The Packers Showed Some Brotherly Love in Philly on Monday Night


When it came to playing football games against the Philadelphia Eagles in the City of Brotherly Love in the past, the Green Bay Packers didn’t usually fare well.

It was like making the wrong turn off of certain parts of legendary South Street in Philadelphia. Trouble was bound to follow.

Case in point, Vince Lombardi was 9-1 in the postseason when he coached the Packers. His teams won five championships in seven years, which included the first two Super Bowls.

The only postseason loss suffered by Lombardi and his Packers? It was to the Eagles in the 1960 NFL title game at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. Though the Packers dominated the game in terms of total yards, the Eagles ended up winning 17-13.

The game ended when fullback Jim Taylor was tackled at the 10-yard line of the Eagles after snaring a pass from Bart Starr.

The Packers came back to Philly two years later in 1962 and whipped the Eagles 49-0. Who would have guessed that it would be 48 years until the Packers would win again in the Liberty Bell city.

Yes, the Packers played in Philly nine times over that time, which included a 2003 NFC Divisional game, and the Packers lost every time. Some of those losses were also quite painful.

Like the 1997 game at old Veterans Stadium, when the defending Super Bowl champion Packers lost 10-9 to the Eagles, when rookie kicker Ryan Longwell missed a chip shot field goal late in the game.

But nothing was worse than the 2003 playoff game against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The winner of that game would go to the NFC title game.

Mike Sherman was the head coach of the Packers at the time and a coaching decision of his would later haunt the Packers.

Green Bay led 17-14 with less than two minutes to go in the game. The Packers had the ball and a 4th-and-inches at the Eagles 40 yard line and Philly had no timeouts.

The Packers had rushed for 210 yards that day, with Ahman Green getting 156 yards himself.  So…what does Sherman decide to do? Go for the throat and end the game right then and there behind an offensive line and running attack that had been gashing the Eagles?


Ahman Green

No. Sherman punted, which led to the famous 4th-and-26 play when Donovan McNabb hit Freddie Mitchell. The Eagles tied the game in regulation and then won in overtime 20-17.

But all that changed in 2010. Not only did the Packers, behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers, beat the Eagles in the season opener, they also came back to defeat the Eagles in a NFC Wild Card game as well.

The Packers took the momentum of that playoff victory in Philly and went on to win Super Bowl XLV.

Which takes us to the game this past Monday night, when the then 4-6 Packers were facing the 5-5 Eagles, who had not lost a home game yet at the “Linc” in 2016.

The game was basically a do or die situation for the Packers, as they went into the game two-and- a-half games behind the NFC North leading Detroit Lions, who now sit with a 7-4 record after their Thanksgiving win against the 6-5 Minnesota Vikings.

The Packers were also on a four-game losing streak and were in real danger of not making the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

Leading up to the game, there was rampant speculation about possible changes in the organization of the Packers by the beat writers of the team. Bob McGinn, Tom Silverstein and Pete Dougherty all wrote about the possible futures of Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers.

Adding to all that, the Packers would be going into the game banged up on the injury front again, but that has been the norm for the 2016 season thus far.

In the game on Monday night, rookie Jason Spriggs would be getting his first NFL start at right guard, replacing the injured T.J. Lang.

The defense would also be playing without both starting inside linebackers, Jake Ryan (ankle) and Blake Martinez (knee), in the game.

The good news was that the secondary, which has been getting thrashed as of late, would be getting back cornerback Demarious Randall.

The Packers needed Randall back on the field, as fellow cornerback Sam Shields, the team’s best corner, has been on injured reserve and hadn’t played since Week 1.

It was announced recently that both Shields and running back Eddie Lacy (also on IR) have been ruled out for the season.

Even with all that negativity swirling around the team, the Packers played their finest game since early in the 2015 season.

It was all for one and one for all.

The Packers were led by Rodgers, who played part of the game with a hamstring strain. You wouldn’t know it by how he played on Monday night.

Rodgers completed 30 of 39 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns without a pick. No. 12 also ran 26 yards. This performance by Rodgers wasn’t really surprising, even while the Packers were on a four-game losing streak.

