Highlighting 12 Biggest Moments from Green Bay Packers' 2013-14 Season
The 2013 season for the Green Bay Packers has been one of the more demanding seasons that the team has faced in many years.
The Packers are 5-5-1 heading into their divisional matchup versus Detroit on Thanksgiving, and it is the Lions who lead the NFC North with a 6-5 record.
The Packers seemed in control of the NFC North in early November, as they had a 5-2 record heading into a Monday night game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
Then everything changed in just a split second.
I am going to highlight some of the ups and downs for the Packers this year, up until this very important stage of the season.
The Injury to Aaron Rodgers
It seemed like a normal offensive drive for the Packers on that Monday night against the Bears. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers swiftly moved the Packers down the field in their first possession. The Packers were poised to finish the drive with a touchdown when it happened.
When he was attempting to find an open receiver, Rodgers was taken down hard to the ground by defensive end Shea McClellin of the Bears.
The result? A fractured clavicle, which has kept No. 12 out of the lineup ever since. The Packers ended up losing that night to the Bears and have not won since then. The Packers have gone 0-3-1 since that injury to their offensive leader.
The Packers have had to play three other quarterbacks in the absence of Rodgers, and that hasn't happened in over 20 years. Not with Brett Favre and his 253 consecutive starts over 16 seasons, and Rodgers only missing a couple of games (only one to injury) in five-plus years.
It's hard to say when Rodgers will be back from his injury. I suffered the exact same injury once, and it was about a month before my injury healed. It's still less than a month, at this point, for Rodgers since his injury.
But the return of Rodgers is a must if the Packers have any chance of salvaging this season, and also having any success in the postseason, if they are fortunate enough to get there.
Head coach Mike McCarthy made it sound like Rodgers will not be available on Thanksgiving against the Lions, as he commented via Packers.com.
(I) had a meeting with Aaron. He would like to go (against the Lions). Frankly, based on the information where we are as far as the conversation with Aaron, the conversation with the medical staff, I would say he’s slim to none, to give you what I’m thinking. That’s where we are.
McCarthy also talked about what it would take for Rodgers to play.
Let’s be honest, he’s got to practice. There’s some physical rehab hurdles to get through that he hasn’t reached yet. Like I said, it would be a huge stretch for him to play in this game.
Packer Nation will be keeping a close eye on practice Wednesday, to see if Rodgers does indeed practice. The Green Bay season might depend on it.
The Great Start by Running Back Eddie Lacy
At Alabama last season, Lacy rushed for 1,322 yards (6.4 average) and had 17 touchdowns. Plus, the bruising back also caught 22 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
But he was best in big games. In the SEC Championship Game versus Georgia, Lacy ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns, as the Crimson Tide advanced to the BCS title game.
Then, in the BCS National Championship Game versus Notre Dame, Lacy rushed for 140 yards on 20 carries, had a touchdown and also caught two passes for 17 yards and another score, as 'Bama hammered the Irish for their third national title in four years.
Lacy hasn't let up in the NFL either. So far, Lacy has rushed for 806 yards (4.1 yard average) and six touchdowns. Lacy is well on is way to a 1,000-yard season with the Packers, and that is something which hasn't happened since 2009, when Ryan Grant accomplished that.
No. 27 has also rushed for over 100 yards in three games so far this season.
Lacy also has 22 receptions for 158 yards in 2013.
The 5'11", 231-pound Lacy has a very good chance to be the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. If that happens, Lacy would be the first Packer to accomplish that since 1971, over 40 years ago, when running back John Brockington won that same award.
Losing Wide Receiver Randall Cobb for Most of the Season
Much was expected of wide receiver Randall Cobb this season, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers even speculated in training camp that Cobb might be able to catch 100 passes in 2013.
Cobb had a breakout season last year, which was his second in the NFL. Cobb had 25 receptions for 375 yards and a touchdown his rookie year in 2011, but in 2012, Cobb had 80 catches for 854 yards and eight touchdowns.
Cobb had also been the primary return man for the Packers both seasons, and he had been exceptional, with three returns for touchdowns.
The plan was to try and let Cobb focus as a wide receiver this year, and let some other players return kicks.
Cobb was off to a good start this season, as he had 29 receptions for 378 yards and two touchdowns in five games, before he suffered a severe leg injury in the game versus the Baltimore Ravens.
The Packers decided to put Cobb on the injured reserve/designated to return list, which is allowed for only one player per team in the NFL.
Cobb is eligible to return on against the Cowboys in Week 15, and his presence will certainly add another huge weapon to the offensive arsenal for the Packers.
Kicker Mason Crosby Bounces Back
In 2012, kicker Mason Crosby had the worst season of his career. Crosby made just 63.6 percent of his field goals last season, as he was just 21-of-33.
