NFL Nation: Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers season report card

January, 21, 2015
Jan 21
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Was this the start of another run of great chances to get back to the Super Bowl or something that could begin a downward spiral?

How the Green Bay Packers come back from the stunning end to this season, the NFC Championship Game collapse against the Seattle Seahawks, will alter how history views the 2014 season.

"It's going to be a missed opportunity that we'll probably think about for the rest of my career," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the 28-22 overtime loss to the Seahawks. "We were the better team today, and we played well enough to win, and we can't blame anybody but ourselves."

Can the Packers get back to this position next season?

"Yes, we can," veteran safety Morgan Burnett said.

If so, then perhaps Rodgers and his teammates won’t have to think about it for the rest of their careers.

Team MVP: Forget team MVP. Rodgers should be (and probably will be) the NFL's MVP. Rodgers threw just five interceptions in the regular season to go with 38 touchdowns. His touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7.6 was more than double what second-best Tony Romo's was, at 3.78. At home, Rodgers was unbeatable, going 9-0. In those games (playoffs included), he threw 25 touchdowns without an interception. His last interception at Lambeau was 418 passes and 36 touchdowns ago. His performance against the Cowboys in the divisional playoff game, playing on a badly strained left calf, was one for the ages. His season-long production was even more remarkable considering he had only two consistent weapons in the passing game, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

Best moment: R-E-L-A-X. On Sept. 23, Rodgers went on his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee and said: "Five letters here just for everybody out there in Packerland: R-E-L-A-X." Rodgers added, "Relax. We're going to be OK." At the time, the Packers were two days removed from a 19-7 loss at the Detroit Lions that dropped them to 1-2. That one word served as an unofficial theme for the season. In the next game, Rodgers threw four touchdowns in a 38-17 road win over the Chicago Bears that began a stretch in which the Packers won nine out of 10 games and 11 out of their last 13 to close the regular season. They won the NFC North for the fourth straight season.

Worst moment: Take your pick, but most of them happened in the final minutes of Sunday's NFC Championship Game. You can start with Seattle burning the Packers for a fake field goal. Then there were the back-to-back, three-and-out possessions (and some ultra-conservative play calls) that began with 6:53 and 5:04 remaining. The Packers led 19-7 to start both of them. Then there was the botched onside kick recovery in which backup tight end Brandon Bostick, who was supposed to be blocking on the play, went for the ball and couldn't corral it. And finally the defense allowing touchdowns on Seattle's last two possessions of regulation and in overtime. If you want to look at another game, try Week 15 in Buffalo, where Nelson dropped a potential touchdown pass in a 21-13 loss that cost Green Bay home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

2015 outlook: At age 31, Rodgers still has plenty of good years left, so the Packers' championship window would seemingly remain open for a while. However, there are some key issues general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy need to address. First, Thompson must find a way to re-sign Cobb, who would be a free agent in March. Then, he needs to find another weapon or two for Rodgers. McCarthy must fix the special teams and defensive issues that have plagued the Packers since their Super Bowl win four years ago. This is a team that has shown it's the class of the NFC North, but is not in the class of recent NFC Super Bowl participants.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Back in September, Aaron Rodgers had just the thing to calm down Green Bay Packers' fans concerned over the team's 1-2 start. Four months later, he couldn't come up with anything comparable to his R-E-L-A-X message to help ease the pain of Sunday's overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.

"I don't have any catchy, spell-out phrases at this point," Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. "Everybody's hurt and disappointed and frustrated and shocked, Packer fans and players and coaches alike. It's tough. It's a long year and I know the fans out there, you guys put a lot into it as well. You guys live and die emotionally with our every play, and we appreciate you guys so much.

"We're hurting just like you guys are, and resolute in our determination to get back out there and have a better result next year."

Rodgers talked at length about Sunday's loss during his 36-minute radio show, and he didn't try to downplay the significance of the defeat.

He admitted that he can't help thinking that had any one play gone differently, he might be preparing right now for his second Super Bowl appearance.