In those four games, Rodgers threw 12 touchdown passes versus three interceptions for 1,265 yards. His cumulative passer rating for those four games was 103.8.

Still, the Packers lost all four of those games versus the Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins.

The main cause was the play of the defense, with some help via some special team blunders. In the four consecutive losses, the Packers gave up 153 points, or an average of 38 points per game.

For the Packers to beat the Eagles on Monday night in Philly, it would take a team effort, with all three phases of the game chipping in.

And that’s what happened.

As previously mentioned, Rodgers was fantastic. No. 12 led the offense magnificently, as the team held the ball for over 35 minutes in the ball game. Rodgers and the Packers also converted 10-of-14 third down opportunities, plus also converted on fourth down on their only try.

Rodgers spread the ball around efficiently in the passing game. Jordy Nelson had eight receptions for 91 yards, while Randall Cobb had six receptions for 41 yards. But it was Davante Adams who had the big night at wide receiver, as No. 17 had five catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns.


The second touchdown pass Adams caught from Rodgers was a thing of beauty, as No. 12 threw a 20-yard strike to No. 17 in a razor-thin window with the Eagle defender all over Adams.

The Packers tried to stay balanced on offense, as James Starks ran for 41 yards on 17 carries.

The offensive line was superb, as Rodgers was not sacked once.

Just to show you how efficient and productive the offense was in the game, the Packers had two drives in the third and fourth quarters that would put up 30 plays for 153 yards that used almost 15 minutes of the clock.

The defense was solid, as linebacker Clay Matthews played through a shoulder strain after taking a vicious blindside block from former Packer Allen Barbre early in the game. No. 52 ended up with four tackles and a sack.

Randall came back and played well, even with a bad missed tackle of quarterback Carson Wentz of the Eagles as he was running for a first down. No. 23 had six tackles and played decently in coverage in his first game back in several weeks.

As a whole, the defense had a key interception by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the second quarter, plus had four sacks overall. The key was holding the Eagles to just 13 points.

On special teams, the kick coverage was good, Mason Crosby was perfect on two field goals and punter Jacob Schum’s one and only put was for 43 yards and ended up at the one-yard line of the Eagles.

The bottom line is that the Packers rescued their season with their performance on Monday night and now have a 5-6 record. If the team can somehow close the difference to Detroit by one game before the two teams meet in Week 17 at Ford Field, the Packers will be in control of their own destiny in terms of winning the NFC North.

Can that happen? Why not. After all, the last time the Packers won in Philly, the team went on to win it all. They were also brothers in arms then, who also played through a lot of adversity.

The 2010 Packers placed 15 players on injured reserve, plus had to win the last two games of the regular season to just make the playoffs as a Wild Card. Plus, the Packers then had to win three straight road games (Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago) in the postseason just to get to the Super Bowl.

But the Packers persevered and went on to win Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I’m not saying the 2016 Packers are going to do the same thing this year, but I am saying that the team showed me the type of performance on Monday night that I haven’t seen in a long time.

If the Packers play like that down the stretch for the rest of the 2016 season, my guess is that Green Bay will have a real good shot at making the postseason for the eighth consecutive season.

The Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers Both Have an Opportunity to Go Back in Time Soon

gopher-badgers-helmetsAlthough their seasons are going in completely different directions, both the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers can accomplish something soon that hasn’t happened since there was a Roosevelt in the White House.

I’m talking about both Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.

Yes, there will be a lot on the line this upcoming Saturday, when the 9-2 and the fifth-ranked (AP) Badgers host the 8-3 Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. A victory by the Badgers will net the team the B1G West crown, not to mention the 13th consecutive win over the Gophers for the right to own Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

A win then in the B1G title game would most likely put the Badgers in the College Football Playoff.

The series between Wisconsin and Minnesota is the most-played series in FBS history. The series dates back to 1890 and the Badgers and Gophers have met every year since 1907.

Right now, Minnesota leads the series 59-58-8. But because of the current winning streak the Badgers now have in this series, Wisconsin has an opportunity to tie this rivalry series up for the first time since 1901. Yes, you read that right…1901.

Theodore Roosevelt was the President way back then.

