NFL Nation: Randall Cobb

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Green Bay Packers' plan was to feature Davante Adams on Sunday against the New England Patriots, they might have some alterations to make.

Adams did not take part in the portion of Thursday's practice that was open to the media. He was in attendance but spent the early part of the session talking with members of the team's training staff.

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He could be a critical piece on Sunday if the Patriots, with two top-flight cornerbacks in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, can effectively cover the Packers' top-two receivers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

A full injury update will be available after practice.

Adams practiced on Wednesday and also spoke with reporters in the locker room afterward. However, during Sunday's win against the Minnesota Vikings, he left the game for three plays during the first quarter after he appeared to fall awkwardly on his midsection after a 10-yard reception on the Packers' second series. He returned for the next series after missing only three plays.

Linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder) and cornerback Jarrett Bush (groin) were the only other players not practicing during the session that was moved to earlier in the day in order to allow everyone to get home for Thanksgiving.

Guard T.J. Lang (ankle) returned to practice after sitting out on Wednesday. Fellow starting guard Josh Sitton (toe) practiced for the second straight day.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers aren't sure whether the New England Patriots will assign Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner to shadow Jordy Nelson on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

Whichever way the Patriots decide to play the Packers' top receiver, it most likely will remain that way for the entire game, leaving the other New England cornerback to stalk Randall Cobb wherever he goes.

"It's a matchup defense," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "They'll figure out who they want on Jordy, who they want on Randall, who they want on [tight end Andrew Quarless] and who they want on Davante [Adams], and we'll run our offense and adjust if we have to."

But don't tell Adams, the rookie No. 3 receiver, that more opportunities will come his way because of it.

To him, that line of thinking is an insult to the work that Cobb and Nelson -- who have combined for 126 catches, 1,903 yards and 19 touchdowns -- have put in through the first 11 games of this season.

"I feel like if everybody's saying that the ball's just going to come to me, they're saying that Revis is going to lock [up] Jordy," Adams said. "Jordy is one of the best receivers in the game right now. Why not still throw to Jordy if he's open? We're all going to run our routes and do our best to get open. I don't really like the whole, 'it could come to you Davante because they're going to put Revis on Jordy and Browner on Randall,' because it kind of down plays our receivers."

Few teams have gone the way of matching one cornerback on Nelson or Cobb all game long. This season, only the Miami Dolphins did it with Brent Grimes on Nelson, who still caught nine passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the Week 6 victory.

Few teams, if any other than the Patriots, have two cornerbacks capable of doing it.

In last Sunday's win over the Detroit Lions, Patriots coach Bill Belichick went with Revis on Golden Tate and the more physical Browner on Calvin Johnson. Safety Devin McCourty usually helped bracket Johnson.

If they follow that same plan, it could be Browner (with help) on Nelson and Revis on Cobb, who plays more in the slot.

"You look at both of them," said Nelson, who last Sunday went over 1,000 yards for the second straight season. "I'm pretty confident I'll get one or the other. But you look at past games, how they've treated other teams, so you kind of get a feel for it. But they can change it up. You go through it kind of like a normal game and guys aren't going to follow you, especially when you don't know who will. So you're watching both and how they play and try to get a feel for it and have a game plan for each of them."

Whatever the scenario, Adams will almost certainly face the Patriots' number three corner.

"Depending on whether they want to put Browner inside or out, so depending on that, but yeah, most likely," said Adams, who since his career-high seven catches for 75 yards against the Saints in Week 8 has caught only for passes the last three games combined.

But that does not mean Adams' number will be called more often this week.

"We'll see," he said. "You know just as much as I do where it's going."
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Green Bay Packers needed 2 yards for one more first down, the one that would clinch Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

With 2:31 remaining and a timeout to talk it over, Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy huddled in front of the Packers' sideline and talked about two plays: One was a run and the other was a pass.

With the hottest quarterback in the game, it would not have been a surprise to any of the 52,386 in attendance at TCF Stadium if McCarthy left it up to the right arm of Rodgers.

[+] EnlargeEddie Lacy
AP Foto/Ann HeisenfeltEddie Lacy had the type of performance Sunday that gives the Packers confidence down the stretch.
Except that Rodgers wanted to go with the hotter hand. On Sunday, that was running back Eddie Lacy, who out of a shotgun formation on third-and-2 at the Packers' 28-yard line powered over left guard for 4 game-clinching yards.

"That was a play that he preferred," McCarthy said of his quarterback. "I just kind of chuckled because it's usually the other way around. It was the right call in that situation."