"We all play the what-if game," Rodgers said. "It's a terrorizing game because it can really mess with you mentally. Of course, you go through the different plays throughout the game. A lot of times, we're sitting here and thinking, you know, we've lost some playoff games where, yeah, we probably needed to make a few more plays — more than one. You look at the game on Sunday, really one play here or there could have made the difference. Could have been a play in the first quarter or a play in the last quarter."

Some of those plays can be attributed to Rodgers himself. He threw two interceptions, although on one he was convinced he had a free play, and his passer rating of 55.8 was the second lowest among his 11 playoff starts.

"For sure, it's disappointing," Rodgers said of his performance. "It's a great defense but missed a couple throws and then had the couple miscommunications. Yeah, it's frustrating. We were so close. Just a play here or there that would have sealed it."

How will the Packers bounce back?

Even Rodgers isn't sure.

"That's the million-dollar question right there," Rodgers said. "You have to be able to refocus. It's getting away, whether physically or mentally, and kind of refreshing your mind and then getting ready. Every year you get older in the league, you know the chances become fewer. That's why it stings probably a little bit more. I'd love to play, like I've said, another seven or eight, nine more years, but you just never know how your body's going to hold up, how the team's going to hold up and your opportunities you're going to have.

"We had a great opportunity right in front of us to do something special. That's what makes it hard. I remember Ray Lewis talking about losing that AFC Championship, I believe it was to New England, and then how that kind of spurred them on the next year to come back and win it. That's obviously the goal, but so much has to happen between now sitting here in January and getting back to this point. You realize it's a tall task, but we'll be up for it when we get back together."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Few quarterbacks, if any, are better at taking advantage of free plays than Aaron Rodgers. He thought he had one in the first quarter of the Green Bay Packers' NFC Championship Game loss on Sunday when he saw Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett cross the line of scrimmage.

So he took a shot and threw to rookie receiver Davante Adams in the end zone, but cornerback Richard Sherman picked it off.

Since there was no flag for on offside penalty, so the interception stood.

Two days after the game, Rodgers remained convinced the officials missed the call.

"I think it's pretty evident on the film," Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show.

A review of the game film shows Rodgers has a legitimate gripe.

It potentially cost the Packers points because it was a third-and-10 play from the Seahawks' 29-yard line. At worst, an incompletion there would have set up a 47-yard field goal by Mason Crosby, who was 5-for-5 in the game. A penalty would have given the Packers a third-and-5 play from the 24 yard line.

It was one of two interceptions Rodgers threw in the 28-22 overtime loss.

After the game, he explained them both.

"Felt like we might have had an offsides on the first interception," Rodgers said at the time. "Corey [Linsley] snapped it early -- I figured it was a free play -- and Davante was the only route that was going in the end zone. Sherm made a good play. The second one, just miscommunication between Cobb and I."

Aaron Rodgers pulls out of Pro Bowl

January, 20, 2015
Jan 20
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When Aaron Rodgers said last week that he had 120 minutes left in him this season with his injured calf, he surely wasn't talking about the Pro Bowl.

Two days after the Green Bay Packers' overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, Rodgers pulled out of the Pro Bowl, citing his calf injury. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was added in his place.

Rodgers said after Sunday’s loss that he "felt it the whole game" when asked about his injured calf, although he appeared to be more mobile as the game progressed.

"The fourth quarter, I just kind of let it go," Rodgers said in his post-game press conference. "I need to push it and run a little bit and just kind of let it go."

Two more Packers added to Pro Bowl

January, 19, 2015
Jan 19
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Randall Cobb and Sam Shields will play in their first Pro Bowl. The Green Bay Packers' duo was added to the game on Monday as alternates.

Cobb replaced Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, who pulled out because of an injury. Shields got the spot because New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis is in the Super Bowl.

The game is Sunday in Glendale, Arizona. The teams will be divided up on Wednesday night in a Pro Bowl draft to be televised on NFL Network.

Cobb set career highs in receptions (91), yards (1,287) and touchdowns (12).

Shields had two regular-season interceptions and another in the playoffs. He became the first Packers cornerback to be selected to the Pro Bowl since Charles Woodson in 2011.

Five Packers were initially voted in. They were: quarterback Aaron Rodgers, receiver Jordy Nelson, guard Josh Sitton, fullback John Kuhn and linebacker Clay Matthews.

