NFC North: Green Bay Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. – There were plenty of names – including some big-name players – on the Green Bay Packers injury report, but the concern level remained low about a majority of the eight players on Wednesday's list.

Even right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who remains in the concussion protocol after he dropped out of Sunday's loss at the Buffalo Bills, appears to have a good chance to play this Sunday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Although Bulaga did not practice Wednesday, he was able to work out and attend meetings, which is a sign he has passed through the early stages of the concussion program.

"Looks great," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday of Bulaga. "Saw him in the weight room, in the meetings this morning. Making progress."

Outside linebacker Clay Matthews was added to the injury report with a biceps injury and running back Eddie Lacy, who last week had a hip injury, was listed this week with an eye issue.

"Eddie's just a situation he has going on with his eye that's not game-related," McCarthy said. "I think we'll be fine there. I don't think Clay's is of serious nature. I think we'll be OK there."

Both Lacy and Matthews finished Sunday's game against the Bills. Lacy rushed for 97 yards and Matthews had one of his best games of the season with two sacks.

Here's the full injury report:
  • T Bryan Bulaga (concussion, did not practice)
  • CB Davon House (shoulder, did not practice)
  • RB Eddie Lacy (eye, limited participant)
  • G T.J. Lang (ankle, limited participant)
  • LB Clay Matthews (biceps, limited participant)
  • OLB Mike Neal (abdomen, limited participant)
  • OLB Nick Perry (shoulder, limited participant)
  • G Josh Sitton (toe, did not practice)
Every now and then, rivals back one another, and that’s precisely what took place Tuesday when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ripped Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer for criticizing Jay Cutler as an anonymous source in an NFL Network report.

Rodgers told the NFL Network he was “baffled” by the situation, and criticized Kromer’s behavior while expressing empathy for what Cutler endured in the week leading up to Chicago’s loss to the New Orleans Saints on "Monday Night Football."

“I would have a major problem if somebody said something like that,” Rodgers said. “I think anybody that plays the position, you can’t help but empathize with Jay for that situation. You talk all the time about being connected, being a unit, believing in each other. But if you have unnamed sources, people out there cutting you down, and then you find out it’s the person calling the plays… that would be really hard to deal with, to look at him the same way.”

[+] EnlargeCutler
Matt Marton/USA TODAY SportsBears quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked seven times against New Orleans and threw three interceptions.
Kromer admitted to the team during a meeting he’d been the anonymous source in an NFL Network report in which he criticized Cutler’s game-management skills, specifically his refusal to check out of bad run plays.

During that meeting, Kromer apologized to Cutler, who said he “wasn’t angry” with the offensive coordinator.

But the entire situation resonated profoundly throughout the organization, with Bears general manager Phil Emery chiming in Monday night during the WBBM pregame show to vent his feelings.

"I’ve had to step back this week and let the emotions of those events quell down a little bit so that I was in position to listen and work through the processes and the structure we have to arrive at a conclusion that was in the best interest of the team,” Emery said. “I was very angry, to be honest with you, with what happened. Disappointed, upset, like many of our fans and like many of our players, which was obvious because that’s how the information got out, in terms of Aaron’s apology to the team.”

Rodgers told the NFL Network he “felt for Jay that he was having to deal with that.” Cutler, meanwhile, told WBBM after Monday’s game the entire situation “didn’t affect me preparing for the game” in which he threw three interceptions, was sacked seven times and produced a season-low passer rating of 55.8.

“I was surprised that the coach came out and admitted that it was him. I think, in general, unnamed sources are pretty gutless,” Rodgers said. “But then he comes out and admits it was him. I don't think he deserves any credit for that, but it was interesting that he did."

Rodgers pointed out the differences in work environments in Green Bay and Chicago, and credited coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson for creating an atmosphere in which communication rules and minimizes the prospects for such situations as what took place with the Bears from occurring.

"I would have a major problem with that, if [Green Bay offensive coordinator] Tom Clements was saying stuff like that about me -- which he never would, because Tom and I are so close, and I think we have good communication," Rodgers said. "I think there's a way of doing things when you have issues, and it's keeping it in-house.”

