Green Bay Packers: Black (and Suh) Monday Edition

Aaron Rodgers Injury

The Green Bay Packers are division champions for the fourth-straight season after a 30-20 beat down of the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on Sunday.  Green Bay finished 8-0 at home this season and did so for the second time in the last four seasons.  The Packers ended the 2014 regular season with a mark of 12-4 and have the second seed heading into the postseason.

While the Packers are celebrating another victory Monday, other teams and personnel around the league are not so fortunate.  Staying in the NFC north, the Chicago Bears let go of head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery.  Emery gambled big on signing Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to a lucrative extension last offseason and watched the team’s 2014 season quickly go up in flames.  Cutler and Trestman weren’t in sync and Trestman appeared to have lost the locker room early on.  Cutler was benched in week 16 and returned this past week only due to an injury to Jimmy Clausen.  The Lions still made the postseason, despite the loss to the Packers, but dropped to the sixth seed and will have to travel their way through the playoffs.

It starts with a visit to Dallas to take on the Cowboys.  Dallas is playing some hot football right now and is a tough match up for any team but things only got worse for the Lions on Monday.  Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, arguably the Lions’ best defender, was suspended for the wild card game due to his intentionally stepping on Aaron Rodgers’ leg after a play late in Sunday’s game.  It was an incredibly selfish and meatheaded thing for Suh to do and is the second straight week a Lions player has been suspended for the same action.  Center Dominic Raiola missed the game at Lambeau for having stepped on a Chicago Bears player the week prior.  After much praise had been heaped on Lions head coach Jim Caldwell for seemingly reeling in this Lions team and changing the culture that has befuddled the organization in the past, it appears that the same ol’ Lions are back just in time for the most important part of the season.  Jimmy boy got a little testy with the media when questioned about whether he thought Suh’s actions were intentional or not.  He said he was briefed on it by his staff in the booth and it did not appear to be intentional.  End of discussion.  He got even more testy when a reporter asked him why he didn’t bring more pressure against a visibly hobbled Rodgers in the second half.  He essentially deemed the reporter ignorant of how an NFL team schemes for their opponent and said that unless someone is in the meeting room, they have no right to question him.  James, they’re reporters, that’s their job!  Are YOU so ignorant with rage from the loss that you forgot that?

As for the Minnesota Vikings, they ended the season on a winning note and appear to have their head coach and quarterback situations in line for a while.  Mike Zimmer had many good things to say about his team and where they might be headed next season.  Most of the attention, however, will fall on that running back guy and whether or not the Vikings keep him around.

Back to the Packers, they did what they had to do against the Lions and will get at least one home playoff game this season in the divisional round.  With the match ups and seeds set, the Packers will host one of either the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers or Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, January 11th.  The Seattle Seahawks are the NFC’s top seed and will have home field throughout the playoffs.  Should both the Packers and Seahwaks advance to the conference championship, they would travel to Seattle and CenturyLink Field, where the two teams met in the NFL’s season opener on September 4th.

We can’t overlook what the Packers did on Sunday against the Lions.  The defense stifled the Lions offense, minus a portion of the second quarter and after Rodgers left with a calf injury.  Detroit had just 313 total yards of offense and only 200 yards passing.  The Lions gained 111 yards rushing.  Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford’s quarterback rating was just 89.2.  While the Lions are a much different team on the road than they are at home, the Packers made them earn most of their yards and points.  Were it not for the same old Packers special teams showing up, the game would have been put away sooner.  Back to that in a minute.  This Packers defense has elevated its play over the last two months and is right about where they want to be heading into the most important games of this promising season.  They forced 27 takeaways this season enroute to a +14 differential, thanks to Rodgers and some great ball handling by the offense.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers should get credit for the job he has done with this group.  The additions of free agents Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion proved very beneficial and the move of the year was bringing Clay Matthews inside at times to help shore up the run defense and create more pressure on the pocket.  Safety Morgan Burnett finally did what we all hoped he would and elevated his game.  He won’t ever be Nick Collins, but we might at least pause a second before pining for old #36.  Cornerback Tramon Williams is still an important part of this secondary and came up with the onside kick to effectively end the game.  The pieces are there and the playmakers exist.  A potential showdown with the Seahawks on the road would likely be the stiffest type of test this defense can get.  They would likely need to be near perfect in order to emerge with a trip to Glendale, Arizona, but with this group, there’s at least a fighting chance.