On a day when the Vikings tried -- with some measure of success -- to slow down Rodgers and his top two receivers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Lacy delivered both on the Packers' final touchdown drive, the game's defining drive that put them ahead 24-13 with 8:34 to play, and again on their last possession, which chewed up the final 3:23.

Battling an illness, which prevented him from talking to reporters afterward, Lacy set a season high with 125 yards rushing on 25 carries. It was just his second 100-yard game of the season (both have come against the Vikings) and before Sunday, he had not carried more than 17 times in a game this year.

"That's what we get paid for, man," Packers right guard T.J. Lang said. "That's what we take a lot of pride in, is being able to run the ball when everybody in the damned stadium knows you're going to run it."

The Packers' intent to run the ball was clear from the start, when they opened in a two-back look with fullback John Kuhn in front of Lacy. It was Kuhn's first start of the season, and Rodgers was happy to feed "the beast," as right tackle Bryan Bulaga called Lacy afterward.

Lacy gained 70 of his 125 yards after first contact Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information, his second-most rushing yards after contact in a game in his career. He started the Packers' scoring with a 1-yard dive over the top for a touchdown in the first quarter and finished it off with a 10-yard score on a shovel pass in the fourth quarter.

"I think it shows that we are able to pass the ball when needed and run the ball when needed," Bulaga said.

That could bode well for the Packers (8-3) in cold-weather games down the stretch. Or if teams do what Vikings coach Mike Zimmer tried, which was to play a heavy dose of two-deep safety coverage to try to limit Rodgers' chances down the field.

Although Rodgers threw two touchdown passes without an interception, he passed for only 209 yards on 19-of-29 passing. Nelson went over 1,000 yards for the season, but only 68 of them came Sunday despite his eight receptions. His long gain was merely 14 yards. Cobb, who had topped the 100-yard mark in three of the past four games, caught just four passes for 58 yards.

"It gives us another option as opposed to years prior where it's just airing it out," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. "We've got the ability to run the ball."

And the next time the Packers need one more third-down conversion, whether it's to wrap up a victory in next Sunday's showdown with the New England Patriots (9-2) or later in the season to clinch a division title or a playoff berth, there's no telling whether the Packers will rely on Rodgers' arm or Lacy's legs to get it.

"The way that Eddie was running the football, and the line, you have to give the line a voice," Rodgers said. "Those guys know the pulse of the game there, especially late in the game there. They felt like a run was something we could get. Came to the sidelines and kind of had the choice there, but I liked the play to Eddie, the inside handoff, and he did a good job of getting the necessary yards."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – As big a problem as Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb have created for opposing defenses, the Green Bay Packers' ultraproductive pair of receivers has put general manager Ted Thompson in a bit of jam, too.

With $14.25 million already committed to Nelson this season as part of a four-year, $39 million contract extension he signed in July that broke him into the top-10 in receiver money, Thompson has to figure out how to keep Cobb in the fold as well.

And the longer the fourth-year receiver goes without a contract extension, the higher the price becomes.

Cobb
Nelson
Together, Nelson and Cobb have developed into one of the top pass-catching combinations in the NFL. But in order for it to anything other than a one-year wonder, Thompson must procure a deal with Cobb, who is in the final season of his rookie contract. Thompson has the salary-cap space – $8,794,417 according to the latest figures from ESPN Stats & Information – but that's not the only factor. There are other potential free agents to sign.

"I think everyone wants Randall to be here," Nelson said. "I think any player wants to play their whole career in the same spot, but it's a business on both sides. Sometimes people think it's a one-way business, but he's going to do what's best for him and what he thinks is the best situation for him."

Cobb almost certainly won't command Nelson’s $9.75 million-per-year average, but a deal averaging in the neighborhood of $6 million to $7 million isn't out of the question. At just 24 years old, Cobb is the definition of a young, productive, homegrown player that Thompson typically keeps around.

The feeling around the league is that there's no way the Packers would let him hit free agency next March.

"It will get done," said an NFL personnel executive. "He's a Ted guy."

Although the Packers' roster contains another young, potentially productive receiver in rookie Davante Adams (who has 27 catches for 286 yards and three touchdowns through 10 games), there's little proven talent behind him.

Even if Adams develops into the receiver the Packers think he can become, he's not the same type of complement to Nelson that quarterback Aaron Rodgers has in Cobb. With Nelson dominating on the outside with 60 catches (seventh in the league) for 998 yards (third) and nine touchdowns, he has typically drawn an opponent's best cornerback with a safety also shading that way. That leaves Cobb – the prototypical slot receiver at 5-foot-10, 192-pounds and all kinds of shifty moves – to work in the middle of the field in the short and intermediate routes.

