Packers hang on for 21-17 win over Redskins

WASHINGTON — After coming out sluggish in the second half, the Green Bay Packers turned it on late for a 21-17 preseason win over the Washington Redskins Saturday night.

Aaron Rodgers saw some time in the first quarter, finishing 6-of-8 for 37 yards and a touchdown. He left the game after connecting with tight end Martellus Bennett for a three-yard touchdown pass.

Brett Hundley took over for Rodgers, ending his night 9-of-10 for 107 yards and a touchdown, though things slowed down in the second half. The first possession after the break saw the offense stall out after a 12-yard completion on 3rd and 9 was negated by a Jason Spriggs hold. Spriggs then allowed a sack on the ensuing 3rd and 23, resulting in a punt. With 9:45 remaining in the game, Green Bay had only put up 17 yards of offense.

But that’s when things started to click again.

Backup quarterback Taysom Hill led Green Bay in rushing, carrying the ball six times for 38 yards and a touchdown. On the scoring drive, Hill had rushes of nine and 23 yards, the latter of which resulted in a score. The next closest yardage leader was Kalif Phillips, a true running back, who collected 17 yards on five carries. Ty Montgomery was sidelined with a knee injury suffered in practice.

Jeff Janis made his case to stick around for a fourth season by leading the team in receiving. He hauled in three passes for 63 yards, but also proved key with his blocking and special teams contributions.

There was still something left to be desired for punter Justin Vogel, who got plenty of work. He had eight punts, averaging 48.3 yards with a long of 63. But the issue was hangtime, with only one punt in the air longer than 4.5 seconds. That was a late 54-yard boomer that stayed up for 6.3 seconds, resulting in a bobbled catch by Washington with the Green Bay coverage unit in his immediate vicinity and ready to bring him down.

The Packers travel to Denver next Saturday night at 8:00 C.T.

Brett Favre thought Aaron Rodgers would have more than one title by now

Count Brett Favre among those surprised Green Bay hasn’t won more than one Super Bowl with quarterback Aaron Rodgers under center.

Speaking at the Lee Remmel Sports Award Banquet in Green Bay Wednesday night, the former Packers quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Fame member told the crowd that he expected the title in 2010 to be followed by more.

“So many factors go into winning and losing other than the individual performance itself. Obviously, Aaron has carried the team for a long time. That’s not going to change. But that in itself is not enough. At least it hasn’t been,” Favre said. “As good as he is, I would have thought they would have won more than one by now, but I don’t know if he can do anything else other than what he’s done up to this point.”

Many said the same thing about Favre’s career. Despite seven division titles and 11 trips to the playoffs during his 16 years in Green Bay, Favre had to settle for the one ring he won in Super Bowl XXXI.

“I don’t think about it as much now,” Favre said. “It’s more directing my focus to something else, because when I was playing there was something I could do about it. ‘Next year there’s a chance. There’s always next year.’ But once you’re done, it’s done.”

Luckily for Rodgers and the Packers, it’s not done yet. And in Favre’s mind, winning a second title this year is definitely within the team’s reach.

“From what I can tell, outside looking in, all the pieces seem to be in place,” Favre said. “A bold prediction would be the Rams win the Super Bowl. A not so bold [pick] would be the Packers. That’s not a [biased] choice, that’s just being realistic. I think they have a good chance.”

The Neighborhood: McCarthy won’t sacrifice longevity for Rodgers’ window

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Among the many things discussed by Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy during Wednesday morning’s training camp introductory press conference were some seemingly innocuous statements about longevity.

“Programs win championships,” McCarthy began, referring back to his thought process as a first-year coach in 2006. “I never thought to sell the farm and be a one-year wonder.”

But after elaborating on his response, it’s clear McCarthy and the Packers have discussed comments from last winter’s playoff run where quarterback Aaron Rodgers put the pressure on management to get him players that can win.

“We’ve just got to make sure we’re going all-in every year to win,” Rodgers said after an NFC Championship Game loss to the Atlanta Falcons. “And I think we can take a big step this offseason.”

A lot has been made in recent years about 33-year-old Rodgers and his perceived “window” closing — a reference to the number of years he might remain in elite playing shape. If Rodgers’ pleas were answered, it wouldn’t be the first time a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback got his team to help him win another Super Bowl.

In Peyton Manning’s final season in 2015, the Denver Broncos made a number of free agency moves, highlighted by cornerback Aqib talib and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. That was enough to send him out on top in his 17th NFL season.

Adding to the intrigue was a recent admission by Rodgers that he was entering the “back nine” of his career.

Fast forward to July 26, 2017 in front of reporters in the media auditorium at Lambeau Field, McCarthy seemed unwilling to give in to hints that Rodgers wants more weapons at the expense of prospects.

“Those eight [consecutive years of] playoff victories are a clear reflection of our championship-level program…But my focus is on continuing to grow that.”

“We’ve always focused on the program. We’ve never sold out to win one game.”