Back then, the series was knotted up at six games apiece. And come Saturday, 115 years later, the Badgers can get themselves a huge trifecta.

Bucky and the boys can get the B1G West title, Paul Bunyan’s Axe and  a series-tying win that took 115 years to repeat against their biggest rival.

By the way, Wisconsin has never led in this series.

Speaking of rivals, you can certainly say the same thing about the 4-6 Packers and the 2-8 Chicago Bears. Both teams have seen the 2016 season spiral out of control, mostly due to injuries.

The Packers can perhaps right the ship and make a playoff run, but there are still plenty of icebergs looming ahead in the water over the next six games.

The Packers and Bears have been playing each other in the NFL since 1921. The Bears hold 93-92-6 edge in the regular season, while the teams are 1-1 in the postseason.


The Packers can even up the series if they beat the Monsters of the Midway on December 18 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

It’s been a long, long time since the Packers were tied in this series. It’s been 83 years as a matter of fact. The two teams were tied at 11-11-4 during the 1933 season.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President way back then.

The Packers actually led the series by one game going into the 1933 season, but lost three games against da Bears that season and haven’t been able to catch up ever since.

The Packers have been able to narrow the margin with the Bears over the past two and a half decades thanks to the quarterback play of Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

Favre was 22-10 versus the Bears in his career in Green Bay, while Rodgers has been even better than that. No. 12 is 13-4 against Chicago (plus 1-0 in the NFC title game).

The bottom line for both the Badgers and Packers is simply this; In a span of less than a month, coming up soon, the two teams can tie up the series against their biggest and longest-standing rivals that has taken a combined 198 years or almost two centuries to accomplish.

That’s quite a timely task.

A Scout’s Take on Jordy Nelson and the State of the Green Bay Packers

at Nissan Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Green Bay Packers have lost three games in a row and now sit with a 4-5 record. The play of the Packers in the last two games has been especially disturbing, because the team played with very little energy to begin each one of those games.

In both instances, versus the Indianapolis Colts at Lambeau Field and Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium, the Packers fell behind by double-digit margins before starting to awake from their slumber.

But it was a case of too little, too late in both games. While the offense seemed to get their act together somewhat, the defense couldn’t seem to stop anyone from scoring, as they gave up 78 points in the two games. And if you add in the previous game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, the defense has given up 111 points in three games.

That’s 37 points a game in case you were wondering.

Yes, I know injuries at key positions on both sides of the ball has played a big role in what has been occurring recently with the Packers, but there just aren’t many positives to talk about regarding the team over the past three games.

But one positive has to be the play of wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Nelson is starting to resemble the player he was before he tore his ACL in the 2015 preseason.

In the last three games, Nelson has been targeted 40 times and he has hauled in 23 catches for 314 yards and three touchdowns.

Through nine games this season, Nelson has 50 receptions for 635 yards and eight touchdowns.

Those totals have seen Nelson climb at the ladder in terms of the team record book of the Packers, as Nelson is now fifth in team history with 450 receptions.  Nelson has moved past Greg Jennings (428), Antonio Freeman (431) and Boyd Dowler (448) so far in 2016.

With 39 more catches this season, Nelson will move ahead of the legendary Don Hutson (488).

No. 87 is also now in sixth place in the yards-receiving category with 6,744 yards, having passed Max McGee (6,346), Greg Jennings (6,537) and Antonio Freeman (6,651) this season.

With 175 more yards receiving, Nelson will move past Boyd Dowler (6,918) into fifth place in team annals.

In the past three games, Nelson seems to have regained the swagger in his game like he did in previous years. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has obviously noticed that as well, based on the 40 targets over the past three games.

I wanted to see if my opinion about the the play of Nelson was similar to the views of NFL scout Chris Landry.

I had an opportunity to talk with Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show this past Wednesday.

Landry agreed with me that he has seen steady improvement in Nelson’s game, especially in separating himself from his defenders.

“I think he is getting better,” Landry said speaking of Nelson. “He had trouble separating particularly in the earlier part of the year, but he’s getting better at that. They really need more guys who can get open and the protection has to hold up a little better that can make it all come together.