"I think that's why they go well together," Packers safety Micah Hyde said. "With Randall, he controls the inside. Don't get me wrong, Jordy can go inside, too. But Randall does a good job, and the matchups that he creates is remarkable. And then for Jordy to be outside, with a guy like A-Rod getting them the ball, it's going to be hard to stop."

After a slow start, which Cobb said was caused in part by self-imposed pressure to produce in a contract year, he has been nearly unstoppable. Beginning with his seven-catch, 113-yard, two-touchdown game in Week 4 against the Vikings, Cobb has eclipsed with the 100-yard mark four times in the last seven games. In that stretch, he ranks sixth in the NFL with 653 yards, ahead of even Nelson, who ranks seventh with 647. For the season, Cobb ranks second in the league with 10 touchdowns and only a tight end, Denver's Julius Thomas, has more (with 12).

There are other great receiving duos in the league, with Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders leading the way; and even other great combinations in the Packers' own division, with Chicago's Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. Nelson and Cobb are new to that list, but could remain there for years to come.

"I do feel very confident that I wouldn't want any other guys than the guys we've got," Rodgers said.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a matter-of-fact manner, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said this about his leading receiver, Jordy Nelson:

"Obviously Jordy is having a Pro Bowl season," Rodgers said after Sunday's 53-20 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Few, if anyone, would argue that.

Nelson ranks third in the NFL with 998 receiving yards and is tops among NFC receivers (although the Pro Bowl is no longer organized by conference). He trails only Denver's Demaryius Thomas (1,105) and Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown (1,070) in that category. Nelson ranks sixth in the league with 60 catches. And his nine touchdown catches puts him tied for second among all receivers.

Nelson
Cobb
All of that is the very definition of a Pro Bowl lock.

But what about Randall Cobb?

He's the only receiver in the league with more touchdowns than Nelson and those he's tied with for second. Despite not catching a touchdown pass on Sunday, ending a streak of six straight games with at least one score, Cobb's 10 touchdown catches still leads all NFL receivers and is second overall behind only Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who has 12.

Sunday marked the second time this season that Cobb (with 10 catches for 129 yards against the Eagles) and Nelson (four catches for 109 yards and one touchdown) each had 100-plus yards receiving in the same game.

How much has Rodgers relied on that duo this season?

He has 19 of his 28 touchdown passes to them. He has completed 73.2 percent of his targets toward Cobb and 65.2 percent of his targets to Nelson, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He has averaged 10.9 yards per attempt when throwing to Nelson and 10.8 yards per attempt when throwing to Cobb.

Against the Eagles, he was 13-of-22 for 226 yards and a touchdown when throwing to those two receivers.

Cobb and Nelson have been the perfect complement to one another. Nelson's size and speed on the outside make him a big-play threat, which opens up the middle of the field for Cobb, a prototypical slot receiver.

Against the Eagles, Rodgers hit Nelson for a 64-yard gain down the right sideline on the game's opening series, and the offense took off from there.

"People like to double him a lot, so it frees up Randall and I," said Packers receiver Davante Adams, who also caught a touchdown pass against the Eagles. "So we get to move around a little bit, move around a little more freely when in man coverage. Just getting him the ball, if he doesn't score, one of us will.”

The Packers have had only two receiver pairs make the Pro Bowl together in the last 32 years. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver did it for the 2010 season, although Driver was an alternate. James Lofton and John Jefferson did it in 1982, a strike-shortened season.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- You have seen this before from Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy.

It's nothing new -- these 341-yard, three-touchdown, no-interception games from the Green Bay Packers quarterback, and the 129-yard and 109-yard receiving games from Cobb and Nelson, respectively, and tackle-breaking touchdown runs by Lacy. Breaking records and reaching milestones has become the norm for Rodgers and his crew of playmakers.

But what you saw from the Packers' defense in Sunday's 53-20 dismantling of the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field might be the new normal. Since their meltdown in the 44-23 loss at New Orleans before the bye, defensive coordinator Dom Capers' unit has turned in a pair of dominant performances in blowout home victories over the Eagles and Chicago Bears.

It has coincided with the new, hybrid role for outside linebacker/inside linebacker Clay Matthews, an idea that was launched during the bye, but it's about much more than that.

"It just shows that we have a very talented defense," said Matthews, who registered a sack for the second straight game. "And it's all about deciding which defense wants to show up."