Cutler felt the same way, saying he learned early on in his career that it was better to operate that way.

“When I first got in the NFL [with the Denver Broncos], Mike Shanahan made a huge emphasis that things get kept in house. Throughout my nine years I’ve tried to abide by that policy and keep things in-house,” Cutler said. “Some years I’m better than other years. When [Bears coach Marc Trestman] got here, he was of the same method: Let’s try to keep things in house. And I think we’ve done a heck of a job throughout almost two years, haven’t had a lot of leaks, haven’t had a lot of things happen inside the building that have gotten out. Obviously we had something this time get out. It’s not a bad thing. It’s going to happen, and we’re not the first team it’s going to happen to and we won’t be the last team.”

QB snapshot: Aaron Rodgers

December, 16, 2014
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A quick observation of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and how he played in the Packers' 21-13 loss Sunday at the Buffalo Bills:

Rodgers
The most surprising thing about Rodgers' uncharacteristically ineffective performance against the Bills might have been his inability to connect with receivers down the field.

It wasn't for a lack of trying.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers attempted a season-high 14 passes that flew at least 15 yards downfield but completed just two of them. Before Sunday, Rodgers had the fifth best completion percentage (51.3) in the league on such passes. He was averaging 17.7 yards per attempt and had 11 touchdowns without an interception on such throws.

Against the Bills, he completed just 14.3 percent of his passes that went at least 15 yards for an average of just 2.3 yards per attempt and also had one of his two interceptions on such throws.

Before Sunday, Rodgers had faced a defense ranked in the top three in Total QBR in Week 6 or later eight times in his career, and he was near dominant, with an 80.6 QBR, 23 touchdowns and only one interception, per ESPN Stats & Information. But against the Bills, who were second in the NFL in QBR entering the game, Rodgers finished with a season-low QBR of 17.2 and two interceptions.

The task should be much easier this week, when the Packers face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team ranked 27th in opponent QBR, at 68.3.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- They said it Sunday in Buffalo and reiterated it back at Lambeau Field on Monday: Sunday's loss, while seemingly more than just a pothole on their road to the No. 1 seed in the NFC, was not a major roadblock.

"Nothing’s changed," Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels said Monday. "We've still got to go out and win football games."

Oh, but it has changed.

While the NFL won't release the official Week 16 playoff scenarios until Tuesday, it's easy to see that the Packers (10-4) have a more difficult, if not impossible, road to the top seed than they did a week ago.

This much is known: if the Packers win out, which would require them to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in South Florida and the Detroit Lions at home in the finale, then they would win the NFC North and be no worse than the No. 2, which is right where they were before the loss to the Bills.

Still, anything short of the top seed makes it more difficult to reach the Super Bowl, especially considering the Packers' mediocre road record (3-4).

"I wouldn't say more difficult," Packers safety Micah Hyde said Monday. "We knew that even with the win yesterday we were going to need to win it. That's just the way we feel. We didn't lose sight of any of our goals or anything like that. We're still looking forward, and I wouldn't say it's more difficult because we already had the mindset that we needed to win out."

As things stand now, the Packers currently have the No. 6 spot, which is the final playoff position, but have yet to clinch a playoff spot. A win at Buffalo combined with a Philadelphia Eagles' victory over the Dallas Cowboys would have taken care of that. Neither happened.

"If we win [out], we get a bye," cornerback Davon House said. "I don't think we'll get the No. 1 seed, but we'll get the bye. At the end of the day, as long as we get to the dance, the records are 0-0, and all that other stuff doesn't matter."

More special-teams gaffes hurt Packers

December, 14, 2014
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – This is shaping up to be the worst special-teams season in Mike McCarthy's nine-year tenure as the Green Bay Packers coach.

Sunday didn't help matters.

For the sixth time this season, they had one of the own kicks blocked. And that wasn't even their most costly special-teams mistake.

The only touchdown the Packers gave up in their 21-13 loss at the Buffalo Bills came on a 75-yard punt return by Marcus Thigpen in the first quarter.

