Green & Gold


Steady McCarthy steers Packers to playoff power

For all the postseason appearances that the Green Bay Packers have made in coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure, this year’s run to the playoffs might be the most unique.

The Packers were considered a likely Super Bowl contender in the preseason. They look like a Super Bowl contender now going into the divisional round game on Sunday against Dallas.

In between, the middle of the season resembled a roller-coaster ride. But the Packers are peaking at the right time.

They haven’t lost since falling to 4-6 following a 42-24 defeat to Washington in Week 11. Just like other teams, Green Bay had to make adjustments after losing key players.

They got healthier on defense. They have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is playing perhaps the best football of his career.


Pass game options grow for Packers in playoffs

The options for quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the Green Bay Packers’ passing game are growing at just the right time.

It’s not just Jordy Nelson making the big plays as the Packers roll into an NFC playoff game on Sunday against the New York Giants with a six-game winning streak.

Davante Adams capped his breakout regular season with three touchdown catches over the last two games, giving him 12 for the season.

Athletic 6-foot-4 tight end Jared Cook is a matchup problem in coverage. Undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison has turned into a late-season find with eight catches for 157 yards and a score over his last two games.

Receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery remains a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. Fullback Aaron Ripkowski made his first career touchdown catch last week against Detroit.


Packers look to keep streak going

Aaron Rodgers backed up his confidence-boosting “run-the-table” statement with a remarkable six-game run of quarterback play that helped get the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.

In the locker room, or on sideline conversations in practice, Rodgers’ attitude didn’t change. He remained steady, and believed in his teammates whether they were two games under .500 or NFC North champions.

Winners of six straight games, the Packers hope to keep their hot streak going Sunday when they meet the New York Giants in an NFC playoff game.

“The biggest compliment I could give him, he is coming in here every single week and been the same dude,” center Corey Linsley said Wednesday night after practice. “No matter when we were 4-3 or 4-6 or where we are now, he’s never changed who he is. I think having that kind of consistency, with your leader is huge.”

A strong arm and uncanny knack to extend plays helps a lot, too.


NFC North race goes down to the wire

It’s not the biggest game in the history of Ford Field, though it’s probably the biggest that’s actually involved the Detroit Lions.

Motown’s new football stadium opened in 2002, and since then, it has hosted a Super Bowl and a Final Four. The Lions, however, have never had an opportunity in the building quite like this weekend, when they host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night with a chance to win Detroit’s first division title since 1993.

Whoever wins this game takes the NFC North, and whoever loses could be out of the playoffs.

“I can’t wait,” Lions receiver Golden Tate said. “I’m excited for this team. I’m excited for this city. We have a great opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done in a long time.”


Packers get pass rush punch back

The star pass rusher has a sore left shoulder. The team leader in sacks played with a thick left wrap resembling a large oven mitt protecting his injured left hand.

Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are nowhere close to 100 percent healthy. The Green Bay Packers’ outside linebackers head into the regular season-ending showdown in Detroit for the NFC North title with momentum after powering through their injuries against Minnesota last weekend.

“They’re our bookends, they’re our pass rushers. It’s obviously a premiere position on defense for anybody and these guys have been battling injuries all year,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I just give them a ton of credit, ton of love just the way they’re going about it.”

Getting to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on Sunday night will be important, especially after two straight porous games in pass coverage for the Packers (9-6).


Packers-Lions outcome will determine plenty for playoffs

Here’s why the NFL switched the Green Bay-Detroit showdown to prime time: The loser could be staying home for the playoffs.

By the time the Packers and Lions, both 9-6, kick off for the NFC North crown at Ford Field, they will know how much of a must-win situation they are in. Or even a must-tie scenario.

If the Redskins (8-6-1) beat the Giants (10-5 and already owning a wild card), that means the loser in Motor City won’t make the postseason. Unless the Packers and Lions tie, in which case Green Bay wins the division and Detroit gets the second wild card for having defeated Washington.

Got it?

There’s more.

The Packers could advance if the Redskins tie, Tampa Bay wins and Green Bay clinches at least a tie in a strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Tampa Bay. How can that happen?

Don’t ask. Just wait for Sunday’s results.


Vikings, Packers headed in opposite directions

The Green Bay Packers have powered through injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews to surge back into postseason contention.

The fading Minnesota Vikings need a miracle to get into the playoffs, especially now that running back Adrian Peterson is sidelined again.

Heated division rivals headed in opposite directions meet Saturday at Lambeau Field in a game that could help clear up the NFC playoff picture.

Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn would rather muddle things up.

“Most definitely. If we can’t go, they can’t go,” Munnerlyn said. “We’re going to try to spoil their parade and put them in a bad situation.”

A four-game winning streak has changed the fortunes of the Packers (8-6). A win over the Vikings (7-7) would set up a winner-take-all showdown at first-place Detroit for the NFC North crown.


Matthews expects full workload soon

Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews says that his left shoulder injury is improving, and that he hopes to get more snaps in Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Matthews has been playing through the injury when he was hurt following a crunching, blind-slide block by Eagles lineman Allen Barbre on Nov. 28.

Matthews’ production has tailed off as he plays through the pain, with no sacks and just two tackles in a limited role the past three weeks.

Matthews said on Thursday that he’s encouraged as he gradually gets strength and range of motion back. He says the goal is to get back to as close to 100 percent as possible.

Matthews says he hasn’t suffered any setbacks while playing through the injury. He has also missed four games this season with a hamstring injury.

“I feel like this week with where I’m at mentally, I feel like this week should be a week where I can hopefully do the things that I’m accustomed to doing,” Matthews said.


Lang gets long-awaited Pro Bowl nod

A bright green folder waiting for T.J. Lang at his locker after practice contained information for a possible vacation to Florida at the end of January.

If all goes as planned for Lang, the Packers’ offensive lineman won’t have to go to the Pro Bowl in Orlando because Green Bay will be getting ready for the Super Bowl the following week.

But the eight-year veteran is proud of his long sought-after Pro Bowl recognition, a reward for a body of work the past few seasons as well as another year of fighting through injury after injury at an unglamorous position.

“About time,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think we all felt that way for T.J.”

The right guard is one of three Packers who were selected to the Pro Bowl this week. Like Lang, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is also being honored for the first time.


Rodgers a full participant at Packers practice

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was listed as a full practice participant for the first time since being slowed by the first of two leg injuries.

Green Bay began on-field work Wednesday in preparation for their game Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings.

Rodgers injured his left hamstring during the second half of a win on Nov. 28 over the Philadelphia Eagles. The quarterback hurt his right calf on the third play of the game of a victory on Dec. 11 over Seattle.

The first injury report for practice this week listed Rodgers as a full go, dealing with just the calf injury.

“It certainly helps. Overall preparation, obviously some (practice) plays can operate and play without taking the entire number of reps,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said Wednesday evening after practice.


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