[+] EnlargeJulius Peppers
AP Photo/Mike RoemerThe Packers' Julius Peppers gets away from Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews for a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown.
If it's the one that foiled Jay Cutler last week and Mark Sanchez on Sunday, then the Packers (7-3) might have the kind of complete team capable of a long playoff run.

Sacks by defensive tackle Letroy Guion on the Eagles' opening series and outside linebacker Mike Neal on the second series set a tone of aggressiveness from the start. Guion beat right guard Matt Tobin on a second-and-6 and dumped Sanchez for a 7-yard loss, which set up a much easier third-and-long situation for the defense and ultimately led to a punt. Neal then dumped Sanchez for a 9-yard loss on third-and-6 to force another punt.

By the time the Eagles got the ball back the next time, they were down 17-0.

"Defensively, you're just seeing a unit that's playing faster," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "The personnel groups that we're getting in and out of, I think it's happening seamlessly. You're getting used to playing together in combinations that we kind of set for the second half. With that, our playmakers are making plays, and we've got a lot of playmakers on defense."

Eagles coach Chip Kelly's fast-paced, high-powered offense looked no different than the Bears offense in their futile performance a week earlier. For the second straight week, the game was over by halftime. This time, the Packers led 30-6 at the break, and even though they gave up 429 yards, it was empty yardage in the end.

"Against an offense like that, to do what they did tonight, that was very impressive," Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "They're the reason ... yeah, we scored points in the first half, but they kept it to six points. That was huge."

What followed the early sacks was this: a pair of fumble recoveries, one by Nick Perry and another by Casey Hayward, who returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. Then two interceptions, one by Tramon Williams and another by Julius Peppers, who returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.

This against a team that, though it was missing starting quarterback Nick Foles, brought the NFL's fifth ranked offense to town.

The Packers' run defense that was so awful the first half of the season -- it ranked dead last and gave up 155 yards per game -- all of a sudden is more than respectable. They have nearly cut that number in half the past two games and allowed an average of just 82 yards rushing per game.

"We’ve been going out saying that we’re going to get off of the field," Williams said. "[The] offense has been moving the ball unbelievable, and if we can continue doing that throughout the year, then we're going to be where we want to be."
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Somewhere in the Bay Area, Charles Woodson might have been repeating his "same-old Jay" line from 2012, when the Green Bay Packers picked off Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler four times.

Woodson is long gone from Green Bay, finishing out his career with the Oakland Raiders, but if he was watching football Sunday night, he would have seen that his old team still owns Cutler and the Bears.

In their second-most lopsided victory over the Bears in 190 meetings, the Packers embarrassed the old rivals 55-14 at Lambeau Field. And here's why: Cutler was, well, Cutler, and Aaron Rodgers was not.

If you asked Packers receiver Randall Cobb, who caught Rodgers' record-tying sixth touchdown pass of the first half -- yes, the first half -- it was same-old Rodgers, too.

"He was great," Cobb said. "It's normal."

Normal against the Bears and Cutler, that's for sure.

Rodgers and the Packers (6-3) won their eighth straight over the Bears (3-6) when Cutler starts (Cutler did not play in the Bears' victory here last November, when Rodgers broke his collarbone).

Rodgers was everything Cutler was not Sunday night. He read defenses and changed plays at the line of scrimmage -- like on his 73-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson (who totaled six catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns) in the second quarter -- and it flummoxed the Bears' secondary, which twice left Nelson wide open for touchdowns.

"As they do from time to time, they tried to change the coverage up, but not everybody was on the same page," Rodgers said of the first touchdown to Nelson. "So you had Tim [Jennings] playing two-[high coverage] and the safety's playing single-high."

That was Rodgers’ 16th career touchdown pass of 70-plus yards, the most in NFL history, surpassing Brett Favre and Peyton Manning.

"There's not a target on the field that he can't hit," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "He has the ability to throw it as deep as he needs to. He's got a big-time arm. More importantly, he's got the athletic ability to get in space and make those throws."

Rodgers could have named his touchdown total on Sunday night, but McCarthy wisely took him out of harm's way after he missed his chance to throw a franchise-record seventh touchdown pass with 10:52 left in the third quarter. He already owned a share of the team record for touchdowns in a game.

"There's a time and a place for coming out of the game, and that was it," said Rodgers, who finished 18-of-27 for 315 yards and six touchdowns without an interception. "We were up 45-0 there, and it's time to watch."

By that time, another full-fledged Cutler implosion against the Packers was on display. Packers safety Micah Hyde picked off a pass that former Bears pass-rusher Julius Peppers appeared to tip ever so slightly to set up the Packers' second touchdown in the first quarter.