He doesn’t play defense, but this team rallies around #12 and always has.  Last season, when Rodgers came back in week 17 against the Bears, the team put together a strong overall effort to get the win on the road and steal the division title.  When Rodgers re-emerged in the third quarter, the entire team seemed re-energized.  When asked about his thoughts on Rodgers, defensive lineman Mike Daniels said “if there’s a word higher than respect for respect, that’s what I have for Aaron, man”.  That’s just the defensive side of the ball.  Imagine what he does to an offense that all but turns the lights out and goes home for the winter when he’s not there.  Last season, the Packers got by with Matt Flynn and Eddie Lacy while Rodgers’ collarbone injury healed.  For seven minutes yesterday, it was not the 2013 version of “without Aaron”.  Flynn completed just one pass for six yards and was sacked on third down.  That’s when Rodgers emerged from the underneath the green light of the team’s tunnel and back to the sideline where he tapped Flynn on the shoulder and said “I’ve got this”.  After his last two games against the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he wasn’t “his usual self” (which I remind you, at least 27 other teams would still take over their current guy), the talk of Rodgers winning another MVP award seemed to wane.  Remember, it’s most valuable player.  Not most dazzling.  Not most athletic.  Not even best player.  Most.  Valuable.  Rodgers, after yesterday’s performance, certainly will receive some votes for the league’s top honor.

The Packers ran for over 100 yards, just the second time this season the Lions have allowed that after averaging 63 yards per game all season.  Eddie Lacy had exactly 100 yards on the day and was visibly upset when he lost a fumble, just his second on the season.  So upset, in fact, that someone had to go get him on the other side of the sideline to go back into the game.  Lacy’s competitive spirit is going to be a huge plus for this Packers team in the tournament.  James Starks filled in nicely in relief and even better, is still healthy in week 17!  The Packers offensive line is playing well together.  They may not all be the best individual linemen, but together, they’re performing as well as most any other in the game.  Rodgers wasn’t sacked all day long and with his limited mobility, a lot of that credit has to go to the line and the backs in pass protection.  I wondered why fullback John Kuhn made the Pro Bowl last week.  After watching yesterday’s game back, I now understand why.  Jordy Nelson set the Packers team record for receiving yards in a season.  Both he and Randall Cobb had at least 12 touchdowns each.  Imagine how incredibly potent this offense would be every week if they were getting anything resembling consistent from Davante Adams, Jarrett Boykin or a tight end.

Back to special teams.  Another blocked kick.  Seven on the season.  It’s difficult to kick at Lambeau in December, I get that.  Mason Crosby tends to like to “drive” the ball on longer kicks in the cold.  But seven blocked kicks?!  What’s more concerning about it is that the Packers have already re-inserted several starting linemen into their field goal unit.  Once a flaw is on film for the rest of the world to see, other teams are going to scheme around it and by the looks of things over the last half of this season, they are.  An extra point here, a field goal there.  Now those gaffes are going to start costing this team games.  Playoff games.  Imagine the Packers are in Seattle with a chance to win late and a game-winning 20-yard field goal, a sure thing for Crosby, is blocked and it’s the Seahawks, not the Packers, going to Arizona.  If you’re breaking out in hives just thinking about it, you’re not alone.  Then there’s the catch-22 of having Crosby work on his kicking motion, which is working from an accuracy standpoint, in the hopes that he can get the ball over the defense but possibly at the expense of accuracy.  Despite what we all think about special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum, that thought has surely entered his head as well.  If not on its own, likely through the suggestion of head coach Mike McCarthy.  The addition of Ron Zook to the special teams coaching staff was a clear signal that the Packers wanted more out of their special teams this year.  They have, for all intents and purposes, regressed.  Besides the many blocked kicks (which in all fairness, can’t be blamed on coaching), there’s DuJuan Harris, who has the lowest return average of any returner in the league.  He’s also likely near the bottom in total returns, as he is often taking a knee in the end zone.  The Packers gave up a punt return for a touchdown against the Bills and have had their struggles in corralling some of the better returners in the league.  The one silver lining has been Micah Hyde and his two punt return touchdowns this season.  He now has three and has all but ended the debate about who should be returning punts on this team now.  Hyde has improved in his savvy and has taken good care of the football.  If he wasn’t on Slocum’s Christmas list, he better be on some sort of New Year’s list instead!  There’s really no time to magically fix the Packers special teams and while putting some more veterans and starters in those spots might help from a talent standpoint, there’s still the mental aspect of where to be and what to do.  Without regular practice, that type of move can actually do more harm than good.