The Packers made it tough for Crosby this offseason, as he had to compete with a number of other kickers for a job, most notably Giorgio Tavecchio.
Plus, Crosby had to re-do his contract to stay a Packer, and he saw his base salary drop from $2.4 million to $800,000 with his new deal in August.
So far in 2013, Crosby has been almost automatic. He has made 25-of-29 field goals (86.2 percent). He also has been very solid from long distance, as he has been 3-of-5 in field goals over 50 yards.
Crosby hit one from 57 yards out against the Giants two weeks ago.
In addition to his field goal prowess, Crosby also converted an onside kick again this year.
Linebacker A.J. Hawk Is Having His Best Season Ever
A.J. Hawk is sort of like Rodney Dangerfield. In that, he gets no respect from some folks. That's what happens when you are the fifth overall selection of the 2006 NFL draft like Hawk was when he came out of Ohio State.
All Hawk did before this year was have 872 tackles, 13.5 sacks, eight interceptions, two forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in his seven seasons in Green Bay. In addition, Hawk had over 100 tackles in six of those seven seasons.
To some onlookers, that was not enough.
Hawk also had to restructure his deal in March just to stay with the team, and he gave up almost $2 million with his new contract.
Hawk is definitely earning his money in 2013, as he is having his best year ever as a Packer. So far, Hawk has 91 tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 11 games.
The linebacker position for the Packers has been decimated by injuries all season long. But one guy is always there. It's No. 50, and he's playing at a high level.
Other Rookies Have Been Solid
Running back Eddie Lacy is certainly at the head of the class for the 2013 rookies on the Packers, due to his brilliant performance running the football thus far this season.
But he is not alone. David Bakhtiari has done a nice job at left tackle, replacing veteran Bryan Bulaga, who went down with a knee injury.
First-round draft pick and defensive end, Datone Jones, was hampered by a sprained ankle in training camp, but he is starting to come around, especially rushing the passer, as he has three sacks.
Running back Johnathan Franklin has been seen mostly on special teams, but he did rush for over 100 yards versus the Bengals in Week 3, when Lacy was unavailable due to a concussion, and James Starks went down with a knee injury.
Defensive back Micah Hyde has become the starting slot-corner on defense and has been exceptional with his tackling for the most part. No. 33 has a sack, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble so far in 2013.
Hyde is also the primary return man for the Packers and has a 93-yard punt return to his credit.
Both Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer made the team as outside linebackers, and they have gotten a lot of playing time due to injuries at the position.
Undrafted wide receiver Myles White has also contributed, as he has eight catches for 61 yards.
The Return of Matt Flynn
But the performance of Flynn in the game reminded people about how he looked as the backup to Aaron Rodgers before he left the team as a free agent after the 2011 season, when he signed a deal with the Seattle Seahawks.
Flynn ended up getting beat out for the starting quarterback position with the Seahawks by Russell Wilson last year. This year, Flynn was with both the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills before being released. The injury situation at quarterback gave him another opportunity in Green Bay.
Before Flynn got his big free-agent contract with the Hawks, he elevated his prowess by throwing six touchdown passes and also threw for 480 yards in the last game of the 2011 season against the Lions at Lambeau Field.
Flynn didn't do quite that on Sunday against the Vikings, but he did complete 21-of-36 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown, as the Packers stormed back to forge a 26-26 tie with the Vikings in a game that went into overtime.
No one is sure who will start for the Packers at quarterback on Thanksgiving Day versus the Lions, but Flynn would like to, as he related via Packers.com.
I don’t know. I would like to start. I definitely want to. But that’s not my decision to make. Whoever’s out there gives us the best chance, whoever the coach feels that is. Whatever happens, I’m here and I do what they tell me to do.
Based on his last game against the Lions as the quarterback of the Packers, Flynn will most likely get that chance if Rodgers can't play again due to his fractured clavicle.
The Growing Injured Reserve List
The 2013 season has been very similar to the 2010 season for the Packers, at least in terms of players going on injured reserve. In 2010, the Packers ended up placing 15 players on that list. Unbelievably, the Packers were still resilient enough to win the Super Bowl that year.
So far this season, the Packers have put 11 players on injured reserve. Plus, the team also has wide receiver Randall Cobb on the injured reserve/designated for return list, which is allowed for only one player per team in the NFL.
It all started on the Family Night scrimmage, when starting left tackle Bryan Bulaga went down with a season-ending knee injury. Since then, other key players have been added to the list.
Players like running back DuJuan Harris, tight end Jermichael Finley, key special teams player Robert Francois and cornerback Casey Hayward.
The team was also very fortunate that quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn't get on the list when he fractured his clavicle on November 4. However, Rodgers has not played since.
