Shorthanded Packers lose 34-23 at Atlanta

If the Green Bay Packers have closed the gap between themselves and the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons, it certainly didn’t show on Sunday night in a 34-23 loss.

A retooled defense looked exactly as it did last January, as reigning NFL MVP Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones picked up right where they left off in the conference title game. The duo hooked up on gains of 19 and 34 yards on the opening drive, one that was finished off by Devonta Freeman, the first of two touchdowns for the running back who ended up with 84 yards on the ground. Jones had 105 yards on just five grabs, while Mohamed Sanu added five catches and 85 yards.

Green Bay had an answer, going 75 yards in 11 plays before Ty Montgomery plunged in from 1-yard out to tie the game. After that, though, it was all Falcons, as they scored 24 unanswered points, including taking an Aaron Rodgers fumble back for a 15-yard touchdown. Rodgers also threw an interception, his second of the season, and Atlanta made him pay for it by scoring a touchdown just before half to make it 24-7.

“I gave them seven [points] on the fumble, gave another seven on the [interception] and we lose by 11,” Rodgers said. “We were in the game. I can’t turn the ball over like that.”

Unfortunately for the Packers, the real story of the game was a mounting injury list. They played without starting tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari, and then lost defensive tackle Mike Daniels, wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, along with defensive backs Davon House and Kentrell Brice during the game.

It’s unclear how severe any of the injuries were, but they were just another discouraging aspect on a discouraging night.

“Well, I hope we can,” Rodgers said when asked whether he took comfort in the fact it’s still early in the season and they can play better. “This is a potential matchup down the line. Hopefully, we put ourselves in that position. It was a tough game.”

Rodgers called Atlanta a fantastic team, but also intimated that the Packers don’t believe there is a big gap between the franchises despite Green Bay having lost each of its last two trips south by double digits.

“I think we can beat anyone at home,” Rodgers said, a nod toward the advantage the Falcons have at the new Mercedes Benz Stadium. “We don’t look at it as [needing to close] the gap.”

Green Bay scored the final 13 points of the game, with Rodgers finding Davante Adams for a 33-yard score and then Montgomery on a shovel pass for a 1-yard touchdown. That one gave him 300 for his career as he became the fastest player in league history to reach that mark.

It’s back home in Week 3 for the Packers, as they welcome the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) to Lambeau Field next Sunday.

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.

Jordy Nelson earns NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award

HOUSTON — After returning from a torn ACL suffered in the 2015 season, Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson was recognized Saturday night as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year.

Nelson’s production in 2016 was eerily similar to the numbers he produced in the 2014 season prior to the injury:
2014: 98 receptions, 1,519 yards, 13 touchdowns
2016: 97 receptions, 1,257 yards, 14 touchdowns

The 31-year-old Kansas State product wasn’t expected to be the same player he once was, considering the severity of an ACL tear and the length of time in recovery. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is another exception to the rule, returning from the same injury to put up monster numbers in the 2015 season (1,485 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns, long of 80 yards).

But unlike Peterson’s return from the injury, Nelson was not voted to the Pro Bowl roster. That’s despite leading the NFL this season in touchdown receptions.

Nelson has two more seasons remaining on his four-year, $39 million deal signed in July of 2014.

Green Bay lists five players as questionable for the NFC title game

The NFC title game is less than 48 hours away, and the Green Bay Packers still have major injury concerns and now an illness going through the team to worry about.

The team released its final injury report Friday afternoon, and saw five players — wide receivers Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison, along with defensive backs Morgan Burnett and Quinten Rollins — listed as questionable.

“They’ll be given every chance to play in the game,” coach Mike McCarthy said of the wide receivers. “If we know (Saturday), we’ll know (Saturday). If we know Sunday, we know Sunday. I’m going to give these guys the open time frame to do everything they can to play.”

If that wasn’t enough, there is an apparent illness that has hit the team, including Nelson, who was told to stay away from the facility on Friday to avoid spreading it. Still, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and kicker Mason Crosby have been affected by it.

“Rest, fluids, all that stuff. We’ll be OK,” Rodgers told reporters Friday afternoon. “We’re going to be OK and deal with it.”

On Atlanta’s side of the things, wide receiver Julio Jones practiced on a limited basis Friday and is expected to play on Sunday. He had missed the previous two days with a toe injury.

Packers’ WR Jordy Nelson earns PFWA Comeback Player of the Year honor

A year after missing the entire season due to a torn ACL, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson has been selected as the NFL Comeback Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.

Nelson was injured in the preseason in August of 2015 and didn’t suit up for an actual game until Week 1 of the 2016 season. All he’s done since is lead the NFL in receiving touchdowns with 14 and and finish with 97 catches, the second-most in his career.

A 2008 second-round draft pick, Nelson saved some of his best games for when the Packers needed them the most. In the six-game winning streak to end the season, Nelson had three 100-yard games, including 154 yards against Minnesota in Week 16, and caught five touchdown passes.