Of course, that wasn't Cutler's only interception. The game was long decided when Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

In Week 4 at Soldier Field, the Packers clung to a four-point lead at halftime. In the six head-to-head quarters since, Green Bay has outscored the Bears 72-14. In those six quarters, Rodgers has eight touchdown passes and no interceptions. Cutler has one touchdown pass and four interceptions.

Cutler is now 1-11 in his career against the Packers, including 0-4 in Green Bay.

Yes, it was easy to say, same-old Jay.

"You can. I can't,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. "But we've typically played these guys well, as you guys already know."

Fine, then how about the same-old Aaron?

"Well I can promise you, this is not easy," said Rodgers, who has 25 touchdown passes and three interceptions this season. "It's not easy to do this every week."
Observed and heard in the locker room after the Green Bay Packers' 55-14 win Sunday night over the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field:

Peppers
Peppers speaks up: Every game, coach Mike McCarthy gives one of the captains an opportunity to speak to the team before the game. On Sunday night, it was veteran outside linebacker Julius Peppers' turn. He was the defensive captain against his former team, and several players noted afterward that it made an impact. Tight end Andrew Quarless said Peppers spoke about what it was like to be on the other side of the Packers-Bears rivalry. "It was actually a pretty long speech he made," Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. "And it was good. We went out there and did everything that he said. It was a really good speech. I wish y'all could have heard it personally."

A special sack: Peppers backed up his talk with a big play on the field. He sacked Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, forced a fumble and recovered it on the play late in the second quarter. After the play, he took a long look toward the Bears' sideline. Although he would not say what he was thinking about at the time, he chuckled when asked if it was satisfying to get a sack against the team that cut him after last season. "I wasn't thinking anything," said Peppers, who recorded his fifth sack of the season. "It was just a good play. It felt good to get a sack. It's been a couple of weeks since I got one, so it just felt good."

Tough guys: Neither Josh Sitton (toe) nor T.J. Lang (ankle) practiced much, if at all, this week, but the Packers' starting guards answered the call and provided a big lift to the offensive line. "It means a lot," said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was not sacked. "They put their bodies on the line every week for us and don't get a lot of credit. But the line played excellent tonight. I had a feeling that Josh was going to go, maybe Friday. But T.J. wasn't sure and didn't seem like he was going to go."

Losing their fight: The Bears came into the game as a team in turmoil, and it didn't get any better when they found themselves down 45-0. "You could tell that they kind of laid down a little bit," Packers receiver Randall Cobb said. "We felt like with all the reports coming out of there this past week, it being a desperate team and being put in this situation, we were able to make some plays."

Midseason report: Green Bay Packers

November, 5, 2014
Nov 5
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The parallels to seasons past are apparent in Green Bay, where a third straight 1-2 start sent Packers' fans into a panic and prompted quarterback Aaron Rodgers to try to ease their concerns with a different five-letter word: R-E-L-A-X.

And then he put together one of the best stretches of his career to help the Packers do what they had done the previous two seasons: lift themselves up after another slow start.

So here they are, halfway through the season with a 5-3 record and a favorable second-half schedule with five of their final eight at home. And they're actually moderately healthy for a change.

All of that again makes them one of the favorites in the NFC.

Yet the overriding issue that has held them back since their Super Bowl XLV victory remains apparent: They have major shortcomings on defense that might again prevent them from a long playoff run.

Midseason MVP: Aaron Rodgers. A case -- even a strong one -- could be made for Jordy Nelson, who is on pace for 100 catches and nearly 1,500 yards, but Rodgers' command of the offense might be better than it has ever been. That was never more evident than in the comeback victory over the Dolphins in Week 6, when he threw the game-winning touchdown pass with three seconds left. Although his yardage total is down from his best seasons, he has 19 touchdowns and just three interceptions -- all three of which bounced off the hands of his intended receiver.

Biggest disappointment: Run defense. Back in May, coach Mike McCarthy promised the Packers' defense would better this year. He said to put it "in big letters." But the run defense has been worse. In fact, the worst. Through eight games, the Packers ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing 153.5 yards per game. The loss of nose tackle B.J. Raji to a season-ending torn biceps in August was a blow, given that he was one of the few wide bodies the Packers retained on their defensive line. Their effort to get leaner and more athletic up front has failed them against the run.

Best moment: The fake spike. Not only was it one of the best moments of the season, Rodgers' fake-spike play against the Dolphins might go down as one of his best of all time. With the final seconds ticking away and the Packers in need of a touchdown without a timeout left, everyone at SunLife Stadium expected Rodgers to stop the clock. Instead, he surprised everyone -- everyone except receiver Davante Adams – and fired a quick pass to the rookie, who gained 12 yards and then got out of bounds with six seconds left. That set up the game-winning, 4-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless with three seconds remaining.

