Aaron Rodgers on Soldier Field win streak: Not trash talking, just facts

Aaron Rodgers was just verbalizing the absurdity of the path in front of the Green Bay Packers following their loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 25. At 4-6-1, the team’s playoff chances had taken a big hit, and the quarterback was asked what it would take for them to avoid a second straight year without a postseason appearance.

“We’ve got to go back home, get some rest, beat Arizona,” Rodgers told reporters after the game. “And then come back and beat Atlanta. Then go to Chicago, a place we’ve won a number of times, beat them. Go to New York around Christmas, beat them. Then come home against Detroit, beat them. [And then] get a little help [from other teams].”

The quote got some buzz after the game, but when Green Bay lost to Arizona the following week, it no longer seemed relevant. As it turns out, that’s not the case if you’re a member of the Chicago Bears, the Packers opponent this Sunday.

Appearing on 670 The Score in Chicago on Tuesday, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said Rodgers mentioning Green Bay’s success at Solider Field hadn’t been forgotten in their locker room.

“Nobody forgot Aaron’s little comments after they lost that big game where he said, ‘All we got to do is win out, and go to Soldier Field and win like we’ve done a bunch in the past,’” Hicks said, according to ProFootballTalk.com. “I’m real excited for Aaron to come down here and play this game.”

Rodgers had clearly been made aware of Hicks’ comments when he met with the media in Green Bay on Wednesday and reiterated his point of their success, noting the Packers haven’t lost in Chicago since 2010.

“Yeah, we’ve won eight in a row,” Rodgers said. “I’m not talking trash to their squad or Akiem or anything. That’s just the facts.”

Green Bay’s last loss in Chicago came in a Monday night game early in the 2010 season. The streak of eight straight wins started later that year in the NFC Championship Game and has included must-win games for the Packers in 2013 to take the NFC North title and in 2016 to keep their playoff hopes alive. If they make it nine straight wins on Sunday, they’ll keep their minuscule postseason chances afloat and potentially force the Bears to wait at least one more week to clinch the division.

Packers 34, Falcons 20: 2-minute drill

GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers threw for two scores as the Green Bay Packers snapped a three-game losing streak and opened the Joe Philbin-era with a 34-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

Game Balls

Offense: Aaron Rodgers

In his first start without former coach Mike McCarthy on the sideline, Rodgers played well, throwing for 196 yards and running for 44. Though he was sacked four times, his ability to move around in the pocket and then get out and run was a huge part of Green Bay’s success. Rodgers has struggled with his accuracy at times this year, but it was never better than on a pretty third quarter touchdown to Randall Cobb.

Defense: Bashaud Breeland

Playing in just his fourth game this year, the midseason pickup gave the Packers a boost when he jumped in front of a Matt Ryan pass and returned it for a touchdown in the second quarter. It gave Green Bay a two-score lead that it would maintain the rest of the way. Breeland later recovered a fumble in the red zone to snuff out another Falcons drive.

Special Teams: Mason Crosby

Crosby has taken his fair share of criticism this year, but the veteran came through on Sunday. After watching Atlanta’s Matt Bryant leave a 53-yard attempt way short in the first quarter, Crosby drilled a 50-yard kick in the same direction in the second quarter with no problem. He added a 48-yard boot later in the first half and finished 2-for-2 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points.

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In Case You Missed It

— Interim Joe Philbin joins Ray Rhodes (1999), Forrest Gregg (1975), Phil Bengtson (1968), Vince Lombardi (1959) and Curly Lambeau (1921) to win their first game as Packers coach.

— Cobb told reporters that the team gave the game ball to Philbin for his first victory.

— Green Bay was without three of its starting offensive linemen — Bryan Bulaga, Byron Bell and Lane Taylor — due to injury.

— Defensive tackle Kenny Clark left the game in the second quarter with an elbow injury but did return.

— Former Wisconsin defensive back Natrell Jamerson was inactive after being signed earlier in the week.

Inside the Numbers

7 — That’s the number of touchdowns running back Aaron Jones has in his last five games. The second-year back had 106 total yards on Sunday.

44- That’s the number of yards rushing Rodgers had in the game. It’s the most he’s had in a single game since Oct. 30, 2016 and the sixth-most in his career.

368 — That’s the number of passes Rodgers has thrown since his last interception. It’s a new NFL record for most consecutive passes without an interception, breaking the record of 358 set by the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady.

