Packers seek to end slide, beat Vikings

November 24, 2013

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Scott Tolzien look at a video board during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis. The Eagles won 27-13.

GREEN BAY Crunch time is here for the Packers, and not just because they've lost straight three games since Aaron Rodgers got hurt.

The Minnesota Vikings march into Lambeau Field on Sunday for an NFC North rivalry game that always makes coach Mike McCarthy more intense. And the Vikings (2-8) might just be the perfect foe to finally provide Green Bay (5-5) a win in what's otherwise been a miserable November.

"Against this group that we're playing (Sunday), there's always a sense of urgency," McCarthy said.

Last time these teams met, the Packers won handily, 44-31 last month in Minneapolis. Rodgers was 24 of 29 for 285 yards and two touchdowns.

Rodgers broke his left collarbone on the first series of the Packers' next game, against the Bears, and hasn't played since then. McCarthy has turned to one-time third-stringer Scott Tolzien to start while Rodgers heals.

Five things to watch as the Vikings try to give the Packers their first three-game losing streak at Lambeau Field since 2006:

SORE STARS: For years, a Vikings-Packers game featured two of the biggest names in the NFL in Rodgers and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson catches a pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles' Brandon Boykin during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Green Bay, Wis.

Well, Rodgers is hurt. And Peterson's banged up, too, with a sore groin. He was held out of practice at midweek, though coach Leslie Frazier said he was cautiously optimistic then that his top tailback would play.

Peterson is averaging 115.5 yards in 13 career games against Green Bay.

Sunday's game would also mark the first back at Lambeau for former Packers receiver Greg Jennings, who missed practice at midweek due to an Achilles tendon injury.

BACKUP PLAN: Tolzien has shown poise in handling the glare that comes with having to replace perhaps the more irreplaceable player in the NFL. The on-field results so far are two defeats.

Tolzien has thrown for 619 yards over the past two games, and shown he can hit the deep ball. But Tolzien already has five interceptions in 73 attempts, or one more than Rodgers had in 251 attempts.

"He's learning on the fly," Rodgers said. "His preparation has been very good, his approach. And I think he's primed to have a good week."

With a start, Tolzien would become the first Packers quarterback other than Brett Favre or Rodgers to start back-to-back games since Don Majkowski started the first three games in 1992.

QB QUANDRY: Frazier can relate with being unsettled at quarterback.

Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman have all started this year. The Vikings' Wheel of Quarterbacks has stopped again at Ponder, who can at least draw from having a little success albeit late in the game in that 44-31 loss to Green Bay when he ran for a 19-yard touchdown and didn't throw an interception.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, right, is hit by Seattle Seahawks' Michael Bennett, second from left, and Brandon Mebane (92), right, as he attempts a pass in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 41-20.

"We're not going into (the game) thinking he's going to fail or he's going to get off to a slow start," Frazier said. "We're looking forward to him having a good ballgame."

TOO FEW TOs: Turnover margin has been a problem for both teams. The Vikings are minus-8, hampered in large part by giving up 13 interceptions and losing nine fumbles.

The Packers are minus-6, but their big problem has been just four interceptions by the defense, tied for last in the league with Jacksonville and Houston. Ponder thinks injuries to linebackers Clay Matthews and Brad Jones have affected Green Bay. Both starters are back in the lineup.

"Guys haven't been healthy," Ponder said. "They're both back so they're going to be a different team."

DARE TO THROW: With Rodgers hurt, defenses are putting eight defenders into the box more often against the Packers.

Eddie Lacy has 645 yards over his last seven games, tops in the NFL in that span. The bruising rookie was held to just 27 yards on 14 carries last week against the Giants.

"We have to game-plan, try to figure out what we can do to try to figure out what we can do to be able to get a blocker on that defender," Lacy said.

Packers' secondary banged up for Vikings game

GREEN BAY Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will not play against Minnesota on Sunday after hinting earlier in the week there might be a chance.