It's unclear if Rodgers will go, considering he has been dealing with the strained left calf for nearly a month. Sitton said Monday that he was undecided. He has been listed on the injury report with a toe injury ever since the bye week in November.
SEATTLE -- When Mike McCarthy assesses the Green Bay Packers' NFC Championship Game loss, the coach will have to ask himself a hard question: Did his play calling cost his team a shot at the Super Bowl?

[+] EnlargeEddie Lacy
AP Photo/David J. PhillipPackers coach Mike McCarthy leaned on a run-heavy plan in the second half, but Eddie Lacy and Co. were stopped short on late attempts.
Not by taking the points early and kicking two field goals when the Packers had fourth-and-goal at the Seattle Seahawks' 1-yard line twice in the first quarter. Those are game-management decisions that even the great Vince Lombardi, who believed in taking the points early, wouldn't have questioned.

But with the Packers up 19-7 and in possession of the ball with 6:53 remaining in regulation of Sunday's 28-22 overtime loss at CenturyLink Field, McCarthy appeared to take his foot off the accelerator. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers handed off to James Starks for gains of 1 and 4 yards on the first two plays. On third-and-4, Rodgers threw to tight end Andrew Quarless, but linebacker K.J. Wright broke it up.

McCarthy had another shot after Morgan Burnett came up with the Packers' fourth interception of a Russell Wilson pass on the first play of the Seahawks' next possession. Why Burnett declared himself down instead of trying to return it is another matter, but McCarthy went back to the run. This time, Eddie Lacy was stuffed for losses of 4 and 2 yards to set up third-and-16 from the Packers' 37-yard line. McCarthy ran again, and Lacy gained only 2, forcing a punt.

"We had some chances early, had some chances late to do some things and didn't do it," Rodgers said, choosing his words carefully. "When you go back and think about it, at times we weren't playing as aggressive as we usually are."

Rodgers declined to elaborate on what he meant by not being aggressive, instead citing how they have finished off games this season by converting first downs to use up all the clock.

"We had a chance to do some things; didn't do it," he said.

The Packers could have attacked cornerback Richard Sherman, who appeared to be playing one-handed with an apparent left elbow injury. Even Sherman questioned why the Packers didn't test him.

"Hey, if you want to question my play calling -- I'm not questioning it," McCarthy said. "I came in here to run the ball. The one statistic I had has as far as a target to hit was 20 rushing attempts in the second half, I felt would be a very important target to hit for our offense."

Lacy finished with 73 yards on 21 carries and with help from James Starks (five carries for 44 yards), the Packers totaled 135 yards rushing on 30 carries.

"I have no regrets," McCarthy said. "I don't regret anything. Hell, I expected to win the game, we were in position to win the game, and that's football. We had opportunities to get that thing done and we came up a little short."
SEATTLE -- Welcome to CenturyLink Field, where the Green Bay Packers play the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. ET. Here's a look at the pregame storylines:

Saturday practice: By now, you know the Packers traveled to Seattle early, leaving Friday instead of their customary day-before-the-game departure. And now we know where they practiced Saturday morning. Coach Mike McCarthy told ESPN's Bob Holtzman the workout was held at Memorial Stadium, a 12,000-seat facility built in the 1940s that is currently home to the Seattle Reign, a professional women's soccer team. The open-air stadium has FieldTurf, which is the same surface as CenturyLink Field.

The wind: McCarthy has always said the only weather condition he's concerned with is the wind. That could be a factor in this game. The National Weather Service has a wind advisory in effect until noon local time, which is when the game kicks off. Winds are expected to be 20 to 30 mph, with gusts to 45 mph, and then will lessen throughout the day. Rain is expected throughout the day.

Inactives coming soon: Both teams will have to turn in their seven inactive players 90 minutes before kickoff. The Packers have kept all three quarterbacks active the last two game, since Aaron Rodgers has been dealing with his strained left calf.

Officiating crew: Tony Corrente is the referee. His crew includes umpire Dan Ferrell, head linesman Kent Payne, line judge Carl Johnson, field judge Jon Lucivansky, side judge Rob Vernatchi and back judge Dino Paganello.