Worst moment: Week 3 in Detroit. It's hard to imagine a game starting much worse. In the Packers' 19-7 loss at Detroit in Week 3, running back Eddie Lacy fumbled on his second carry, and the Lions returned it for a touchdown. It was Lacy's first fumble since Week 1 of the 2013 season. In the second quarter, the Packers went to Lacy on first down from their own 1-yard line, and he got stuffed in the end zone for a safety. The Packers' offense gave up nearly as many points (nine) as their defense (10) in that disheartening loss.

Key to the second half: If the defense can't create takeaways, then the Packers might be staring at another early exit from the playoffs, assuming they get there. It's unrealistic at this point to expect their defense to make significant gains against the run, so they're going to have to rely heavily on winning the turnover battle, which has been the formula for success. But that's a dangerous way to live in the postseason because playoff teams tend to take of the ball better than the middle-to-bottom-tier teams.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Well that didn't take long. Less than two weeks after Randall Cobb's memorable ketchup-stained Lambeau Leap, it has turned into a marketing boon for the Green Bay Packers receiver.

After Cobb's 3-yard touchdown catch on Oct. 19 against the Carolina Panthers, he did the requisite act of jumping into the stands at Lambeau Field, and a fan's hot dog got in the way. Cobb came out of the stands with ketchup on his jersey.

He joked after the game that he liked hot dogs, even ones covered in ketchup, but "I wasn’t expecting one to get on my shoulder pads, though."
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NEW ORLEANS -- If you saw Aaron Rodgers walk across the Superdome field with a security guard at his side on the way out of the stadium late Sunday night, you would have never known there was anything wrong with the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

He never broke stride on his way to the team buses.

Some of his teammates didn't even know during the game.

But they will when they see the film.

After Rodgers pulled his hamstring on the opening drive of the third quarter, he and the Packers' offense changed for the worse. Gone was Rodgers' ability to keep plays alive with his feet, to roll out or buy time for receivers to get open -- like he did on his 70-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the first quarter -- and to force the defense to respects his scrambles.

Consider Rodgers' production pre- and post-injury:
  • Before the injury, he was 14-of-19 for 298 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 133.1.
  • After the injury, he was 14-of-20 for 120 yards with two interceptions for a 45.8 passer rating.
When Rodgers felt the twinge in his left leg on a 7-yard scramble for a first down, the game was tied at 16-16. The Packers managed only one score after his injury in a 44-23 loss that sent them into their bye week with a 5-3 record and in second place in the NFC North behind the Detroit Lions (6-2).

The injury forced coach Mike McCarthy to ditch a large chunk of his game plan.

"We kept him in the gun [and] obviously didn't really even get into the play-action game ... and obviously scratched off all of the quarterback movements," McCarthy said. "He was limited."

A year ago, the Packers were 5-2 and feeling good about themselves when Rodgers broke his collarbone and missed the next seven games. They were in the same position Sunday night, and although their fortune wasn't altered for the long term by this injury, they need their quarterback healthy for the stretch run following next week’s bye.

"I didn't even know he had an injury," right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "That's new to me."

Rodgers did not use his injury as justification for the Packers' second-half ineffectiveness, but he was in the unusual position of explaining two interceptions after his first multi-interception game since Week 3 of last season.

Three plays after Rodgers felt a pull in his hamstring, with the score tied 16-16, he fired a slant for Andrew Quarless on third-and-goal from the 5. The tight end couldn't handle the throw, and the ball bounced into the hands of linebacker David Hawthorne.

"I'd have to watch the film to see what happened, but I feel good about the throw," Rodgers said. New Orleans followed up by taking the lead for good four plays later on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Brandin Cooks.

After the Packers failed on a fourth-and-1 run on their next possession -- running back Eddie Lacy tried going behind fill-in right guard Lane Taylor, who got blown off the line of scrimmage -- the Saints went 40 yards in four plays to take a 30-16 lead. On the Packers' following possession, Rodgers threw his second pick, a ball that went off the hands of rookie receiver Davante Adams. It was one of the few post-injury plays in which Rodgers rolled out. When he threw on the run, it went off Adams' hand and was picked off by cornerback Corey White.

"Had to move to my right because of the pressure," Rodgers said. "Not sure if that made him think he was going to break his route out or whatnot but definitely missed my spot on that one."