"We definitely hurt ourselves today, that's for sure," Packers punter Tim Masthay said. "We had a punt returned for a touchdown and a field goal blocked and we lost by eight, so yeah, it was not a good day for our unit."

Masthay
Masthay hit a short punt that went only 31 yards and down the middle of the field that Thigpen had to move up to receive. He broke to his left and dodged safety Sean Richardson at his own 30-yard line. The only Packers player with a chance to stop him was cornerback Demetri Goodson, but he had two blockers between him and Thigpen.

"I looked up and all I saw was the whole left side was wide open," Goodson said. "I guess everybody kind of overpursued it. I just saw blockers in front of him."

But Masthay didn't blame the coverage unit.

"If the ball would've been higher, I don't think they would've been able to return it because I hit a couple higher going in that direction and they covered it great," Masthay said. "I see it as my responsibility to hit the ball higher."

Crosby's blocked field goal came on a 53-yard try in the second quarter. Big Mario Williams (6-foot-6) got a hand on it.

"Just coming off my foot it felt good when I made impact, but from that distance, sometimes it comes off a little bit lower," Crosby said. "I don't want to drive it necessarily, but I intentionally hit a ball that’s going to have the right distance, but like I said, I've got to evaluate myself and look at the protection and make sure that we’re accountable. It all starts with me. I've got to make sure I hit the right ball."

It was the second field goal that Crosby has had blocked this season. He's also had two extra points blocked, and Masthay has had two punts blocked.

Last week, special-teams coach Shawn Slocum called having five blocked kicks "unacceptable."

What does that make six?

Other than a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown by Micah Hyde in Week 10 against Philadelphia and Crosby's otherwise solid season (he's 25-of-29 on field goals with two of the four misses blocked), the Packers haven't had much to boast about on special teams.
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Mike McCarthy never spends any time comparing or ranking Aaron Rodgers' great performances. The list would be too long, the task too time consuming.

He doesn't spend much time contemplating Rodgers' duds, either, not that there are many of them for the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

This one, Sunday's 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where no Packers' team has ever won, might be at the top of the dud list.

Just don't ask McCarthy.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
AP Photo/Bill WippertEverything that could go wrong pretty much did for Aaron Rodgers in Buffalo on Sunday.
"I couldn't tell you," McCarthy said Sunday when asked whether it was Rodgers' worst game.

Then let's allow the stat sheet to decide.

His campaign for a second MVP award won't be trumpeting this: He set career records for his most incompletions (25) and lowest passer rating (34.3). He finished 17-of-42 passing for 185 yards and didn't have a touchdown pass. It was just the ninth time in 101 starts that he failed to throw a touchdown pass. Plus, he threw a pair of interceptions.

But McCarthy was right about one thing.

"I don't think this is all about Aaron's performance," he said.

Just don't blame the defense for this one. Shawn Slocum's special-teams unit gave up the only touchdown on a 75-yard first-quarter punt return by Marcus Thigpen and had a field goal blocked.

It was apparent early that Rodgers was either off the mark or out of sync -- or perhaps both -- with his receivers. He threw back-shoulder fades when Davante Adams and Randall Cobb ran go routes. Jordy Nelson ran a crossing pattern, and Rodgers missed behind him.

It not only was stunning to see Rodgers throw an interception in the third quarter because he was late and behind with a deep out for Cobb -- mistakes he rarely makes -- but it was equally shocking that on the other side of the field, Nelson was wide open and waving his arm to try to get his quarterback's attention, and Rodgers missed him.

The Bills, with their fifth-ranked pass defense and their physical corners, caused their share of disruption. But dropped passes -- oh, the dropped passes -- can't be blamed on that. Or on Rodgers.

Seven times, passes went off the hands of Rodgers' intended targets. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, no team has dropped that many in a game since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had eight in a 2008 game against the Carolina Panthers. Just about everyone was culpable -- Adams, Cobb, Nelson, Jarrett Boykin, Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers and James Starks all had drops, and you could've perhaps charged Cobb with a second. Eddie Lacy was the only Packers player with a target who didn't drop a pass.