Despite McCarthy’s unwillingness to adapt a more nearsighted approach to team-building, general manager Ted Thompson helped acquire players with plenty of star power. Among the notable additions were tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, and offensive guard Jahri Evans.

Green Bay will get its first look at the newest Packers when pads come on during Thursday morning’s first training camp practice.

Aaron Rodgers responds to Greg Jennings’ criticism of Mike McCarthy

Aaron Rodgers has Mike McCarthy’s back.

Days after former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings blamed McCarthy for not having a killer instinct and intimated he was at fault for what has ailed the team, the quarterback came to his head coach’s defense in an interview with WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee.

“I think it’s important that when you’re thinking about comments coming from outside the facility, especially by people who haven’t been around the facility in a number of years, you’ve got to take that with a grain of salt,” the two-time NFL MVP said.

“We’re concerned with the opinions of our players and our coaching staff and our organization.”

Jennings, who has criticized Rodgers several times since leaving the team after the 2012 season, said the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick have the right mentality.

“I’m just going to flat-out say it: If we had a lead, our issue wasn’t the defense — our issue was Mike McCarthy,” Jennings said on FS1’s ‘Undisputed.’ “[McCarthy] would cuff us.

“When you watch New England play, when they have a lead, they go for your throat. They don’t relax.”

Rodgers, who claimed to not have heard Jennings’ comments, said his position on McCarthy has been pretty clear.

“He’s our leader and we follow his lead. We love Mike,” Rodgers said. “We believe in him, and he believes in us. So we’ve got his back.”

Aaron Rodgers wins Best NFL player at the ESPYs, Packers take home three awards overall

The Green Bay Packers cleaned up at the 25th annual ESPYs on Wednesday night.

The team took home three awards, including a pair for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Before the show, Rodgers was named ‘Best NFL Player,’ the fourth time he’s earned that honor — the most of any player in the show’s history.

He beat out the likes of Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady and regular season MVP Matt Ryan after throwing for 4,428 yards and a league-high 40 touchdowns as the Packers won eight straight games before losing in the NFC title game.

Then during the show, the 33-year-old’s throw to tight end Jared Cook against Dallas in the playoffs was named ‘Best Play.’ It was the second consecutive year that the Packers won the award, with Rodgers’ game-winning ’Hail Mary’ to tight end Richard Rodgers against Detroit in 2015 winning last summer.

Finally, wide receiver Jordy Nelson won ‘Best Comeback Athlete’ after he returned from a knee injury that cost him the entire 2015 season to lead the NFL with 14 touchdowns in 2016. He’s the first Green Bay player to win that award.

Aaron Rodgers among the betting favorites to win the MVP

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers already has two Most Valuable Player awards, and he’s among the favorites to earn a third in 2017.

According to Bovada LV Sportsbook, the 33-year-old has the second-best odds behind New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to take home the award. Rodgers is 7/1, while Brady sits at 4/1. There are five more players behind them before someone that doesn’t play quarterback – Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott – makes an appearance at 20/1.

There are two defensive players named, including former Wisconsin star and current Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who is listed at 66/1.

Few players were as hot as Rodgers was to end 2016. He was the driving force behind a six-game winning streak to earn a playoff spot for a eighth straight year and led Green Bay to the NFC title game for a third time since 2010. For the season, Rodgers finished with an NFL-high 40 touchdowns and his passer rating of 104.2 was fourth-best in the league.

Rodgers earned his first MVP award in 2011 and picked up his second in 2014. Only Johnny Unitas, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning have won the MVP three or more times in league history.

Thompson on RBs: “We need some more guys”

PHOENIX — Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson touched on a variety of topics during Monday’s NFL Owners Meetings, including a need for more bodies in the backfield.

“We need some more guys,” Thompson said in reference to adding running backs. “We’re a little short in a couple of areas. So from a personnel standpoint, we’ve got to get some more bodies, but we like the guys that we have. It’s just that we’d like to get some more.”

The departure of Eddie Lacy and the release of James Starks leaves just three running backs on roster, none of which have carried the workload a full season would entail. Ty Montgomery, who switched from wide receiver to running back last season, carried the ball 77 times for 457 yards and three touchdowns.

Reports from over the weekend indicated Thompson and the Packers were considering a meeting with former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson but that his asking price was too steep. Those reports also stated that Green Bay may address Peterson after the NFL Draft next month if their needs aren’t met. But when Thompson was asked about Peterson on Monday, he became tight-lipped.

“Let’s all together answer that question,” Thompson told a group of reporters. “We don’t talk about players that are not on our team. We never have, we never will. It doesn’t serve a purpose, I don’t think.”

Thompson and the Packers have roughly $24 million in cap space remaining for this offseason, and while he admitted it’s possible another player is added, that money might be saved for a future contract extension for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

McCarthy comments may indicate more active offseason

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be 34 years old by playoff time in the 2017-18 season, and coach Mike McCarthy’s comments during his end-of-season press conference on Thursday may indicate a more aggressive approach to a Super Bowl run.