From a pure passing yardage standpoint, it was one of Rodgers' best showings with 418 yards (the second-highest total of his career). But his mobility is one of his biggest assets, and with that largely removed from his repertoire, the Packers' offense could not keep with Brees and the Saints.

"Well if I felt it, then I had to back off a little bit," Rodgers said. "We had to do a little more in the shotgun, but it wasn't a big deal ultimately."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jordy Nelson doesn't want you to know everything about the ins and outs of the back-shoulder play, except he's quick to point out one thing.

"First and foremost, it's not a play," the Green Bay Packers receiver said. "For us, it's a complete reaction."

There is no signal or pre-snap adjustment.

[+] EnlargeJordy Nelson; Aaron Rodgers
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesJordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers have the on-field chemistry necessary to execute the back-shoulder fade, one of the NFL's toughest passes to defend.
Not even Nelson, one of the NFL's best at executing the play -- check that, the pass -- knows it's coming until the ball sails off the hand of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"It's all on the quarterback and what they decide to do and where they want to place the ball," Nelson said. "For us, it's just, run our routes. The main thing would be to make sure you get your head around and are able to adjust to the ball."

If the receiver doesn't even know it's coming, what's a helpless cornerback or safety in coverage supposed to do about it?

"If you have a quarterback that can throw it, the quarterback typically throws it at the defender's head," Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "So you never see the ball."

It goes against everything coaches like Whitt teach their defensive backs, whose first priority is always to take away the deep throw. The back-shoulder fade -- which is essentially a purposefully underthrown pass -- is the perfect counteraction to a defender intent on taking away the go, or fly, route.

"As a secondary player, you're always taught to be on top of a route, control the deep routes," Packers safety Micah Hyde said. "When you get on top, to have to react to a ball that's underthrown, that's the hardest thing for the DB."

But not just any receiver can pull it off. The bigger and longer the receiver, the easier it is to execute. At 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, Nelson might have the perfect build to do so. It's why you won't see Rodgers throw it very often -- if ever -- to his No. 2 receiver, Randall Cobb, who at 5-foot-10 and 192 pounds is better-suited to play in the slot.

Then there is the experience factor. Someday, rookie receiver Davante Adams (6-1, 215) might see that throw from Rodgers. But until Rodgers knows Adams can react to the ball in the air the way Nelson can, it's not likely to happen.

"It comes with experience," Hyde said. "You've got to have chemistry with the quarterback, because it's a hard throw. To throw the ball before the receiver even stops, it's hard. I played quarterback back in the day [in high school]. It was hard then, and I'm sure it's 10 times harder now with these fast receivers. You've got to have a lot of chemistry, and I think some guys in the NFL, a lot of guys in the NFL, don’t have that experience that A-Rod and Jordy have."

As if it wasn't difficult enough to defend, oftentimes it comes with a subtle shove from the receiver.

"And boom, it's never being called," Whitt said. "It's a good play."

Except that it's not a play.

The Film Don't Lie: Packers

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A weekly look at what the Green Bay Packers must fix:

It's not that the Packers' punt return game has been ineffective -- actually it's been more than respectable at 10th in the NFL in average yards per return (9.6) -- but as good as their returners have been, they probably should have broken one for a touchdown by now.

They had at least one good chance in Sunday's 38-17 win over the Carolina Panthers. Randall Cobb matched the team's season best with a 24-yard return in the second quarter, but according to special-teams coach Shawn Slocum, the blocking was not good enough to spring Cobb all the way. It will have to be much better this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints have allowed an average of just 3.6 yards per punt return this season. That's the second-best mark in the league.

"[We're] not close enough [to breaking a long return]," Slocum said. "We need to get that done. I look at those plays, they're good plays, but we could have gotten a lot more."

How?

"Just finishing blocks a little better," Slocum said.

The Packers have returned one punt for a touchdown in each of the past three seasons. Cobb had one in each of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, while safety Micah Hyde pulled one off last season.

The Packers remain committed to splitting the return duties between Cobb and Hyde. Each has a long punt return of 24 yards this season. Cobb's average (10.75 yards per return) is slightly better than Hyde's mark of 9.8.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With time to reflect, Aaron Rodgers may see this stretch of football -- one that has all sorts of historical milestones that we'll get too soon enough – as one of the finest of his career.

But late Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers quarterback, who last week insisted the offense he directs still was not humming along as he would like, remained unwilling to concede that much has changed.

Who knows what it will take to get Rodgers to acquiesce, but apparently this kind of start to a game -- touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, punt, touchdown, punt, touchdown -- in Sunday's 38-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers apparently did not satisfy his criteria.

