The Green Bay Packers quarterback was ineffective in the 40-10 Thanksgiving Day loss. Part of that can be chalked up to the Lions’ pass rush: they sacked him seven times.
But when Flynn had time to throw, some of his passes lacked the kind of velocity necessary for the speed of the NFL game.
Flynn insisted on Wednesday that his elbow is fine. He said the tendinitis he experienced in his throwing elbow the last two summers in training camp with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders is not an issue. He also said reports that his elbow injury was more serious and might need surgery were untrue. He said he had no ligament damage, only tendon problems.
But he said that wasn’t his problem on Thursday, when he completed just 10-of-20 passes for 139 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
“Maybe trying to guide the ball a little too much instead of just kind of [letting] it cut loose a little bit,” Flynn said Wednesday after he took all the starting-quarterback snaps in practice. “After so many negative plays and things like that, [I was] trying to be too precise with things instead of just going out there and playing and cutting loose.”
Flynn said an example of that was on the interception he threw in the third quarter along the left sideline. He said he was indecisive about whether to make a back-shoulder throw or put the ball up the field. Instead, he threw it between those two spots.
“It was kind of one of those things where instead of just trusting it and cutting it loose, I was getting too cute with it,” Flynn said.
Arm strength was always a concern with Flynn when he was the backup to Rodgers in 2008-11, but Packers coaches always maintained he had enough zip to make any throw in their playbook.
If arm strength is the issue, there may be little reason to expect different results against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, when he is expected to make his second straight start in place of the injured Rodgers.
The forecast for Sunday at Lambeau Field calls for a high temperature of 22 degrees, with a slight chance of snow, conditions that will be much more difficult to throw in than the climate-controlled atmosphere at Detroit's Ford Field.
“As far as his arm strength, I think he’s fine,” Packers coach Mike McCarty said. “It’s more getting in tune with who he’s throwing to, when to throw it, making the protection adjustments, particularly the way defenses have been playing us. I think it’s more of that.”
To be sure, Flynn had little practice time to prepare for the Lions. The short week allowed for only two brief practices at less than full speed.
“Matt was kind of joking today, ‘Ah, it's actually kind of nice that we’re going to run the plays [in practice] that we’re going to run in the game,” receiver Jordy Nelson said Wednesday. “Obviously, last week all we had was pretty much walk-throughs. He’s going to get more and more comfortable. Obviously, he’s been here, but being gone a couple years it’s still hard. So, he can make the plays that allow us to win games. He’s done it in the past.”
But until Flynn does it again, opposing defenses likely will continue to stack the box with defenders and take away the Packers’ running game. The Lions essentially dared Flynn to beat them with his arm, and he couldn’t do it.
“If people are loading the box, I don’t think the mindset is we have to throw deep,” Flynn said. “We just have to make them respect the pass, whatever that is. Take what they give us, whether that’s quick throws, deep throws, whatever it is. You have to make people respect the throw again.”