Preview: Seahawks reporter Terry Blount and I previewed the game.
SEATTLE -- Here are some odds and ends to wrap up the week before the Green Bay Packers play the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at CenturyLink Field in the NFC Championship Game:
  • Ear plugs: If you looked closely at quarterback Aaron Rodgers' helmet early in the Week 1 game at CenturyLink Field, perhaps the NFL's loudest stadium, you would have seen that the ear holes were covered with something yellow. Later the in the game, the ear holes were open. We finally got an explanation. "Sometimes [the equipment staffers] put some things in there to try and block out the noise but I never really felt like those worked very well," Rodgers said this week. "So, if they were in there, I'm sure I took them out as soon as I realized they were in there."
  • Comparing run games: In last Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Packers faced the NFL's second-ranked rushing offense. This Sunday, they face the No. 1 rushing team. But those two teams go about it differently. Running back DeMarco Murray accounted for 78.4 percent of the Cowboys' rushing offense, while quarterback Tony Romo (2.6 percent) was a non-factor in the running game. For Seattle, running back Marshawn Lynch accounted for a team-high 47.3 percent of the rushing yards, but quarterback Russell Wilson had 30.7 percent of the team's rushing yardage during the regular season. "Against the Cowboys, their quarterback is not going to come out there and carry the ball like Russell Wilson," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "He's a threat with the ball in his hands. He can make the big play at any time. One of the things that makes their running game as efficient as it is, is when you have to account for the quarterback, you aren't squeezing those run lanes down quite as hard."
  • Follow the leader: Packers coach Mike McCarthy hates comparison questions, which made it surprising to hear him say this week, "If you want a comparison, an improvement from last year, I think our most improvement that I've seen out of our football team is leadership." But does that translate into anything on the field? "It really does," veteran fullback John Kuhn said. "Guys really believed we were going to play for 20, 22 weeks and it wasn't a finish line that we've crossed. We've always been like, we're playing this thing through February."
  • Major underdogs: According the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the Packers are a 7.5-point underdog. If the line stays above 6.5, the Packers would be the biggest underdog in any game (regular season or playoffs) that Rodgers has started. The Westgate listed the Packers as 6.5-point underdog at the New York Giants in 2010, a game the Packers won. However,, which also charts point spreads, says the Packers' biggest underdog game under Rodgers was in the opener at Seattle in Week 1, when the Seahawks were favored by six and won 36-16. "It's one of those things, if you believe you're the underdog, then you've already lost," backup quarterback Matt Flynn said. "We've got the two best teams in NFC going at each other. Both teams think they're the best team in the NFL. Something's got to give."
  • Blowout rematch: This is the fourth NFC Championship Game in the last 20 years to be a rematch of a regular-season game that was decided by 20 or more points. Twice, the team that lost in the regular season won the conference title game. The Packers were involved in one of those. They beat the New York Giants (35-13) in 2007 and then lost to them in the NFC Championship Game in overtime.
  • Face time: In his press conference on Thursday, Capers spoke with reporters for nearly 15 minutes. Offensive coordinator Tom Clements spoke for less than five. That may have nothing to do with why Capers has held two NFL head coaching jobs, while Clements, by most accounts a fantastic offensive coach, hasn't had another interview since he spoke with the Chicago Bears about their opening in 2012. But if owners or general managers care about a coach's public persona, then it just might.
  • A Fox in Chicago: What should the Packers expect next season from the arch-rival Bears under new coach John Fox? A quick turnaround is likely. In his previous two stops, he made an immediate impact. In 2002 with the Carolina Panthers, he took over a 1-15 team. and went 7-9 in his first season. In his second, they went 11-5 and went to the Super Bowl. In 2011 with the Denver Broncos, he took over a 4-12 team and went 8-8 in his first year and 13-3 in his second.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers was in a reflective mood Friday, two days before he and the Green Bay Packers play the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.

Maybe it was his outfit.

Wearing a hooded sweatshirt from Butte College, the two-year school that he attended before transferring to the University of California, and a baseball cap from his high school, Pleasant Valley in Chico, California, Rodgers discussed his legacy and how it could be enhanced by reaching -- and winning -- a second Super Bowl.