“We all want to win the world championship, and I can just promise you and our fans that we’re doing everything we can to get that done. And I think — going back to Aaron [Rodgers’] statement, ‘all in’ — we can control what we can control. With everybody in football ops, we need to max out this opportunity and we’re already working on the next opportunity.”

The narrative for several years now has been on Rodgers’ perceived “window” for how long he can play at an elite level. Rodgers has already made several changes to his lifestyle to maximize his health, including the removal of dairy from his diet, a decision not taken lightly in Wisconsin, the nation’s dairy production leader.

But a healthy Rodgers hasn’t been enough to return to the Super Bowl after the team’s title run in the 2010 season. Much of the criticism has fallen on general manager Ted Thompson, whose “draft and develop” philosophy has largely meant straying away from signing players in free agency. Occasionally he’ll take a flier on a position of need, most recently signing tight end Jared Cook to a one-year, $2.75 million contract.

With the obvious success of Cook’s season, Rodgers and McCarthy have stated that re-signing the former Rams utility man is a high priority. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport says Cook’s emergence, as well as continued areas of need, could force Thompson to go away from his rule of thumb and get more weapons in free agency.

“From what I’m told,” Rapoport said, “I would think the Packers are going to go and get some free agents this year along with trying to re-sign Jared Cook — which is a priority for them.”

In his Thursday press conference, McCarthy added that Thompson would indeed return for another season, seeming to end speculation that either director of football operations Eliot Wolf or Kansas City Chiefs GM John Dorsey could be his successor next year. What McCarthy didn’t say, however,  is whether Thompson’s role would remain the same.  Rapoport reported earlier this month that Thompson may step down to become a senior scouting advisor — a position change McCarthy didn’t address.

Packers’ Bakhtiari added to the Pro Bowl roster, Lang and Rodgers decide not to play

David Bakhtiari is going to the Pro Bowl after all.

The NFL announced Monday that Bakhtiari had been added to the roster as an injury replacement for Philadelphia’s Jason Peters.

The Green Bay Packers left tackle was among several players that were viewed as snubs when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced last month, but now he’ll get the experience in Orlando anyway.

He won’t, however, be joined by all of his teammates that were selected.

Guard T.J. Lang, a first-time Pro Bowler, will be replaced by former Packers guard Josh Sitton due to injury. Lang, who is a free agent this offseason, will undergo hip surgery on Friday.

“Definitely wanted to be there,” Lang said Monday. “But it’s not the end of the world.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers also won’t play in the game. He’ll be replaced by Washington’s Kirk Cousins.

Another first-time Pro Bowler, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, is from Orlando and said he intends to be there.

Falcons beat Packers, advance to Super Bowl LI

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons are moving on to Super Bowl LI in Houston after defeating the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the final game held at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons marched 75 yards down the field on their opening possession to score on a short shovel pass to Mohamed Sanu. The Packers were unable to answer on the ensuing possession, with Mason Crosby missing a 41-yard field goal. That ended his NFL-best 23-game streak of consecutive converted postseason field goals.

Atlanta faced little resistance on their second drive of the game, getting inside Green Bay’s 10-yard line before a holding penalty on third down forced them into a field goal attempt, where Ryan was good from 28 yards.

The second quarter started to look like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense were on the path to points, but fullback Aaron Ripkowski’s longest rush of the season ended in the red zone, fumbling the ball and getting recovered by the Falcons in their own end zone.

Things went from bad to worse when Atlanta’s Matt Ryan decided to do the damage with his legs. In the middle of the second quarter, he rushed for a 14-yard touchdown to put the Falcons on top 17-0. They didn’t have their first punt until 3:17 remaining in the first half.

Rodgers tried to rally the troops after that punt and get points before halftime, but a sack on second down set Green Bay up with a long third down deep in their own territory. Trying to make something happen, Rodgers fired deep down the middle of the field where the ball was intercepted.

Green Bay would pay for that mistake, as Ryan and the Atlanta offense marched down the field to score a five-yard touchdown to Julio Jones just before the intermission. The soon-to-be MVP had 271 yards and two touchdown passes in the first half.

The Packers got the ball to start the second half, hoping to mount the largest comeback in NFC Championship game history. Instead, a pair of drops by tight end Jared Cook led to an early punt and the Falcons capitalized once again. Ryan hit Julio Jones for his second touchdown of the game, this time from 73 yards out.

It took until the 9:19 mark in the third quarter for the Packers to get on the board, with Rodgers connecting with Davante Adams for a two-yard touchdown. But once again, Atlanta marched down the field for another score, this time a four-yard grab by running back Devonta Freeman.

Rodgers got another shot at points, however, hooking up with Jordy Nelson for a short touchdown late in the third quarter. Atlanta would recover the ensuing onside kick, eventually scoring another rushing touchdown to extend the lead.

With less than seven minutes left in the game, Rodgers hit Jared Cook for a score, but the two-point conversion failed and Green Bay trailed 21-44.