The worst one looked like it could have gone for a 94-yard touchdown in the third quarter that would have given the Packers a 17-16 lead. Nelson had three steps on cornerback Corey Graham and Rodgers led him in stride. It clanked off his hands.

"Missed opportunities," Nelson lamented. "We had all sorts of chances and just didn't make them, for whatever reason. Obviously, my drop could have won the game for us. We've got to make those no matter how easy or hard they are."

That very same drive ended with Rodgers' second interception, this one on Boykin's drop. Unheralded Bills cornerback Bacarri Rambo had both of the picks. Four of Rodgers' five interceptions this season are on balls that bounced off his receivers' hands.

The takeaway from it all might be this: The Packers aren't the same team away from Lambeau Field, where they haven't lost this season. They need a win Sunday at Tampa Bay just to salvage a 4-4 road record this season.

This loss might have cost the Packers (10-4) home-field advantage or even a home game at all in the playoffs. They began the day as the No. 2 seed and by the time their plane landed in Green Bay on Sunday evening, they were clinging to the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC.

"I felt like this loss was definitely on us," right guard T.J. Lang said, speaking for the offense.

Cobb concurred.

"This loss is on us," Cobb said.

A fitting end to the Packers' loss

December, 14, 2014
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Green Bay Packers' 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium:

Rodgers
Bad ending: As poorly as the Packers played, they still had a chance for a go-ahead touchdown drive with 1:58 remaining. But on the first play of the drive, which began at the 10-yard line, Mario Williams beat backup right tackle JC Tretter and came up with a strip-sack of quarterback Aaron Rodgers for a safety. "Obviously it's a [expletive] way to end the game," right guard T.J. Lang said. "But that’s kind of how it went on offense." There was confusion over the play because running back Eddie Lacy picked up the ball and appeared to possibly get out of the end zone. But the play was blown dead because a fumble in the last two minutes cannot be advanced by anyone other than the fumbler. "There was the craziness of that rule -- it can't be advanced there by your own team, only by the fumbler after two minutes," Rodgers said. "Disappointing."

Filling in: When Bryan Bulaga left the game in the fourth quarter because of a concussion, it forced Tretter to play right tackle for the first time ever. The second-year pro had previously played in mop-up duty but only at left guard and left tackle. The Packers used more double-tight end sets to try to help Tretter, but he was one-on-one with Williams on the final play. "I tried to run him high, [but] he got an arm in between and just knocked it out," Tretter said.

Just relax: If there were two themes that came out of the Packers' locker room, they were: Don't panic, and everything is still in front of them. Or so they say. "We win out, we still win the [NFC] North," Rodgers said. "This is a tough team, good football team, and we just didn't play very well on offense."

Rapid Reaction: Green Bay Packers

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' 21-13 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium:

What it means: Maybe this is why home-field advantage is so important to the Packers. Their struggles on the road against a mediocre team don't bode well if they have to leave Lambeau Field in the playoffs. In fact, at 10-4, they’re not even in the playoffs yet, and if the Detroit Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings later on Sunday, the Packers would lose their lead in the NFC North with just two games remaining.

Stock watch: Falling -- The Packers' nightmare special-teams season keeps getting worse. Marcus Thigpen returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, and then the Bills blocked a 53-yard field goal attempt by Mason Crosby. It was the sixth time this season the Packers have had a kick blocked (two field goals, two extra points and two punts).

Hands team: It's not often Aaron Rodgers has an off day, but it was evident from the start that he was not sharp. He completed just 17 of 42 passes for 185 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He missed several throws he normally makes, but his receivers certainly didn't help him out. In fact, they had a horrific day, dropping seven passes, the most by any team in the league this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The worst may have come in the fourth quarter by Jordy Nelson, who was at least 3 yards behind coverage when he let a ball go off his fingertips. Unless someone caught him from behind, it would have been a 94-yard touchdown.

Missing Bulaga: Any chance for 90-yard, game-winning drive in the final 1:58 ended on the Packers' first play, when Mario Williams smoked backup right tackle JC Tretter and strip-sacked Rodgers for a safety. Tretter had to finish the game after starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga left the game because of a possible concussion.