For now, let’s enjoy the bye week and enjoy watching four other NFC teams slug it out with each other for the chance to have to go on the road to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field and a Packers team who is playing lights out there.  The pain of past playoff losses, especially at home, is surely resonating with this Packers team and while nothing is promised, this year’s team won’t lack for effort or desire to do more than they have the last three times around.  As I’ve said a few times before, there are some historical elements at play here.  The last two times the Super Bowl has been in Arizona (1995 and 2007 seasons), the Packers went to the NFC championship both times.  They lost both games, one on the road and one at home.  Had they won in ’95, they would have faced the Pittsburgh Steelers, who they did face in Super Bowl XLV.  Had they won in ’07, they would have faced the New England Patriots, who they did face in Super Bowl XXXI.  The Patriots and Steelers are among the top three AFC playoff teams along with the Denver Broncos, who the Packers faced in Super Bowl XXXII.  It looks like a fun little postseason is ahead of us.


Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on

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21 thoughts on “Green Bay Packers: Black (and Suh) Monday Edition

  1. The defense is going to give up yards. But it also gets takeaways. I’m not overlooking Dallas (our probable opponent) but I don’t think they can stop an offense with a healthy ARod.

    So like you said Jason – it comes down to Seattle. In Seattle. Tough. But doable.

    1. The problem is Arod won’t be healthy the rest of the season let’s be honest. His legs are what makes him great. Without the legs and shoddy protection the Packers are done. MM is going to have to change the offense to accommodate Rodgers bad leg going forward.

      1. If he can get around the pocket and escape/run like he did a couple times before hurting himself yesterday that’s all we’ll need. That’s possible with 2 weeks rest. I hope.

        I’m not saying we’re the SB favorite. We’re not. Seattle is. New England as well. Our run D is still vulnerable and STs are an issue.

        But we can still win it all if things fall right.

        1. I know Bearmeat. It’s a big if and I hope he can too. I just don’t think or see how he’s going to be at or near 100% in 13 days. He looked like he was operating leg wise at about 40% capacity.

          Cow42 are you there? What can you tell us about calf injuries? Is there anyone out there that had a calf injury that can tell us if 13 days is enough healing time to allow Rodgers the ability to run out of the pocket and move like he did prior to the injury?
          Thank you,

          1. It is not Cow42, it is only me, but answer to your question is very hard. We do not know what is the real problem with Aarons calf. It can be tendon, it can be muscle, it can be bone, can be combination. If it is tendon, what it is, just strain or minor rupture, or large rupture etc… SO, without any additional information it might be solved in 7 days to 2 months or longer!

          2. I run marathons and calf injuries are problematic. Rodgers will finish the season with this injury. If our O-line keeps playing well, the calf will not be a big factor, otherwise don’t expect much scrambling from the pocket even after a couple of weeks rest.

            1. Thanks for the replies Croat and Razer. Based on your two replies it definitely sounds like it won’t be healed 100% no matter what until after the season but it all depends on other factors which none of us wlll know since we are not the team doctor.

              I guess the best we can hope for is it’s on the low end and to not expect a lot of movement/scrambling around from no. 12. As I suspected MM will have to go to more quick throws vs. long bombs. That means more Lacy, Cobb, screens and possibly a huge increase for Richard Rodgers.