4 — That’s the percentage chance the Packers have of making the playoffs, up from 2.7 entering the weekend.

What’s Next

Green Bay (5-7-1) travels to Chicago (8-5) to take on the Bears next Sunday at noon.

Mike McCarthy returned to Lambeau Field twice this week

Three days after getting fired by the Green Bay Packers, Mike McCarthy was back inside Lambeau Field and back in front of his team.

The former coach returned to his office on Tuesday, according to interim coach Joe Philbin, where he spoke with his assistant coaches and then got permission to return on Wednesday to speak with his players.

“That’s the Green Bay Packer way,” Philbin said of general manager Brian Gutekunst and team president Mark Murphy allowing McCarthy the chance to speak. “This is a first-class organization all the way around. I think it’s been that way for 100 seasons, I would guess. I’m not that old, but I’m guessing it’s been like that for a long time. We do things the right way around here.”

Philbin, who was in Green Bay for McCarthy’s first seven years, said the coach hit all the right notes when he addressed the players.

“He did a fantastic job talking to the team, not just about football and winning football games, but about his passion [and] his passion for the game,” Philbin said. “His love for the players was clearly evident. I’m sure it was emotional for him and everybody in the room. It was awesome. I thought he did a great job.”

Several players, including Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews, said the entire team gave McCarthy a standing ovation following his speech.

Packers put CB Kevin King on IR, claim former Wisconsin DB

Kevin King’s season is over.

For a second straight year, the Green Bay Packers cornerback has been placed on injured reserve. He played in just six games this season, his last coming on Nov. 4 against New England in which he suffered a hamstring injury.

Last year, as a rookie, King played in nine games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR. By the end of this year, he’ll have missed 17 of a possible 32 games in his career.

The team also placed running back Tra Carson on IR with a rib injury.

To fill their spots, Green Bay claimed defensive lineman Fadol Brown and former Wisconsin defensive back Natrell Jamerson off of waivers.

A rookie, Jamerson was taken in the fifth round of last April’s NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. He was cut at the end of training camp and landed with the Houston Texans, where he played 10 games. They cut the cornerback this week when running back D’Onta Foreman was activated of the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Brown, an undrafted free agent in 2017, played in eight games for the Oakland Raiders this season.

Packers fire associate head coach Winston Moss

Two days after the Green Bay Packers sent their longtime head coach Mike McCarthy on his way, the team decided to part ways with his right-hand man — associate head coach Winston Moss.

“We thank Winston for his contributions to the Packers over the past 13 years,” said interim coach Joe Philbin. “We hope for the best for Winston and his family moving forward.”

The decision to move on from Moss isn’t an overly surprising one, especially after he sent a tweet on Tuesday criticizing what he believed to be a lack of accountability within the organization.

That wasn’t the only concerning aspect of Moss’ recent behavior. Once a guy that gave insightful and well-thought out answers to the media, Moss did an about face during training camp this summer, barely responding to questions asked of him. When a reporter asked about the sudden change, Moss responded with, “I can’t help you.” It was the last time he would face the media as a member of the organization.

Packers’ Mark Murphy: Sunday’s performance unacceptable, change was needed

Mark Murphy wouldn’t say whether he would have gone ahead and fired Mike McCarthy if Mason Crosby’s 49-yard kick hadn’t missed wide-right on Sunday. But when the veteran failed to send the game to overtime, giving the lowly Arizona Cardinals a 20-17 win, the Green Bay Packers president knew it was time.

“The performance on Sunday, to me, made it very clear that a coaching change was needed,” Murphy said a day after giving McCarthy his walking papers following nearly 13 seasons as the franchise’s coach. “(General Manager Brian Gutekunst) and I met after the game last night and both agreed a change was needed.

“We have a great history and tradition here. (We’re) very disappointed in what we’ve seen this year. I think everybody associated with the organization is disappointed in the season (we’ve) had, but particularly the performance last night. In my mind, it was unacceptable.”

Murphy called McCarthy up to his office shortly after the game and informed him he’d been let go, a decision that the coach took in stride, telling Murphy he understood the kind of business coaching is. Murphy subsequently brought offensive coordinator Joe Philbin in and named him interim coach for the final four games of the season.