The winning quarterback (and the MVP) from Super Bowl XLV said the thought has crossed his mind.

"Something you think about in the offseason," Rodgers said Friday in the final news conference before Sunday's game. "When I entered this season thinking about half of my career potentially being done and liking to play another seven, eight, nine years. You'd like to win a couple more because that's when you really kind of cement your legacy and do something really special."

Which takes us back to Rodgers' attire Friday. Wearing the hat from his high school and a sweatshirt from his junior college was another reminder that Rodgers received no Division I scholarship offers coming out of high school. It's a chip he has carried on his shoulder and used to his advantage throughout his career.

"I think you have to remember where you came from in order to keep some of that humility that you like to keep," Rodgers said. "I had great experiences in high school competing and going to class and Butte College was a special year for me. I learned a lot from my coach, from my fellow classmates in those classes, from my teachers, and most importantly from my teammates, especially some of the older ones who I got to play with. I look at that year as a really vital year for my success."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Just because Aaron Rodgers played better in the second half of Sunday's NFC divisional playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys doesn't mean his strained left calf felt any better.

The Green Bay Packers quarterback on Friday debunked the myth that something miraculous happened at halftime to allow him to lead the Packers to a comeback victory. Rodgers had only 90 yards passing and one touchdown in the first half, yet finished with 316 yards and three touchdowns in the 26-21 victory.

"It was painful the entire game," Rodgers said during the final media availability before Sunday's NFC Championship Game at the Seattle Seahawks. "It was just something that I knew I was going to have to deal with during the week and in the warmups. Nothing really loosened up, it was just dealing with the pain, pain management, and being smart about it."

Note that Rodgers talked about warm-ups. His pregame routine has changed since he first sprained his calf in Week 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. About two hours before the Week 17 game against the Detroit Lions, Rodgers came out to the field to go through some pregame movements. He did the same thing before the game against the Cowboys.

For most, if not all, of Rodgers' career as a starter, he remained in the locker room until the entire team came out. Don't be surprised to see him come out early again Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Part of dealing with the injury and figuring out what he can and can't do on game day is getting acclimated to the conditions of the field.

"The specifics of that will be determined with the surface and things like that," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. "It will be important to get on the field in the pregame and get comfortable."

Neither Rodgers nor McCarthy offered much in the way of a specific update on the quarterback's condition. The Packers did not practice on Friday but had they done so, Rodgers would have been listed as a limited participant, just as he was on Wednesday and Thursday.

Officially, Rodgers was listed as probable on the team's injury report. In fact, all four players on the report – Rodgers, running back Eddie Lacy (knee), defensive tackle Josh Boyd (ankle) and guard Josh Sitton (toe) – were listed as probable.

"Aaron is getting ready to play; looks good," McCarthy said Friday. "We have some meetings going on. We still have some work in the [indoor facility] we have to do. But everything is on schedule."

That schedule calls for the Packers to leave Green Bay on Friday at 4 p.m. CT. They're expected to arrive in Seattle at around 6 p.m. PT. They will hold their regular Saturday practice at an undisclosed location in the Seattle area.

"We will have some work to do on the field," McCarthy said. "We've got a couple of locations we're looking at, based on the weather. We'll have to make that decision in the morning."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy took no chances Thursday. When running back Eddie Lacy felt soreness in his knee, the Green Bay Packers coach pulled him out of practice.

McCarthy said it was just precautionary.

"I think Eddie will be ready to go on Sunday," McCarthy said. "Just the coach was nervous."

The Packers added him to the injury report and listed him as a limited participant in practice. They have only one more practice remaining before Sunday's NFC Championship game at the Seattle Seahawks. That practice will be Saturday in Seattle. The Packers don't practice on Fridays. They will conduct workouts in Green Bay and then leave later that afternoon for the West Coast.

As expected, quarterback Aaron Rodgers (calf) joined Thursday's practice about halfway through the session. Just like on Wednesday, Rodgers was not seen inside the Don Hutson Center during the portion of practice that was open to reporters.

McCarthy said Rodgers took part in three periods. Asked how Rodgers looked compared to last week at this time, he said: "I don't do comparisons, all right. He's getting ready to play."