Time will tell if the Packers can overcome the injury bug as well as they did in 2010, but there is one other thing in common with that season now.
The Packers not only can't afford to lose any more players; they also can't afford to lose any more games.
Jordy Nelson Has Held the Wide Receiver Corps Together
The wide receiver position for the Packers has been a mess in 2013 because of injuries. Randall Cobb has only played in five games because of a severe leg injury. An injury has him on the short-term injured reserve. James Jones has also missed two games because of a knee injury, which is still hampering him at times.
Second-year receiver Jarrett Boykin has helped out quite a bit in relief, as he has 34 receptions for 513 yards and two touchdowns.
But the wide receiver who has really stood out is Jordy Nelson. Nelson has been available for all 11 games this year and has been very consistent, plus he has made some incredible catches.
For the season, Nelson has 61 receptions for 947 yards and seven touchdowns. That leads the team by a large margin.
And this is with four different quarterbacks throwing the ball. After Aaron Rodgers suffered a fractured clavicle in the game against the Bears, Nelson and his receiving corps have also seen Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn throwing them the football.
Part of the reason why has been the great play of Nelson.
What Happened to the Run Defense?
Just what the heck happened to the run defense of the Packers? Going into their game against the Chicago Bears on November 4, the Packers were fourth in the NFL in run defense, as they were only allowing 83.6 yards a game.
Four games later, games in which the Packers ended up 0-3-1, Green Bay has dropped to 19th in the league, as the Pack is now giving up 115.5 yards per game.
That's a difference of 32 yards per game in just four games. The Packers are also getting gashed at times, like they were on Sunday, when both Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart combined for 237 yards rushing.
It all started in the game versus the Bears, when Matt Forte ran for 125 yards. Then the following week, LeSean McCoy rushed for 155 yards. The Packers were better in Week 11, when they held Andre Brown to just 66 yards rushing.
Bottom line, the Packers have a lot of injuries on defense, but if they don't start stopping the run more effectively, their hopes for winning the NFC North will be chewed up, just like their run defense has been recently.
Where Are the Turnovers?
Say what you want about how effective the defenses put together by defensive coordinator Dom Capers have been in Green Bay, they always get turnovers. At least until this year.
The Packers are tied for dead-last in interceptions this year with just four, plus they have only recovered six fumbles. That's 10 turnovers combined. In 11 games.
The Packers also only have one defensive touchdown this year.
Compare that to the past. In 2009, the first year with Capers running the defense of the Packers, Green Bay led the NFL in picks with 30, plus had 10 fumble recoveries. It also had four defensive touchdowns.
In 2010, the Packers were second in the league in interceptions with 24, plus had eight fumble recoveries. They also had four defensive touchdowns.
In 2011, when the Packers were ranked 32nd in total defense, Green Bay led the NFL in picks with 31, plus had five fumble recoveries. They also added five defensive touchdowns.
Last year, the Packers were tied for eighth in the league with 18 interceptions, plus had five recovered fumbles. They also had two defensive touchdowns.
This needs to change quickly for the Packers. For one, they have to actually catch easy interceptions. I have counted several easy drops already this year.
The good news is that the Packers are tied for first in sacks in the NFL with 37, and this is an area in which quarterbacks can be harassed to throw picks because of pass pressure, or give up the ball on a forced fumble.
There are five games to go in 2013, and the Packers need to get at least two turnovers a game if they expect to be on the winning side of the score.
When Will the Safeties Start Making Some Plays?
You would think that general manager Ted Thompson would make drafting a safety a priority in the 2014 NFL Draft. The play at the position this year has been abysmal.
The Packers only have four interceptions as a team, and none of the safeties on the team have one.
Morgan Burnett signed a contract extension this past offseason, and much was expected of him. But he injured his hamstring in training camp and missed the first three games of the regular season.
Although Burnett is second on the team in tackles with 62, he hasn't gotten a turnover of any kind, plus has missed his fair share of tackles, which has become an epidemic at times for the Packers.
The opposite safety position has been even worse. M.D. Jennings was able to beat out Jerron McMillian as the starter at strong safety but has been largely ineffective. Jennings always seems to be a second or two late in pass coverage, plus he too has had his moments whiffing on tackles. Jennings also has zero passes defended this season.
At least Jennings has the only defensive touchdown of the year, as he scored on a recovered fumble in the game against the Bengals.
So what are the other options? The Packers could give McMillian another shot, but he hasn't been very consistent when he has had an opportunity. Chris Banjo is also an option, as he is a solid tackler for the most part. The Packers also just brought up Sean Richardson from the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list.
Micah Hyde played some safety in college, but with Casey Hayward now on injured reserve, he will get most of the time at the slot-corner position.
If the Packers don't start getting some big plays from their safeties one way or the other, their chances of being successful as a defensive unit are not real good.