Now the process of finding a replacement for McCarthy begins. It’s not one that will be completed before the end of the NFL season, according to Murphy, and it’s not one that will involve input from the face of the franchise – quarterback Aaron Rodgers. No, it will come down to who Murphy and Gutekunst like, with the former making the final decision.

“Brian and I will work together and together we’ll hire the best coach,” Murphy said. “I’m not going to hire a coach that Brian is not comfortable with.”

Green Bay’s power structure changed last offseason when former GM Ted Thompson stepped down. Instead of the coach reporting to the GM, the coach and the GM now report directly to Murphy. It’s a significant change from the one the Packers had operated under since Ron Wolf took over in 1991 as GM and turned the franchise around. But Murphy says he’s different than most front office types on the business side of the organization.

“I don’t want to brag about myself, but all of my adult life I’ve been involved with football,” Murphy said. “I’ve seen it from the perspective of a player. I’ve been an athletic director for 17 years. I’ve hired many many coaches, (including) several football coaches. I think I have a lot to offer. I feel that I’m a football person even though I’m in the position of president.

“Brian and I have a great relationship. I think this gives the Packers the best chance to have success. That’s why I’m doing it.”

At 4-7-1, this Packers season is all but done. However, there also appears to be a feeling of confidence among the leadership that, while they are hiring a new coach, they don’t feel that far away from competing for a Super Bowl.

“Things can change quickly,” Murphy said. “I will say this about Brian, we’ve had one of Brian’s draft and (only) one offseason of changes that he’s made to the roster. I’m very optimistic, that with the way we’ve positioned ourselves for the draft this next year, we can make a big change quickly.”

Packers moving on from Mike McCarthy

GREEN BAY — Mike McCarthy said he had no clue what he was going to tell his players when he saw them Monday following an embarrassing 20-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. As it turns out, he won’t have to worry about it.

After nearly 13 seasons as the Green Bay Packers head coach, McCarthy was fired following the game that dropped his team to 4-7-1 and its playoff hopes all but extinguished.

“The 2018 season has not lived up to the expectations and standards of the Green Bay Packers,” team President Mark Murphy stated in a team release. “As a result, I made the difficult decision to relieve Mike McCarthy of his role as head coach, effective immediately.”

According to ESPN’s Adam Shefter, McCarthy was shocked at the timing with four games still left in the season. He becomes the first Packers coach since Gene Ronzani in 1952 not to finish a season he started. Ronzani “resigned” after his team started 2-6-1.

The decision, according to the MMQB’s Albert Breer, was made by Murphy in tandem with general manager Brian Gutekunst. Following an offseason restructuring that saw Gutekunst take over for Ted Thompson, Murphy also took the power of hiring and firing a head coach under his discretion.

Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer spoke with McCarthy following the move.

“I’m proud I was part of the Packers family, proud to be part of such a great organization,” Glazer tweeted.

McCarthy’s tenure comes to close after 204 regular season games and 125 wins. He had just three losing seasons during his time and won six NFC North titles. McCarthy led the Packers to the playoffs nine times, appeared in four NFC title games and won Super Bowl XLV. That put him in rare company, joining Vince Lombardi and Mike Holmgren as the only coaches to win a Super Bowl with the Packers.

But ever since quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in Week 6 of the 2017 season, not a lot had gone right for McCarthy and Green Bay. After finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, McCarthy fired his offensive and defensive coordinators and replaced several more staff members. But little has changed even with Rodgers playing the entire season, albeit with a knee injury. Right now, the Packers have their worst record at this point in the season since McCarthy’s first year in 2006.

“Mike has been a terrific head coach and leader of the Packers for 13 seasons, during which time we experienced a great deal of success on and off the field,” Murphy said. “We want to thank Mike, his wife, Jessica, and the rest of the McCarthy family for all that they have done for the Packers and the Green Bay and Wisconsin communities.”

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will serve as the interim head coach for the final four games, but Murphy is already focusing on what’s next in Titletown.

“We will immediately begin the process of selecting the next head coach of the Green Bay Packers,” Murphy said.

Packers rule five players out for Sunday

The Green Bay Packers will definitely be without five players on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals and potentially more.

The team issued its final injury report Friday afternoon and listed defensive tackle Mike Daniels (foot), safety Kentrell Brice (concussion/ankle), running back Tra Carson (rib), wide receiver Trevor Davis (hamstring) and safety Raven Greene (ankle) as out for the game.

