expectations and quit dropping balls/making mental mistakes. Green Bay wasn’t very efficient on 3rd down conversions getting first downs on just 3 of 11 opportunities and in a game that is closer the Packers can’t have dropped passes, turnovers and they must convert on 3rd down. The Packers finished with 417 yards of total offense but the final 20 minutes of the game was full of RB John Kuhn rushing attempts who ended up with 10 carries for 46 yards.

The Packers defense played phenomenally during the first half but eventually allowed the Raiders to score 16 points in the second half. Green Bay was supposed to have LB A.J. Hawk for this game but LB Desmond Bishop wasn’t expected to play, McCarthy however decided that they both needed to sit and they did. They were replaced by D.J. Smith and Robert Francois who both had incredible games for the Packers. “That goes to the mindset of this team, no matter who’s in there, a backup or what have you, you’re expected to play well” Packers defensive leader Charles Woodson said “those guys came up with two big plays today, which were huge for us”.

The first interception of the game was picked off by Smith which set up that long TD run by Ryan Grant. Smith added another 10 tackles and a pass deflection to his stellar performance and did an admirable job serving as the next man up. Robert Francois had 9 tackles and a pass deflection along with an interception of his own but he was also key in the Green Bay’s biggest defensive play. Francois came in to tackle Oakland RB Marcell Reece and managed to punch the ball out which was then picked up by fellow LB Eric Walden who scampered in for a 5 yard TD return.

Then there was the game by CB Charles Woodson who just continues to absolutely dominate on the defensive side of the ball. Woodson was able to intercept not one but two passes from Raiders QB Carson Palmer and now has 7 picks on the year. He is now tied with New England CB Kyle Arrington and Chargers DB Eric Weddle for the league lead and this is the 3rd time in 4 seasons that Woodson will finish with at least 7 picks, it was his 54th career interception. “We’ve played enough football as a group to know where we’re supposed to be, and we feel like we should make more plays on the ball” Woodson said about his team who leads the league with 27 team interceptions.

With the win and a surprising loss by the 49ers to the Cardinals the Packers have clinched a first round bye in the playoffs and need just another win or 9ers loss to get homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. That has been the Packers goal all season long but the question is are the Packers going to pursue perfection or pull back and let some of their key players get healthy and keep others from getting injured. Green Bay has to travel to Kansas City to play a Chiefs team that just fired their Head Coach and a Bears team the following week who are in a full-fledged downward spiral. The Packers finish off their season against the Detroit Lions which may be their biggest challenge to finishing the season undefeated. Every Packer fan is hoping they go for the record books but I would much rather have a loss on our record and another Lombardi Trophy in the case than take a loss in the playoffs because our squad is hampered by injuries.

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