Here's the Packers' full injury report:
  • DT Josh Boyd (ankle, limited participant)
  • RB Eddie Lacy (knee, limited participant)
  • QB Aaron Rodgers (calf, limited participant)
  • G Josh Sitton (toe, limited participant)
GREEN BAY, Wis. – For the second straight day, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was nowhere to be seen on the Green Bay Packers' practice field.

That doesn't mean he won't practice Thursday.

On Wednesday, he was listed as a limited participant in practice with his calf injury even though he was not seen during the portion that was open to reporters.

The same was expected on Thursday.

The last time Rodgers was actually seen on the practice field by reporters was on Dec. 24, when Rodgers was walking into the treatment room at the Don Hutson Center. That was after Rodgers initially strained his left calf in the Week 16 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He then injured it more severely in the regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions, but made it through last Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys without a major setback.

Rodgers was the only player missing from practice on Thursday.

It was the final workout before the Packers depart for Seattle on Friday afternoon. Coach Mike McCarthy is breaking from his usual routine and taking the team on the road two days before Sunday's NFC Championship Game. The Packers are expected to hold a light practice in the Seattle area on Saturday.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's not Eddie Lacy versus Marshawn Lynch in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, and the Green Bay Packers running back is thankful for that.

"He's a great back -- powerful, strong," Lacy said Wednesday of his counterpart with the Seattle Seahawks. "But that's not my concern. I don't have to tackle him."

Lacy has plenty to worry about with the Seahawks' defense, which held him to just 34 yards on 12 carries in their 36-16 rout of the Packers in the season opener at CenturyLink Field. Lacy's night ended early in the fourth quarter after a collision with safety Kam Chancellor.

Actually, two collisions.

Chancellor drilled him at the end of a screen pass and then again at the end of a run on the next play.

The Packers said Lacy left the game because of a concussion. He said it wasn't that severe.

"I remember it wasn't a concussion; it was, 'Got my bell rung,'" Lacy said. "The difference is when I get a concussion, I didn't remember what happened at all. In this one, I knew exactly what happened."

And what he discovered was that Chancellor hits hard.

"Definitely one of the hardest hitters I've ever ran into," Lacy said.

The Seahawks didn't have nearly the problems with Lacy that the Packers did with Lynch, who credited with breaking nine tackles in the game. Lynch rushed for 110 yards on 20 carries and scored two touchdowns.

The back story on Lynch and the Packers is that they almost traded for him in 2010, when the Buffalo Bills were shopping him. But they did the deal with the Seahawks, who gave up a fourth-round pick and a conditional pick that ended up being a fifth-rounder. The Packers offered a fourth-round pick because they were in need of a running back after Ryan Grant was lost for the season to a broken ankle.

"I thought it was a possibility, for sure," said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who played with Lynch at the University of California for one season (2004). "He was on the market for what didn't seem like a whole lot getting out of Buffalo. I think they ended up taking that offer based on where the pick would lie in the draft because of the records. So it'd be interesting to see any of the what-ifs if he had come here."

Had they landed Lynch, perhaps they would not have drafted Lacy in 2013.

In Lacy, the Packers found the bruising back they sought in Lynch. Over the past two seasons, Lynch leads the NFL in yards after contact (1,281), while Lacy ranks second (1,111), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"Those guys are similar in the sense that you have to have multiple defenders trying to get those guys down," Packers linebacker Julius Peppers said.

Said Packers coach Mike McCarthy: "I don't know if there's a whole lot of people that want to tackle Eddie. He's playing at an extremely high level. I think he's playing the best football of his two-year career. ... He's breaking tackles, but we're going against an excellent tackling defense, so this will be a big challenge."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers felt good enough about his strained left calf after Sunday’s victory over the Dallas Cowboys to proclaim: "I think I've got 120 minutes left in me," referring to this week's NFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.

How did the Green Bay Packers quarterback feel on Wednesday?

"I just hope we don't go to overtime," Rodgers said.

Officially, Rodgers was listed as a limited participant in the Packers' first practice for Sunday's conference title game at Seattle, although he was not even present inside the Don Hutson Center during the portion that was open to reporters.