Game ball: Eddie Lacy was the best thing the Packers had going on offense. Late in the first quarter, he carried on three straight plays to start a drive and ran for 15, 17 and 22 yards. He finished that drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. Coming off a hip injury from Monday night's game against the Falcons, Lacy carried 15 times for 97 yards.

What's next: The Packers play their final road regular-season game on Sunday at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before finishing with a Week 17 home game against the Lions.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The issue wasn't necessarily whether Eddie Lacy would be active -- that seemed like a safe bet after what coach Mike McCarthy said Friday -- but rather how effective the banged-up Green Bay Packers running back can be Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Lacy was indeed declared active. The Packers announced no starting lineup changes, which means they're planning to go with Lacy from the start after he was limited all week in practice because of the hip injury he sustained in the fourth quarter of Monday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons. Lacy could not finish that game.

Still, it might not be reasonable to expect Lacy to play the workhorse role against the Bills. And he might not need to after the performance James Starks put together against the Falcons. Starks matched his career-long run of 41 yards and finished with a season-high 75 yards on 10 carries.

"We'll see how the game goes, but I feel very comfortable going with Eddie and James," McCarthy said Friday.

Safety Chris Banjo, who was promoted from the practice squad Saturday after linebacker Jamari Lattimore was placed on injured reserve because of an ankle injury, also is active Sunday. Banjo played in all 16 games last season, mostly on special teams.

The only injured Packers player on the inactive list was cornerback Davon House (shoulder). The rest were healthy scratches.

Here's the full inactive list for the Packers:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Julius Peppers strolled through the Best Buy store in suburban Ashwaubenon, located just two miles down Oneida Street from Lambeau Field, looking for a new case for his iPhone this week.

No one stopped him for an autograph or asked to take a selfie with him.

[+] EnlargeJerry Hughes, Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Bills fans
Bill Wippert/Associated PressGreen Bay and Buffalo are similar in many ways, including player-fan celebrations.
He's not even sure if anyone gawked.

Such is life for a Green Bay Packers' player in the NFL's smallest city.

"These people around here are used to having Brett Favre here, Reggie White here," Peppers said. "They’ve got A-Rod [Aaron Rodgers] in their town, so it's not like it's anything special to see a high-profile football player out. I think people around here handle it pretty good. I don't get bothered at all really."

Peppers imagines it's much the same in Buffalo, New York, the NFL's second-smallest outpost. That makes this week's game between the Packers and Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium different from a normal NFL Sunday.

No, these aren't the one-stoplight, cow towns they're often made out to be -- Green Bay is home to 104,779 in the city proper and Buffalo has 258,959, according to 2013 U.S. Census Bureau figures -- but they're not Chicago or even Charlotte, North Carolina, where Peppers split his first 12 NFL seasons. In Northeast Wisconsin and Western New York, the NFL is either the only game in town or the biggest one.

"It's kind of similar to Green Bay's fanbase," Peppers said. "Small town. Those guys love their Bills. It's going to be one of those atmospheres that's going to be a challenge as well to go into an environment like that and perform."

Given their NFC-AFC affiliations, the Packers and Bills play just once every four years and go eight years between visits to each other's city. Only three players -- quarterback Aaron Rodgers, linebacker A.J. Hawk and special teamer Jarrett Bush -- were with the Packers the last time they played at Buffalo in 2006, and Rodgers was still two years away from becoming the starter.

That's why on Wednesday, during his first address to the team this week, Packers coach Mike McCarthy talked his players through what to expect on Sunday in Buffalo.

"Talked about the small town, similar characteristics to Green Bay, the passion of their fanbase and really the type of environment that we're getting ready to go into," McCarthy said of his speech to the team. "It's an older stadium, small locker room. It's old-school NFL football. It's something I've always appreciated playing there in the past, and once again you have to make sure your team is ready for that."

[+] EnlargeJames Starks
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsPackers running back James Starks was raised in Western New York and went to the University at Buffalo, making Sunday a homecoming for him.
Few know how similar the NFL life can be in Green Bay and Buffalo better than Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt. Van Pelt, who joined McCarthy's coaching staff in 2012, played all nine of his NFL seasons in Buffalo, where he was mostly a backup from 1995 to 2003 but started 11 games.