“I didn’t expect him [Nelson] with his work ethic and his toughness to be anything but gradually getting better. Yes, it’s been a bright spot.”

at Georgia Dome on October 30, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Landry then went on to talk about the state of the NFC North and the Packers.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the NFC North,” Landry said. “I’m not going to stand on the table for any of those teams. I still would look at the Packers and say you’ve got Aaron Rodgers and got to be able to fix part of this running game and I know it’s tough.

“That’s still to me the team to look out for, although every week I’m looking more and more like an idiot. I can’t trust Minnesota with their offensive line issues. I just can’t imagine…if Detroit wins this division, it may cause a lot of hand-wringing and hair-pulling. God bless them.

“We’ll see how this plays out. But this has been a mess. That division has just been a mess.”

There is no doubt about that. Even with the Packers losing three straight games, the team is just one game out of first place in the NFC North, as the once 5-0 Vikings, have now lost four games in a row.

The Lions are tied with the Vikings with a 5-4 mark.

The Packers have seven more games remaining on their schedule this season, including three straight versus NFC North opponents to close out the season.

But for those divisional games to become important, the Packers have to right their ship immediately.

Hopefully for the Packers, that course correction starts this Sunday night versus the 5-3-1 Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

Green Bay Packers: Picking Up Christine Michael on Waivers is No Surprise


Christine Michael

At one of the practices for the 2013 East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Florida, I noticed that Ted Thompson was studying one player quite intently as he went through drills. That player was running back Christine Michael of Texas A&M.

Michael was a physical specimen who flashed all sorts of athletic ability. In the actual East-West Shrine Game, Michael ran for 42 yards and a touchdown in the West’s 28-13 victory over the East. He also had a reception for seven yards.

At the NFL Scouting Combine about a month later, Michael ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash, posted a 43-inch vertical jump, benched 225 pounds 27 times and had a broad jump of 10-feet, 5-inches.

Michael led all running backs with his performance in the vertical leap and broad jump drills.

In college at Texas A&M, rushed for only 417 yards rushing his senior year, but did manage to score 12 touchdowns. Injuries kept Michael from playing full seasons the two previous years (broken tibia in 2010 and a knee injury in 2011). Combined in those two years, Michael had 1,530 yards and 12 touchdowns.

As a freshman, Michael ran for 844 yards, and also scored 10 touchdowns.

In 2013, I was writing for Bleacher Report. I put out a number of mock drafts for the Packers that spring and in one of them I had the Packers selecting Michael.

In another mock draft, I had the Packers selecting Eddie Lacy of Alabama, which is exactly what the Packers did with the 61st pick of the draft in the second round. The next pick coincidentally went to the Seattle Seahawks, who then picked Michael.

In my final mock draft that year, I correctly predicted that the Packers would select defensive lineman Datone Jones of UCLA in the first round. I had the Packers selecting running back Montee Ball of the Wisconsin Badgers in the second round.

Thompson had also gone to the Wisconsin pro day and not only did he study Ball closely, but he also chatted with him for a few minutes.

So going into the 2013 NFL draft, I believed that the Packers were intent on drafting one of three running backs in the second round. Either Ball, Lacy or Michael.

The Packers originally had the 55th selection in the second round of the draft, but traded back to the 61st spot in the draft in a deal with the San Francisco 49ers. With the 58th selection of the draft, the Denver Broncos selected Ball.

When it came time to make their pick at No. 61, the Packers selected Lacy, while Michael went a pick later to the Seahawks.

Lacy had a great first couple of years in Green Bay, as he rushed for 2,317 yards and 20 touchdowns, plus caught 77 passes for 684 yards and four more scores.

No. 27 of the Packers was also named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013, plus made the Pro Bowl.

Even with that, the Packers were still kicking the tires with Ball after he was released by the Broncos in their last cut just before the start of the 2015 season.

The Packers did work out Ball after he was released, but never signed him. The Packers were content with the tandem of Lacy and James Starks at running back last season.


Eddie Lacy

But Lacy regressed a bit due to weight issues and injuries in 2015, as he only rushed for 758 yards and three touchdowns, while catching 20 passes and two more scores.