When asked what he was able to do, Rodgers said: "About the same as last week."

When Rodgers was reminded that he didn't practice at all last Wednesday in advance of the NFC divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, he amended his statement.

"Let me revise that – a little bit more than last week," Rodgers said.

Rodgers said he feels "pretty similar" to the way he did last week, when he practiced only on Thursday.

"We did a little bit more today than we did this time last week," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I don't really know if that's an indicator. We're dealing with it."

Rodgers threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's victory over the Cowboys, but it took him time to get rolling. He had only 90 yards and a touchdown at halftime, and his mobility was limited. He was slightly more mobile and much more effective in the second half.

Just like last week, there's no question Rodgers will play.

"I don't have any doubt at all," McCarthy said. "I'm really just worried about Sunday, and I'm counting on Aaron to keep playing the way he's playing."

With Rodgers on the field for at least some portion of practice, the Packers had every player on their 53-man roster available.

“You need all hands on deck," McCarthy said. "I mean, it's all part of your preparation. The ability to play with the same 53, the same 46, for a couple weeks is a huge benefit."

Here's the full injury report:
  • DE Josh Boyd (ankle, limited participation)
  • QB Aaron Rodgers (calf, limited participation)
  • G Josh Sitton (toe, limited participation)
GREEN BAY, Wis. – When Julius Peppers stuck out his right and stripped the ball away from Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray in the third quarter of Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game, it was just what the Green Bay Packers needed.

They trailed 14-10 at the time and if Peppers doesn't make that play, Murray – as Fox TV analyst Troy Aikman said on the game broadcast – "hits his head on the goalpost." There wasn't another Packers' defender between Murray and the end zone.

It was Peppers' second forced fumble in the Packers' 26-21 win that sent them into this Sunday's NFC Championship Game at the Seattle Seahawks.

"You've got to have guys make plays," Peppers said. "You've got to have everybody step up. You need all hands on deck right now, and everybody making these plays at crucial times."

It was reminiscent of the way the Packers won postseason games on their way to the Super Bowl XLV title in the 2010 season.

  • In the wild-card win over the Philadelphia Eagles, cornerback Tramon Williams clinched it with an interception in the end zone.
  • In the NFC Championship Game, then-rookie cornerback Sam Shields picked off a pair of passes, including one that sealed the game with less than three minutes remaining, and defensive tackle B.J. Raji returned an interception for a touchdown.
  • In the Super Bowl, safety Nick Collins returned an interception for a touchdown to give the Packers a 14-0 lead.

"Turnovers like Pep made with the strip of the running back, plays like that we need," Shields said. "Hope we get some more. That will help out our offense. Us getting turnovers and getting them the ball back, things like that we need, especially in the NFC Championship. Like in 2010, those plays helped us."

In the Packers' three playoff losses since winning Super Bowl XLV, they have combined for just three takeaways. In the four postseason games in that title run, they combined for 11 takeaways.

"That's why having as many guys that are capable of making those plays – you saw Julius, he had two caused fumbles and a sack – those are plays that good players make at the time you need them the most because now is when you've got to make those plays," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "You look at Seattle, and they're playing Carolina [in last Saturday's playoff game], and it's a close doggone game, and Carolina's got the ball down there in the red zone and [Kam] Chancellor makes that interception. What affects the game more than that?"

The Packers often have a positive turnover ratio in large part because quarterback Aaron Rodgers rarely throws interceptions. But the defense plays a part in that, too. In 2010, they had plus-10 turnover differential, fourth-best in the league. This season, they led the league at plus-14.

But it was plays like the ones Peppers made against the Cowboys that remind some people of the Packers' 2010 defense.

"You saw us in 2010 we had to win our last two games to get in, and then our run in the playoffs was probably about as good as you could ask for because we had interceptions for touchdowns in the last three games, including the Super Bowl," Capers said this week. "We had a helluva defensive battle with the Bears here [in the 2010 regular-season finale] to win 10-3 just to get into the playoffs, and there wasn't a lot of margin for error there, either, because if we screw up the next thing you know we're not even in. I'd like to think that with a good week of preparation we can go to Seattle and play our best football because that's what we did in the 2010 season."



Sunday, 1/25