Nelson is the second Packers player to win the award, joining wide receiver Robert Brooks, who took home the honor in 1997, a year after tearing his ACL midway through the 1996 season.

Green Bay is getting ready to play in the NFC title game in Atlanta on Sunday. Nelson’s status is up in the air as he battles a pair of broken ribs suffered against the New York Giants in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

WR Davante Adams among several injury concerns for the Packers

GREEN BAY — Injuries continue to be the biggest story for the Green Bay Packers in advance of their NFC title game at Atlanta on Sunday.

The latest concern is wide receiver Davante Adams, who suffered an ankle injury late in the win over Dallas.

“We’ll see,” coach Mike McCarthy said when asked if he expected Adams to play on Sunday. “I’m curious to see him move. I don’t think he’ll practice until Saturday.”

Adams has played in every game this season and is the team’s second-leading receiver. The top guy, Jordy Nelson, is also very much in question as he battles a pair of broken ribs that kept him out of last week’s game. McCarthy said he’ll practice with the rehab group on Wednesday, but gave no indication of how he’ll handle the rest of the week.

The other starter that there is some concern about is safety Morgan Burnett. He suffered a quad injury in the first half against Dallas, and didn’t return. He won’t practice Wednesday, spending the day with the rehab group as well.

McCarthy said cornerback Quinten Rollins is getting closer to clearing the concussion protocol and will do some work in practice. He’s missed the last two games after getting injured in the season-finale against Detroit.

Starting offensive tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari each came out of the game against Dallas a little gimpy, and McCarthy said they’ll likely be limited in practice this week.

Packers rule WR Jordy Nelson OUT for Sunday’s playoff game at Dallas

The Green Bay Packers will not have their leading receiver for their NFC Divisional Round matchup with the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Coach Mike McCarthy ruled wide receiver Jordy Nelson out for the game when he met with the media Friday morning. Nelson suffered several broken ribs in the Packers’ win over the New York Giants last Sunday. McCarthy said if the Packers advance to the NFC Championship game, Nelson will be reevaluated.

“He’ll continue to progress,” McCarthy said of Nelson. “He said he feels better every day.”

Nelson leads the Packers with 97 catches for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“It gives us one less receiver but obviously an extremely productive player,” McCarthy said of what the team will be missing. “You just go by the way the game plan was set, the importance and really the emphasis on Jordy Nelson. That’s gone. You just tilt opportunities the other way. That’s the way you always have to approach these types of situations anytime you have a player of his magnitude that’s not available.

“We anticipated potentially not having him this week, so we’ll be prepared for it.”

Nelson’s absence will mean more time for rookie Geronimo Allison and third-year pro Jeff Janis.

Report: Jordy Nelson fractured at least two ribs in the Packers win over the Giants

Jordy Nelson suffered at least two fractured ribs in the Green Bay Packers 38-13 wild-card win over the New York Giants on Sunday.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media was the first to report the injury.

Nelson was injured in the second quarter when he took a shot to the ribs from safety Leon Hall while trying to hold onto a pass. The wide receiver eventually left the stadium on a cart and spent the night in a local hospital, before being released earlier on Monday.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Monday afternoon that Nelson won’t practice before Saturday, and if he doesn’t practice then, he won’t play in Green Bay’s divisional-round matchup with the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Meanwhile, linebacker Blake Martinez and running back Ty Montgomery were each diagnosed with knee injuries, but McCarthy believes they both have an opportunity to play against the Cowboys.

Nelson’s status could be biggest factor in Packers divisional round vs Cowboys

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Perhaps somewhat lost in the celebration of a 38-13 wild card win over the New York Giants, the Green Bay Packers may have to prepare to face the Dallas Cowboys next week without top receiver Jordy Nelson.

Playing without Nelson is nothing new to the Packers, having played all of the 2015 season without him (torn ACL). But after suffering a rib injury, coach Mike McCarthy is “concerned” about Nelson’s health now facing the Cowboys in Dallas Sunday afternoon. He had no update on Neson’s status after Sunday’s win, but presumably will give an update later this week. The Kansas State product has put up monster numbers this year in a return from the ACL injury: 97 receptions, 1,257 yards, 14 touchdowns (NFL best).

As Nelson, 31, continues to age, the Packers had been using him in the slot more often. Randall Cobb helped make up for Nelson’s absence, playing through an ankle injury to put up the NFL’s first 100-yard, three touchdown performance in the postseason since Rob Gronkowski in 2011.

“I think everybody just kind of stuck to our job, tried to put ourselves in position to make the plays when they were there, when we had those opportunities,” Cobb said. “We hate seeing one of our guys go down but we’ve got to continue to play.”

 

Packers 30, Bears 27: 2-minute drill

CHICAGO | The Green Bay Packers got a 32-yard field goal as time expired on Sunday to beat the Chicago Bears 30-27 and earn their fourth-straight win.

Play of the Game

It wasn’t exactly fourth-and-8 to win the division like he managed in 2013 at Solider Field, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers finding wide receiver Jordy Nelson for a 60-yard gain late in the fourth quarter on Sunday could end up being just as big.