Starks helped to fill that void, as he rushed for a career-best 601 yards and two touchdowns. No. 44 also caught 43 passes for 392 yards and three scores.

Michael meanwhile, had a very interesting start to his career. Michael backed up Marshawn Lynch in Seattle and didn’t get a lot of lot of opportunities in his first two seasons in the league.

In 2013 and 2014, Michael rushed for 254 yards and did not score a touchdown. Michael didn’t help himself by missing assignments, plus was difficult to coach at times due to maturity issues.

The Seahawks traded Michael to the Dallas Cowboys in 2015, where he played in five games and rushed for 51 yards. But Dallas saw the same issues that plagued Michael in Seattle and released him.

The Seahawks then took another chance on Michael by re-signing him, as he rushed for 192 yards in three games for the Hawks last season.

The 2016 season was a huge opportunity for Michael to shine for the Seahawks. For one, Lynch retired. Secondly, Michael would be competing primarily with Thomas Rawls, who was coming off a season-ending broken ankle in 2015, when he rushed for 830 yards and four touchdowns.

Michael took full advantage of his chance to shine this past preseason, as he ran like a runaway freight train and was very impressive.

No. 32 carried that over to the regular season, as he was having a solid campaign with 469 yards rushing and six touchdowns through nine games. Rawls suffered a leg injury early in the season, which gave Michael the bulk of the carries for the Seahawks, as Rawls has been sidelined since that time.

But over the past couple of games, the Seahawks were giving rookie running back C.J. Prosise more snaps than Michael. It didn’t help matters that Michael also was dealing with a hamstring issue.

And with Rawls getting ready to get back on the playing field and with Prosise performing well in both the running and passing game, the Hawks decided to jettison Michael earlier this week.

The main cause of his release may have been due to assignment errors again and his penchant for immaturity.

No matter, based on the depth chart at running back right now for the Packers, it was easy to see why Thompson would kick the tires on Michael and sign him off waivers.

Lacy was having a promising start this season, when he rushed for 360 yards (5.1 yards per carry average) in five games before going on injured reserve due to an ankle injury which required surgery.

Right around that same time, Starks had undergone a minor procedure on his knee which would keep him out of action for a month or so.

That meant the options at running back were undrafted rookie Don Jackson and wide receiver Ty Montgomery, who had played some running back at times at Stanford.

It’s no wonder why Thompson made a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs to bring in Knile Davis for a conditional seventh-round draft pick.

Davis (Arkansas) was also part of that running back class in the 2013 NFL draft. Davis, like Michael, had shown excellent athletic ability at the combine, where he ran a 4.37 in the 40, plus had a whopping 31 reps in the bench press.

But after a short stay with Green Bay, where Davis had only five yards rushing in five attempts and had two catches for four yards, the Packers released him.

Meanwhile, Jackson injured his hand in his first game with the Packers, while Montgomery shined in running the ball and especially catching the ball out of the backfield. In games versus the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts, No. 88 rushed for 113 yards on just 16 carries, plus caught 13 passes for 104 yards.

But unfortunately for Montgomery, he also missed a Week 8 game due to a sickle-cell illness.

In Week 10, Starks returned to action at running back and received most of the snaps there, as he rushed for 33 yards in seven carries, plus caught three passes for 11 yards and a touchdown.


James Starks

Although Lacy is eligible to come off injured reserve and return to the team in Week 15, some recent reports say Lacy may not be able to return until January, which is after the regular season is over.

That is a big reason why Thompson jumped at the chance to bring in a back he really liked out of college. But there are a couple more reasons as well. For one, Michael is only due $280,000 for the rest of the 2016 season. Secondly, the Packers will be facing the Seahawks in a key NFC matchup in Week 14 at Lambeau Field.

You can be sure that the Packers will have Michael discuss the offensive tendencies of the Seahawks with the coaching staff.

Right now I see Starks as the bell cow at running back for the rest of the season if he can remain healthy. Montgomery will also get some opportunities there as well, plus Michael will get his share of reps too. Jackson was put on IR due to a knee injury suffered just before the waiver pickup of Michael.