"Not just the similarities of the organizations, but the city," Van Pelt said. "It's a safe place. It's a good place to raise a family. The values and everything are good there. It reminds me of a Midwest town with the blue-collar workmanship. A lot of those are very similar here. When people ask me how's Green Bay? I'm like, 'Well, it's a little bit smaller than Buffalo but very similar.'"

Except perhaps for the fans.

Van Pelt called Bills' supporters "some of the best fans I've been around” in part because "they understand they can get loud when they need to. Quarterback starts to audible, you'll hear the crowd get higher and higher."

"But maybe a little rougher than say, the Green Bay crowd," Van Pelt added. "I remember coming here as a player and the fans telling you on the way out, 'Good job. Good luck the rest of the year.' You may not get that in Buffalo."

Independent of Van Pelt, Packers running back James Starks made a similar point. Starks grew up in Niagara Falls, New York, went to college at Buffalo and as a kid attended Thurman Thomas' football camps in Orchard Park, New York, where the Bills' stadium is located.

"They're very similar," said Starks, who has tickets for 20 relatives attending Sunday's game. "Real small. The football organizations bring in a lot to the community. Loyal fans. I think Green Bay's are a little more respectful and stuff. Their fans are a little more, I don't know ..."

Starks, wearing a Brooklyn Nets hat and a New York hoodie, didn't finish his thought on Friday afternoon. It was time to go home, first to his Green Bay locale and then to his real home this weekend.

"There’s no place like home," McCarthy said. "Obviously, everybody enjoys going back to their hometown, and I know this is special for James and his family. James is always smiling; his smile is bigger this week."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Back in 2011, when the Green Bay Packers were unbeatable – 13-0 unbeatable – they mowed down an impressive list of quarterbacks: Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Carson Palmer among them.

Then came Kyle Orton.

Actually, they beat him once, too. In Week 4 of that season, he quarterbacked the Denver Broncos in a 49-23 loss at Lambeau Field.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Bill Wippert/Associated PressKyle Orton has had success against the Packers in his career, going 4-2 against Green Bay.
Nearly two months later, though, it was Orton -- this time at the helm of the Kansas City Chiefs after the Broncos went with Tim Tebow -- who became the only quarterback to beat the Packers in their 15-1 regular season.

If for no other reason than that long December day three years ago, the Packers know they must be cognizant of what the journeyman quarterback can do when they play him and the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Orton will make his seventh start against the Packers for his fourth different team, and it might come as a surprise that this largely unheralded veteran has quite the record against Green Bay. He went 3-1 against them as an on-and-off starter with the Chicago Bears from 2005 to 2008 and then split those 2011 games for a 4-2 career mark as a starter.

The 32-year-old, who walked away from a backup job with Dallas Cowboys last summer and was seemingly retired, took over the Bills after four games this season and has led them to a 5-4 record since then. At 7-6, the Bills are still fighting for their playoff lives.

"He knows what he's doing," Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "He manages the game extremely well. We played against him twice that year against Denver and Kansas City, and he was the one guy who beat us."

In six career starts against the Packers, Orton has never had a 300-yard game. If fact, he's only had two 200-yard passing games against them. One came with the Chiefs in 2011, when he completed 23-of-31 passes for 299 yards but didn't throw a touchdown. He has only one other game with more than 142 yards against the Packers and has more interceptions (six) than touchdown passes (five) against them.

Orton once led the Bears to a 19-7 victory over the Packers by completing just six passes for 68 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in 2005. And yes, he played the full game. He also has beaten the Packers with passing yardage totals of 104 and 142 yards, both with the Bears.

Orton's numbers aren't gaudy this season, either. He ranks 30th in Total QBR (42.1), 30th in yards per attempt (6.77) and 17th in passer rating (89.2). The Bills rank 17th in passing yards per game (230.9) and 20th in offensive points scored per game (20.0), although that includes the first four games with EJ Manuel at quarterback.

