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.

Packers get key players back, others still remain out

The Green Bay Packers didn’t start their practice yesterday till the afternoon, but saw lots of names return to the practice field.

Damarious Randall and Malachi Dupre both returned to the field yesterday, after both suffered concussions on questionable hits in the first preseason game against the Eagles.

Ty Montgomery also was back at practice after suffering a lower body soft tissue injury. He was listed as a limited participant. Montgomery hopes to get some playing time this Saturday against the Denver Broncos.

The Packers also got Wide receiver Colby Pearson and Tight end Cody Peck back at practice.

Jayrone Elliott was the lone Packer to come down with an injury in yesterday’s practice. The Packers were depending on the fourth year player out of Toledo to have more of an impact at outside linebacker this season.

Players still being held out of practice were Davon House (hamstring), Jermaine Whitehead (hip), Demetri Goodson (knee), William Stanback (hamstring), Derrick Mathews (concussion), Jordan Tripp (Concussion), and Don Barclay (Ankle).

Dean Lowry, Vince Biegel, and Montravius Adams were also out of practice and are all likely to miss the rest of training camp and potentially the season opener.

Ty Montgomery, Josh Jones left Tuesday’s practice with injuries

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Two key members of the Green Bay Packers left Tuesday’s practice with lower leg injuries — running back Ty Montgomery and safety Josh Jones.

Montgomery was looking ahead to his first full season as a running back after making the position change from wide receiver midway through the 2016 campaign. Instead, he’s now focused on his health after coming up gimp with a lower leg injury. As Acme Packing Company writer Paul Noonan writes, the vague description of that injury could be cause for concern. But Packers beat writer Ryan Wood offered a bit of good news for Packer fans:

Montgomery endured a complicated ankle injury his rookie year in 2015 which required major surgery, cutting his season short.

Rookie safety Josh Jones was also injured in Tuesday’s practice, leaving on a cart while nursing his ankle.

The injury to Jones adds to a banged up secondary. Damarious Randall and Marwin Evans were both treated for concussions in Thursday’s preseason win over the Eagles. Randall has since been ruled out for Saturday’s preseason game with the Redskins.

Receiver Malachi Dupre (concussion) and center Don Barclay (ankle) have also been ruled out for the game in Washington, D.C.

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.

Report: Packers considered meeting with Adrian Peterson, price too steep

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson isn’t known for being a big spender, and that modus operandi was confirmed with reports the team turned down a chance to meet with former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

Peterson is reportedly asking teams for $8 million for the 2017 season, believed to be one of the biggest reasons he remains a free agent. Peterson is also coming off his second season in the last three years in which he’s dealt with knee issues. The Oklahoma product tore his ACL in 2014 before returning for an All-Pro 2015 campaign and subsequent meniscus tear in 2016.

Recent media reports claim the Packers would consider meeting with Peterson, but not until after they’ve had the chance to address the position in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Green Bay lacks star power in the backfield, with converted receiver Ty Montgomery appearing to be the lead running back heading into 2017. The Packers added depth this week by re-signing Christine Michael after initially acquiring him on waivers last November from the Seahawks.

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.

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.

Packers avoid collapse, beat Bears 30-27

CHICAGO — The Green Bay Packers allowed the Chicago Bears to come back from a 27-10 lead, but Aaron Rodgers’ late drive allowed Mason Crosby to hit the game-winner as time expired to give Green Bay a 30-27 win.

Bears quarterback Matt Barkley showed why some within the organization think he could be the future of the franchise, throwing for 362 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Unfortunately for Barkley, he also turned the ball over three times.

Rodgers, on the other hand, made the most of his opportunities, gimpy calf and all, throwing a 60-yard pass to Jordy Nelson with less than 30 seconds remaining to set Crosby up for the game-winning field goal. Rodgers was 19-of-31 on the day for 252 yards, and while he didn’t find the end zone, he also avoided any turnovers.

The Green Bay running game was superb, with Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael combining for 207 yards and three touchdowns.

Matthews, Montgomery, Cobb inactive vs Falcons

ATLANTA — Packers linebacker Clay Matthews joins receivers Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb as key players who will sit out Green Bay’s week eight contest against the Atlanta Falcons.

Montgomery’s absence adds to an already limited receiving corps, missing Randall Cobb due to a hamstring issue that popped up during practice this week.

Don Jackson and Knile Davis will carry the load in the backfield for the Packers, but Montgomery and Cobb were complement pieces while Jackson and Davis get more comfortable with the offense.

The entire inactive list includes:

WR Randall Cobb
CB Damarious Randall
CB Quinten Rollins
RB James Starks
LB Clay Matthews
WR Ty Montgomery
TE Jared Cook

Packers Family Night provides glimpse at 2016 team

GREEN BAY, Wis. — In front of a sold out crowd of nearly 67,000 at Lambeau Field Sunday night, the Green Bay Packers held their annual Family Night practice, displaying some strengths and weaknesses of the 2016 squad.

One of the positive takeaways from Sunday night’s festivities was the play of outside linebacker Datone Jones, who converted from a true defensive lineman role and dropped about 20 pounds in the process, down to 275. Jones appeared quicker off the ball and better in coverage, both aspects of his game he hoped to improve by playing the hybrid “elephant” linebacker role.

With receivers Jordy Nelson and Ty Montgomery sidelined by injuries, Davante Adams got to flash his skills with Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball, hauling in passes of 26 and 35 yards. But during the two-minute drill, Adams’ night unraveled, dropping a pass for a would-be first down and also misjudging the ball for a sure touchdown grab.

“The first one I definitely should’ve come up with,” Adams said. “I think I just misjudged it in the lights. It kept soaring up. The other one was a stretch. I laid out for it but couldn’t come up with up.”

For the second year in a row, punter Tim Masthay will be in a competition for the starting job, jockeying for depth chart position with rookie Peter Mortell. After a sub-par 2014 season, Masthay came back in 2015 to set a franchise record 40.2 yards per punt. However, inconsistencies meant exploring other options and Mortell showed his leg late in the practice with an unofficial 54 yard punt.