At least he was willing to give an inch or two this week.

"I think we're getting closer," Rodgers said.

Rodgers wants more yards (the Packers managed 363 on Sunday) and more opportunity (they ran just 56 offensive plays). But here's why it might be time for Rodgers to admit this offense is rolling: For the first time this season, it resembled days like in 2011, when Rodgers was in the midst of his MVP season and had a smorgasbord of options in the passing game.

In Sunday's dismantling of the Panthers, Rodgers' 19 completions were spread amongst nine different players, a season high. That's in contrast to three times this season, including last week's game at Miami, when Rodgers completed passes to just five different players.

In 2011, Rodgers had seven games in which he completed passes to at least nine different players. Last season, it happened once, and it came against the Philadelphia Eagles when Rodgers was a spectator because of his collarbone injury.

"Back in '11, I feel like we spread it around a little more," said Rodgers, who was 19-of-22 for 255 yards with three touchdowns on Sunday. "We've had a lot of targets for Jordy [Nelson] and Randall [Cobb] this year, so we've tried the last four games to find ways to move those guys around and get them positive matchups."

This wasn't just the Jordy Nelson show, although the NFL's receiving yardage leader entering the week still managed four catches for 80 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown (his fourth straight game with a score).

Five different Packers scored touchdowns, including rushing touchdowns by Eddie Lacy and James Starks (who combined for 99 yards on 19 carries). When Rodgers also can include Cobb (six catches for 121 yards and his eighth touchdown of the season) and Davante Adams (who had a 21-yard touchdown catch) plus completions to two different tight ends, it qualifies as offensive diversity.

"Everybody got involved," said Cobb, who has matched his career high for touchdown passes in just seven games. "We were able to move the ball really well. Just drive after drive, able to capitalize and put points on the board. At the end of the day, that's the kind of offense we want to be, continue to be. We ran the ball well, we passed the ball well. Everything was open for us."

Had Rodgers not sailed a ball over tight end Richard Rodgers' head in the end zone on his final throw of the game late in the third quarter, he would have finished with four touchdown passes and a passer rating of 157.6 (on a scale in which 158.3 is the max). Still, he finished with just two other incompletions, and a harsh grader might consider both of them drops. When he gave way to Matt Flynn in the fourth quarter, Rodgers' final rating of 154.5 was the second-best mark of his career.

For the fourth straight game (all wins for the 5-2 Packers) he threw at least three touchdowns without an interception. Only Tom Brady (in 2007) has done that in a season.

He ran his streak of consecutive passes without an interception to 192, his career high and the second-best total in team history behind Bart Starr (294, 1964-65).

All of it is starting to feel like 2011, when Rodgers was on the best roll of his career.

"I'll say this about Aaron: Aaron is a much better today than he was in 2011," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "His responsibility level has increased a lot since then. So, what he does during the course of the week, during the course of the game, at the line of scrimmage, the communication between Alex Van Pelt and myself, he is, in my opinion, watching him grow throughout his career, he's clearly a better player."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Green Bay Packers' 38-17 victory Sunday over the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field:

Cobb
Ketchup with your touchdown, sir: If Randall Cobb keeps catching touchdown passes at this rate -- he tied his career high with his eighth touchdown (in just the seventh game of the season) -- who knows what else he'll see on his future Lambeau leaps? But he was quite surprised to come out of the stands with ketchup all over his No. 18 jersey after his 3-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. "I apologize to whoever's hot dog that was," Cobb said. "It was fresh. I know that because I had all of the ketchup on me." Cobb said he likes hot dogs, even ones with ketchup. "I wasn't expecting one to get on my shoulder pads, though," said Cobb, who caught six passes for 121 yards.

Matthews' taunting penalty: Outside linebacker Clay Matthews was close to having a big day with at least two near sacks only to see Panthers quarterback Cam Newton escape, but he did share a sack with Julius Peppers (1.5 sacks) in the fourth quarter. However, he was flagged for taunting on the play. "I think just my body posture was a little too mean-looking," Matthews said. "You know how it is nowadays, we've got to be best buds out there, you can't show any aggression." Of course, Matthews said something, too. "But nothing bad," he added.

Dislocated finger: Packers cornerback Davon House, who started in place of the injured Sam Shields, knew something was wrong with his right ring finger when he deflected a pass in the second half, but "I didn’t want to look at it," he said. House said he dislocated it. He squirmed on the bench when it was popped back in place. "I panicked a little bit," House said. The only other injury announced was to running back James Starks (ankle).

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