"I've always thought he's been very productive," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We've obviously played against him in Chicago, Denver, Kansas City. Played very well against us in Kansas City down there in 2011. He has complete understanding of the offense. He can make all the throws. He can still sling it. I think he does a very good job with their offense."

Orton and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers actually have a long-standing friendship that began in 2004, when both attended the Elite 11 quarterback camp as counselors during their college days.

"I've had some great battles against [Orton] over the years," Rodgers said on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show this week.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Maybe A.J. Hawk is just another accomplished NFL player nearing the end of his career.

Or at least the end of his time with the Green Bay Packers.

How else can you describe the nine-year veteran's diminished playing time the last two weeks?

He continues to insist that he's not hurt, just as he did when first asked about it on Thanksgiving and then again Thursday after his closest friend on the team, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, suggested this week on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show that Hawk has been playing hurt and dealing with "a body that hasn’t been responding, I think, as well as he wanted it to at times this year."

[+] EnlargeA.J. Hawk
AP photo/Jim MahoneyA.J. Hawk has 80 tackles this season, but no interceptions or forced fumbles.
"No, I'm not hurt. My body has bounced back every week," Hawk said Thursday after being told of Rodgers' comments. "I feel better older than I did younger. I think he was just trying to be supportive of a friend or teammate --I don't know."

Less than a month ago, Hawk played all 78 defensive snaps against the Philadelphia Eagles. A week later, he still played the majority – 55 of 68 snaps – against the Minnesota Vikings. But two weeks ago, his role was slashed. He took the field for less than half of the plays – 26 of 56 – against the New England Patriots. And on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons, old No. 50 trotted out for just eight of 67 plays.

The last two weeks, defensive coordinator Dom Capers gave Hawk snaps in only one defensive package – his base 3-4, which he rarely employs anymore. Hawk, who used to play in both the nickel and dime package, has seen his role diminish in favor of Sam Barrington, Clay Matthews and even Brad Jones, depending on the game plan.

"I think he's probably better now that we aren't playing him [every snap]," Capers said. "There were a couple games he played 70 plays. We're always concerned about not overplaying our guys to where hopefully we can have him as healthy as we can have him through the month of December and hopefully a chance to play after that. I think A.J.'s fine now. I think he's better right now with the fact that he hasn't played 70 plays the last couple weeks. I think that will bode well for us moving forward."

The 30-year-old Hawk has spent his entire career with the team that drafted him fifth overall in 2006, although they did cut him once, in March 2011, only to sign him back under different terms one day later. He's one of the most insightful players on the team on the rare occasion that he shows up in the locker room during the week of a game, but he has never been comfortable talking about himself.

"It doesn't matter; no one cares," Hawk said at his locker. "Everyone is in their own life, and they should be. This team is playing really well. That's why I was hesitant to even come in here. Nothing is about me. It shouldn't be about me. It's dumb to talk about me. We're 10-3."

Hawk said he has thought about the end of his career but doesn't believe he's at that point yet. He has one more year remaining on his current contract, which pays him $3.5 million in salary and bonuses this season and calls for him to make the same next season.

"I've been preparing since the day I walked in here for the day I get cut," Hawk said. "I've been cut before, so whenever they decide to let me roll, that's something I've been preparing for since I was 21 basically, when I got drafted. But I have no idea. I can't predict the future; I definitely don't try to. I don't deal in hypotheticals, that's for sure. They can tap me on the shoulder right now and get me out of here. So our contracts aren't real contracts like that. They're not obliged to keep me here through the end of, what, next year, I guess, my contract is.

"So I don't think I let like my mind wander or anything towards what could happen. That's not up to me, but try to hopefully get another ring, at least, before they give me the boot."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Maybe Eddie Lacy's hip injury will be more of an issue than originally thought. The Green Bay Packers running back did little to nothing in the portion of practice that was open for viewing Thursday.

Lacy, who was officially listed as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, was uniform Thursday but spent a good portion of the individual drills watching his teammates go through the workout.


Lacy did not finish Monday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons, but on Tuesday coach Mike McCarthy said he did not have a high level of concern about Lacy's availability for this Sunday's game at the Buffalo Bills.