Rodgers needed to be on the field at practice Friday, but he is not yet recovered from a broken collarbone and was ruled out for the game. He has missed the past two games.

"I don't have a timetable for you," coach Mike McCarthy said. "He threw a little bit today."

Scott Tolzien, a third-year pro, is expected to make his second straight start in Rodgers' place. How soon the team can expect Rodgers back on the field is a mystery.

The Packers (5-5) are hungry for a win, having lost three in a row for the first time since 2008 and trailing NFC North co-leaders Detroit and Chicago by a game. Green Bay has a quick turnaround after playing the last-place Vikings (2-8) on Sunday, traveling to Detroit to play the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

McCarthy said there is a sense of urgency this week as the Packers try to stay in contention for a third consecutive division title and a spot in the playoffs.

"We understand what our record is," McCarthy said. "But this is one moment, this is one opportunity, and we're just focused on the result for Sunday - and that's about winning. We're not doing extra calisthenics or doing extra PowerPoints or anything like that."

The Packers secondary is the latest unit to get banged up. Green Bay has four of its seven cornerbacks on an extensive injury report this week.

Casey Hayward remains out with a hamstring injury. After missing the last game with a bad hamstring, Sam Shields is questionable for Sunday's game. Shields didn't practice this week.

"It is what it is. I can't worry about it," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said about Shields. "If he's not available, he's not available. I don't put any extra or unneeded effort into Sam not being here. I need to worry about the guys that are available getting them prepared and getting them ready to go win a football game. I don't put anything into not having Sam, not having Casey."

And rookie Micah Hyde didn't practice the last two days because of a groin injury, though he is probable.

Whitt insisted his depleted position group managed to function with only Tramon Williams, Davon House and Jarrett Bush available to practice Thursday and Friday.

"We got the work done," Whitt said. "Nobody cares about who's available. Everybody's only thing is results, and we're trying to put a plan together to get us a win. Nobody's saying, 'Well, we don't have this guy, we don't have that guy.' Nobody cares."

The potential loss of Shields for a second straight game is significant as former Packers receiver Greg Jennings makes his first visit to Lambeau Field since signing with Minnesota in the offseason. Green Bay held Jennings to one catch for 9 yards in its 44-31 win over the Vikings on Oct. 27 in Minneapolis.

Shields leads the Packers with 15 pass breakups this season, one short of his career high.

"Sam is very important to this defense," Whitt said. "Him and (linebacker) Clay (Matthews) are probably the two standouts right now, but we don't have him. So I'm not going to be in a woe-is-me mentality right now."

NOTES: Veteran DL Johnny Jolly (groin) is doubtful for Sunday's game. Jolly aggravated his injury in the 27-13 loss at the New York Giants last Sunday and didn't practice this week. McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers agreed not having Jolly could impact the Packers' run defense against Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, the 2012 NFL MVP who rushed for only 60 yards in 13 carries in the teams' first meeting last month. . Five of the season-high 13 players on the Green Bay injury report this week are out for Sunday. Besides Rodgers and Hayward, RT Don Barclay (knee), LB Nick Perry (foot/ankle) and CB James Nixon (knee) won't play. Matthews (thumb), DT Ryan Pickett (knee), C Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee) and DE/LB Mike Neal (abdomen) are probable.

Packers CB Hayward goes on injured reserve

GREEN BAY The Packers have placed Casey Hayward on injured reserve, ending a tough season for the second-year cornerback.

Hayward has been bothered all season by a hamstring injury. He played just three games, starting one. Hayward led rookies last season with a team-high six interceptions.

Green Bay has just four interceptions this season, tied for worst in the league with the Texans and Jaguars.

The Packers also placed reserve cornerback James Nixon (knee) on injured reserve, and activated safety Sean Richardson and defensive end Jerel Worthy from the reserve/physically unable to perform list.

Green Bay (5-5) will try to end a three-game losing streak when the Minnesota Vikings (2-8) visit Lambeau Field. Scott Tolzien will get the start again for injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers (collarbone).


Associated Press