              1. Not a blessing by any means but as you said if it means MM will have to go to more quick throws vs. long bombs. That means more Lacy, Cobb, screens and possibly a huge increase for Richard Rodgers. I’m in. Just as with the Detroit game plan of running to build a lead,and then pass, add more of that and we would be unstoppable. It is what I hope for and what we will need to do here on out and beat anybody along the way, With the way the O line is playing, adding a good possession TE like Rodgers to the mix I think he will throw out the kitchen sink as far as what he must be holding back for the playoffs.

          3. He has two injuries now to his calf and if both are small tears in the muscle it will take 6 weeks to heal but the way it looked when he went down on the second one its more than just a small one! He played in pain you could tell so his injury could get worse and then it would take 6 weeks to 3 months to heal. Mine was a lower tear about 1 inch long and it took 3 months to fully heal and about 6 weeks before I could even put pressure on it.

      2. Rodgers is the best when healthy, even injured he is still good. In the playoffs you need the best. Unfortunately Rodgers won’t be at his best until next season. He is one dimensional with this injury. Defenses will eat him up when he can’t run outside and make amazing throws. J.R.R. Tolkien may get some playoff experience.

  2. I thought the Lions had a chance (if Suh played) against the cowgirls. A lions win next week would have sent the QB-less warm weather cardinals, or the losing record panthers, to Lambeau and Detroit to Seattle. . Instead, with a Dallas win over Detroit, one of these teams will head to Seattle and the Pack would play Dallas in round 2. I thought Detroit would also give Seattle a run for their money. Of course any chance Detroit had of beating Dallas went out the window when moron Suh got suspended. He screwed the Packers twice. Once for stepping on Rodgers, and once for being suspended.

    1. The exact scenario that I outlined in another post. Suh’s selfish and stupid play hurts everybody. I am guessing a red hot Cowboys squad to show up at Lambeau next week while Seattle gets a tune-up game.

    2. Suh stepped on an injured player not once but twice; and the injured player is the league’s MVP; and Suh only gets a one game suspension?!! Mind boggling.

    3. My thoughts exactly. I was actually hoping Suh wouldn’t be suspended, even though he deserved it.

  3. I’ll reserve most evaluations of coaches and players until after the Packers final game this season. I will say that I was one who wanted Capers gone after the 2013 season, particularly because the defense did not step up after Rodgers was hurt. However, his defense is much improved this season and he deserves credit for it. As for Special Teams, something needs to be done, hopefully during this bye week. Prior to the season I predicted the Packers would go 12-4 including their road losses to Seattle, Detroit and N.O. I thought back in August they might lose to the Eagles at home because the defense could not handle the Eagles’ speed. I was wrong on that one. The Packers defense improved steadily over the season and had more speed than in past seasons. I also did not expect the Packers to lose to Buffalo, but I never expect that Aaron Rodgers will not show up for a game. So here we are 12-4 and with the #2 seed. We’re healthier than we have been in forever at this time of the year. Hopefully, Rodger’s leg gets back to at least 90% by our next game. With our solid OL and improving D I like our chances no matter who or where we play. As I’ve said before, if we don’t beat ourselves we should be fine. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since ’61

    1. The big thing this year has been a welcome back to flexibility for Capers. Burnett might as well have playing alone back there last year. Now, with Casey Heyward back, as well as HaHa Clinton-Dix and Micah Hyde at safety, Letroy Guion and Julius Peppers, you see how much more can be done. The sky is the limit! Go Pack Go!

    2. After 7 blocked kicks on special teams, I don’t know how the Coach can keep Slocum. Can you imagine a coach keeping a running back on the field after fumbling game after game? I thought after Crosby’s resurrection, the special team’s disasters were behind us; but once again this team’s unit is a weak link. Hopefully, it won’t be our Achilles’ heal.

  4. “Besides the many blocked kicks (which in all fairness, can’t be blamed on coaching)….” Dear Jason, I don’t have any understanding of what you mean.

  5. Got to love the NFL. They recognize that Suh did something bad and dangerous with his one game suspension. Suh throws money at the decision and the suspension goes away. The fact of his deed doesn’t change but the resolve of the league did. Pathetic.

    Go Lions ha, ha

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