In addition, five more players were listed as questionable: tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), cornerback Bashaud Breeland (groin), wide receiver Randall Cobb (hamstring), cornerback Kevin King (hamstring) and guard Lane Taylor (quadricep).

Earlier in the day, coach Mike McCarthy made it sound like Bakhtiari, who was listed as a limited participant in practice, was progressing faster than originally expected.

“He’s doing well. He’s improving each and every day,” McCarthy said of his left tackle. “Hopefully, he’ll do more work (Saturday).”

If Bakhtiari can’t go, third-year lineman Jason Spriggs would likely get the start in his place.

Cobb told reporters this week that he expects to be cleared to play after appearing in just five games this season and just two since late September.

The Packers will hold their final practice of the week on Saturday.

Vikings 24, Packers 17: 2-minute drill

MINNEAPOLIS — Kirk Cousins threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns as Minnesota beat Green Bay 24-17 on Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Packers Game Balls

Offense: RB Aaron Jones

Save for the second and third drive of the game, the Packers offense was once again very pedestrian. But Jones made the most of his opportunities, accounting for 93 yards combined on the ground and receiving. He also scored a touchdown in the first quarter, his fifth in the last three games.

Defense: DL Kenny Clark

Clark is the lone starter along the defensive line still standing following injuries to Mo Wilkerson and Mike Daniels, but he continues to be the anchor for the beat up unit. Though the Packers did not get nearly enough pressure on Cousins, Clark did pick up his sixth sack of the season and helped hold the Vikings’ run game to just 91 yards and 3.1 yards per carry.

Special Teams: P JK Scott

Scott had a busy night and was largely effective. He averaged 46 yards on his six punts and dropped three of them inside the 20-yard line. The rookie could have had another, but backup gunner J’Mon Moore was unable to get control of a ball that bounced inside the 5-yard line.

What they said

“We all got to take accountability for that, myself first and foremost. I know I have to play better. I will and we’ll put ourselves in position (to challenge for a playoff spot).”

— Quarterback Aaron Rodgers on getting things to start clicking on offense and make a late-season push for the postseason.

“It’s tough. Going through what we did last year, not making the playoffs, and now sitting at 4-6-1, it’s heartbreaking. You look at all the losses that we had, we’re right there. We just can’t pull out a win.”

— Safety Josh Jones on the team’s feeling right now after falling to 0-6 on the road

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In Case You Missed It

— Wide receiver Randall Cobb and cornerback Kevin King were among several key players not active for the game due to injury.

— Safety Kentrell Brice (ankle, concussion), tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), guard Lane Taylor (quad), wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (arm) and wide receiver Trevor Davis (hamstring) all left the game with injuries.

Davante Adams finished with five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. He now has 1,022 yards this season, giving him the first 1,000-yard season of his career.

Inside the Numbers

7-8-1 — That’s the Packers record in the last 16 games that Aaron Rodgers started and finished.

8 — That’s the number of consecutive losses the Packers have suffered on the road dating back to last season.

.382 — That’s the winning percentage of the Packers final five opponents this season — tied for the easiest of any team in the NFL.

What’s Next

Green Bay (4-6-1) hosts Arizona (2-9) at Lambeau Field on Sunday at noon.

Packers: Mike McCarthy delivers injury updates

The Green Bay Packers will be without defensive tackle Mike Daniels when they head to Minnesota to take on the Vikings this Sunday but could have tight end Jimmy Graham.

That was the word from head coach Mike McCarthy on Monday afternoon.

McCarthy said the foot injury Daniels sustained last Thursday will keep him out a couple weeks and added that he and general manager Brian Gutekunst have discussed signing another player along the defensive line in response.

As for Graham, the veteran suffered a broken thumb in the loss to Seattle, but McCarthy said the tight end intends to play through it. It’s unclear what kind of splint or cast he’ll need to wear to protect the thumb during games.

McCarthy also said it’s too soon to tell whether the four players that missed the game against the Seahawks — safety Kentrell Brice, cornerback Kevin King, wide receiver Randall Cobb and outside linebacker Nick Perry — would be available for Sunday’s game. He said he’ll know more when they hit the practice field on Wednesday.

Green Bay sits just 4-5-1 on the year, a game back of Minnesota for second in the NFC North and 2.5 games behind division leading Chicago.