But whether Michael stays on the team for the rest of the 2016 season or is given a quick release like Davis, depends solely on him.

Michael has all the physical skills that one would want in a running back. It’s the mental acuity of the game which has caused him issues in his short time in the NFL.

If Michael finally figures out how to match his excellent athletic ability with the thinking part of the game, then Thompson and the Packers would have gotten themselves a valuable asset for the football team.

The Recent Play of the Packers Has Been Pathetic


Pathetic. That is the word that best describes the recent play of the 4-5 Green Bay Packers, who have now lost three straight games.

Yes, I know the Packers have been hit hard by a number of key injuries, but that is the way of the NFL, so one has to be prepared for that scenario.

The players on the 53-man roster of the Packers should be worried about their employment status. I know I would be if I did my job as poorly as the overall team has performed recently.

The players aren’t the only ones who should be concerned. General manager Ted Thompson should really be bothered about what has taken place recently on the field. Head coach Mike McCarthy, defensive coordinator Dom Capers and everyone else on the coaching staff should have the same concern.

This is definitely gut-check time.

One should not feel very good after the defense of the Packers has given up 111 points in three games like they have. Or when a defense allows a team like the Tennessee Titans to score 35 points and have over 300 total yards in the first half on Sunday. That is unacceptable.

Capers’ seat should be a tad warm this morning. Yes, I know Clay Matthews didn’t play. Nor did Sam Shields and Damarious Randall, but that still is no excuse.

Capers and the rest of the defensive coaching staff are not getting their teaching points across to the players. That was obvious by the play on Sunday against the Titans. The defense was truly offensive.

Part of the blame has to be laid at the feet of Thompson as well. Every year the Packers are among the youngest teams in the NFL. Thompson does not use pure free agency very often, but instead uses the draft and also brings in a number of street free agents or undrafted rookies.

In normal years, those players can learn the ropes of the NFL via special teams while they get acclimated to the league. But 2016 has not been a normal year for the Packers due to all their injuries. A number of the undrafted rookies this year are getting significant playing time.

And it’s showing. Looking good in training camp doesn’t mean a player will perform the same way on a Sunday in the regular season when he is going against the top unit of a NFL team, not versus the second or third string like in preseason games.

The performance of the offense has also been very uneven. In the last two games, the overall stat line has been solid, but most of that has occurred in “garbage time” when the team was forced to play catch-up after a slow start by the offense and the dismal effort by the defense.

Special teams has also been a disaster the past couple of weeks. Allowing kickoff returns for touchdowns and fumbling a punt at a key moment of the game is definitely not what special teams coordinator Ron Zook is looking for from his units.

The organization of the Packers have created this unsettling situation by raising such a high bar for the franchise. Since the Thompson/McCarthy era began in 2006, the team has gone 104-55-1 in the regular season, which includes eight playoff appearances, five NFC North titles and one Super Bowl win.

Going into the 2016 season, the Packers were considered to be among the favorites to play in the Super Bowl from the NFC. Currently in the NFC, nine of the 16 teams in the conference have a better record than the Packers, while three teams are also 4-5.

Fortunately for the Packers, the once 5-0 Minnesota Vikings have dropped four straight games, which means that the Packers only trail them and the Detroit Lions by one game in the NFC North.

The Packers will get an opportunity to play all of of their divisional rivals (including the Chicago Bears) in December/January in the last three games of the season. Currently the Packers have a 2-1 record in the division.

The key point is being in contention when those games take place. Right now, I’m not sure that will be the case. The Packers are 9-12 in their last 21 games. Something is definitely amiss.

The Packers better get it figured out quickly, as the team has two straight road games on national television upcoming, when they play the Washington Redskins on Sunday night football (NBC) on November 20 and then the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night football (ESPN) on November 28.

If the Packers continue to look like they have played as of late, the drum beat of change will be beating very loudly.

This is not to say the team can’t turn this around. Aaron Rodgers is still one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. Is he playing as well as he did in his NFL MVP years? No, but he’s still better than most.

Overall, the offense has to find an identity. Not to mention consistency.