After running just six plays in the fourth quarter and watching the defense give up 17 points unanswered to allow the Bears to tie the game, the Packers offense walked on the field with 1:19 left on the clock and no timeouts. By the time it was third-and-11 at their own 26-yard line, there were just 31 seconds left and another incompletion could have given the Bears the ball back with time to go for the win.

Coach Mike McCarthy and Rodgers didn’t care. They took a shot on a deep pass and it landed, with Rodgers getting great protection and throwing it up for Nelson.

“I saw Jordy put his hand out,” Rodgers said. “(I) just tried to put enough air on it for him to run underneath it. That’s what he does, he makes those kind of catches.”

The play set kicker Mason Crosby up for the game-winner from 32 yards out, which he hit for the 30-27 victory.

Game Balls

Offense: RB Ty Montgomery

Before the 2015 NFL Draft, there were some teams that thought Montgomery was a wide receiver that could play some running back, especially in third-down situations. On Sunday, the second-year player out of Stanford proved again that he’s a running back now and for the foreseeable future.

Montgomery gained 162 yards on just 16 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. His rushing total was the most by a Packers running back in the regular season since 2005 when Samkon Gado ran for 171 yards against Detroit.

It’s not just the yards, though. It’s how he gets him. For a guy that has barely played the position, Montgomery shows patience and toughness, darting in and out of holes. His best run of the day — a 61-yard burst in the second quarter — looked like a play that was going to go for 2 yards.

How he got to the position wasn’t ideal — injuries and ineffectiveness — but the Packers have to be overjoyed he ended up there.

Defense: S Micah Hyde

The defense by the Packers in the fourth quarter was atrocious, but it was a play by Hyde that allowed them a chance to kick the game-winning field goal instead of being forced to score a touchdown on their final drive.

Faced with a third-and-goal at the 4-yard line, quarterback Matt Barkley looked for wide receiver Cameron Meredith on a quick out route in the end zone, but Hyde got his hand on it and knocked it away. The Bears kicked a field goal on the next play to tie the game.

“Wish I could have picked it off, (but) I stumbled a little bit,” Hyde said. “Made the play and it was good for our offense to go out and get three.”

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had a pair of interceptions, which were big plays, but Hyde’s deflection turned out to be the biggest.

Special Teams: K Mason Crosby

The kick itself wasn’t difficult. It was a 32 yarder that Crosby has hit a million times. But you never know when it a game-winner. Crosby had one blocked on the same field in 2008. This time, though, the snap was perfect, the hold was great and Crosby knocked it through the uprights to give the Packers a 30-27 win.

On the day, the 11-year veteran was 3 of 3, and he’s now 24 of 28 on the season.

Video of the Game

Quote of the Day

“Just did my job. Once I got past the (defensive back), I threw my arm up just to make sure Aaron saw me. He said he saw, so he let it go.

“It wasn’t the most graceful thing, but it got done.”

Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson on his 60-yard catch that setup the game-winning field goal.

In Case You Missed It

— Former Packers guard Josh Sitton, who was cut just before the season, was one of the Bears captains on Sunday. The man who replaced him in Green Bay, Lane Taylor, was one of the Packers captains.

— On what turned out to be the final offensive play for Chicago — the incompletion to wide receiver Cameron Meredith — the Packers only had 10 guys on the field until right before the snap. Defensive lineman Letroy Guion ran down the sideline, waiting until he got to the line of scrimmage before cutting over onto the field. He almost hit ran into Hyde, who ended up breaking up the ball.

“I don’t know. I’ll have to watch it on film,” Hyde said when asked if he realized how close Guion came to hitting him. “I do remember (Guion) running down the sideline.”

— Starting cornerback Damarious Randall was replaced in the nickel and dime defenses in the fourth quarter. The second-year pro was the victim of an earlier touchdown pass and struggled to tackle his man on several other plays.

— NFC North leader Detroit lost at the New York Giants on Sunday, dropping to 9-6 on the season. It leaves the Packers just one-game back of the Lions with two games to play. If Green Bay wins out — home to Minnesota and at the Lions — they’ll win the division.

Inside the Numbers

94-94-6 — That’s the all-time record between the two teams after Sunday’s game. It’s the first time since 1933 that it’s been tied.

2 — That’s how many Packers have run for at least 150 yards and scored two touchdowns against the Bears in a game. That’s after Ty Montgomery accomplished the feat on Sunday, joining Ahman Green, who did it in 2003.

1,037 — That’s how many yards Jordy Nelson has this season after catching seven passes for 124 yards on Sunday, including a 60-yard catch to setup the game-winning field goal.

4-0 — That’s Green Bay’s record since Aaron Rodgers told everyone — in the midst of a four-game losing streak — that he thought the team could run the table to finish the season.

What’s Next

Green Bay (8-6) will play their final regular-season home game on Saturday at noon against Minnesota. The Vikings lost 34-6 at home to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.