Cornerback Davon House (hip), linebacker Jamari Lattimore (ankle) and guard Josh Sitton (toe) all were on the sideline during practice Thursday. Defensive tackle Bruce Gaston was not in attendance. The rookie, who was signed off the Arizona Cardinals practice squad Monday, was not listed on Wednesday's injury report.

The full injury report plus an update from McCarthy will be available after Thursday's practice.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers might be without the one cornerback who had some measure of success in coverage Monday against Falcons star Julio Jones.

Davon House replaced the struggling Sam Shields in the fourth quarter and came up with a pair of pass breakups against the Atlanta Falcons' star receiver during his 11-catch, 259-yard performance.

But it was on one of those breakups – a pass that House almost intercepted in the end zone on a second-and-6 play from the Packers’ 12-yard line with 7:19 remaining – when he got hurt. Jones' knee caught House on the back of his right shoulder. House was slow to get up after the play but remained in the game.

House did not practice Wednesday, and coach Mike McCarthy said he did not expect him to practice Thursday, either, leaving his status in doubt for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills. House said he was scheduled to undergo more tests.

"It's really all up in the air right now," House said Wednesday. "We'll see what happens when we get these tests back and go from there."

House has had shoulder problems in the past. He was on his way to winning a starting job in 2012 until he separated his left shoulder in a preseason game at San Diego and missed the first six games of the season.

House has been in and out of the lineup this season in various defensive packages.

"It's never good when you're hurt, especially when you get a chance to play and you do all right," House said.

Shields, who went into Monday's game questionable because of a concussion, was not listed on this week's injury report.

Here's the Packers full injury report:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If you were in search of a detailed explanation for why the Green Bay Packers' defense unraveled in Monday night's 43-37 win over the Atlanta Falcons, then coach Mike McCarthy's news conference on Tuesday was the wrong place to look.

"I'll tell you what, I'm not going to sit here and talk about defense all day," McCarthy said Tuesday. "We're on to Buffalo. That's where we are. We'll have time to correct our things tomorrow with our players, and we'll learn from it. And, obviously, you always want to make corrections after a win."

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
AP Photo/Tom LynnThe Packers' Sam Shields mostly struggled in trying to cover Atlanta's Julio Jones on Monday night.
That's not to say McCarthy is burying his head instead of taking a long, critical look at the film after Atlanta's Julio Jones had the best game ever by a receiver against a Packers defense with 259 yards and a touchdown on 11 catches.

He just had no interest in rehashing it.

And because of the short turnaround following the Monday night game, the man in charge of the defense, Dom Capers, and the other Packers coordinators did not hold their usual day-after-game sessions with reporters. That will have to wait until Thursday.

The only detail McCarthy provided was that he believes they did change coverages in response to a question about why they did not commit more defenders to stopping Jones.

"It isn't like we played one coverage," McCarthy said. "Hey, they had a big day. Julio had a huge night. They got hot in the second half. I think you first have to give the Falcons credit. They're a very good offense. Winning in December is important, and winning in December is difficult."

And for that, McCarthy saw no need to apologize.

But in their film sessions and game-planning meetings in advance of this Sunday's game at the Buffalo Bills, the coaches will have to find answers for where things went wrong.

Things went downhill for Capers' unit from the outset of the second half, when Jones caught a 79-yard pass on the Falcons' first play from scrimmage of the third quarter.

Cornerback Sam Shields, who practiced only one day last week after sustaining a concussion against the New England Patriots, spent most of his time trying to cover Jones until the Packers finally pulled him after 45 snaps in favor of Davon House, who fared much better while playing the final 22 snaps.

McCarthy said Shields did not have another injury and that the change was part of a predetermined rotation, but Shields never played another snap after he gave way to House, who was credited with two pass breakups against Jones (who couldn't finish the game because of a hip injury).

Maybe the Packers should have yanked Shields earlier, when it became evident he was not on top of his game.

"I thought he obviously wanted to be out there Monday night [and] appreciate him being there," McCarthy said of Shields. "He's a young player, and he's our guy."

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