The wheels have definitely fallen off on the defense. When Matthews and Randall return, things should get better. But still, the defense is looking a lot like Swiss cheese. Lots of holes. Capers better figure out a way to fill those holes. Quickly.

Sometimes special teams can help out the offensive and defensive units by making a difference in the game with their play. That has not been the case for the Packers. The kicking and punting game have been okay, but the return and coverage units have been a big issue recently.

There is no doubt that the situation has to be fixed fast. Getting wins in the nation’s capitol and in the City of Brotherly Love will be a good start.

Based on what I have seen over the past couple of games, the odds of the Packers winning those game are pretty ominous.

That being said, in the McCarthy regime, the team has overcome adversity on a number of occasions. This current dilemma has to be the toughest situation that the team has had to overcome since Thompson hired McCarthy to become head coach in 2006.

Bottom line, it’s time to put up or shut up for the Packers. Otherwise, expect a number of people who work at 1265 Lombardi Avenue in Green Bay to be looking elsewhere for employment soon.

That too, is life in the NFL.

Jerry Kramer Talks About Doug Hart


Doug Hart of the Packers looks to tackle Bob Hayes of the Cowboys.

One of the strengths of the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s under head coach Vince Lombardi was the defensive secondary of the team.

Two of the members of that secondary, cornerback Herb Adderley and safety Willie Wood, have been recognized for their great play by being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In the 1966 and 1967 seasons, Adderley and Wood were joined by safety Tom Brown, along with conerback Bob Jeter.

A key reserve for the secondary on those two teams was Doug Hart, who played both cornerback and safety in his career with the Packers.

Hart started at cornerback in 1965 and then played a reserve role for the next three seasons. From 1969 through 1971, Hart started at strong safety before he retired from football after the ’71 season.

Like Wood, Hart was not drafted. He was signed by the then St. Louis Cardinals in 1963 before being released. Hart went home to Arlington, Texas and got a job at Bell Helicopters.

Right around that very same time in mid-August, the Packers were in Dallas to play the Cowboys in a preseason game. The Packers contacted Hart and had him tryout for the team by practicing that week and by playing in that game.

Hart made enough of an impression to be signed to the team’s taxi squad for the ’63 season.

I had an opportunity to talk with Hart this past week and he reflected about how he became a Packer.

“The Packers came to Dallas to play the Cowboys in a preseason game,” Hart recalled. “Pat Peppler (personnel director) of the Packers called and told me that Green Bay wanted me to try out.

“I also had to meet Coach Lombardi, who was at the team hotel. I told Coach that I didn’t want to try out and get cut again. Lombardi said, ‘Okay. Let’s see what you can do.’

“I played in the last quarter of the preseason game and did okay. After the game, Phil Bengtson (defensive coordinator) came up to me and said, ‘We want you to come back to Green Bay with us.’

“That’s how it all started.”

In 1964, Hart made the actual roster and played behind a cornerback who also went to Texas-Arlington. That player was Jesse Whittenton.

After Whittenton retired after that season, Hart became a starter at right cornerback in 1965, when he had four interceptions. The Packers won the first of three straight NFL titles that season.

In his career with the Packers, Hart picked off 15 passes, three of which were returned for touchdowns. No. 43 also recovered five fumbles and also returned one of those for a score. Hart also scored another touchdown after a blocked kick, plus also had a safety in his last year with the Packers in 1971.

One of the players who associated with Hart quite often while he was with the Packers was guard Jerry Kramer. Hart would often hunt and fish with No. 64, plus was part of the gang who used to play poker as often as possible.

I also talked with Kramer recently and he shared some of his memories about his time with Hart back in the day.

“We called him Little Brother,” Kramer said speaking of Hart. “Anything you wanted to do, he wanted to do it with you. If you wanted to go bow-hunting, he wanted to go bow-hunting. If you wanted to go fishing, he would go fishing with you. If you wanted to go golfing or shotgunning or whatever the hell you wanted to do, Doug wanted to go.”

That also included being part of the poker club.

“Doug was one of the regulars,” Kramer said. “The group included Fuzzy and I, Ski (Bob Skoronski), Ron Kostelnik, Tommy Joe Crutcher and Lee Roy Caffey. It was different guys at different times, but that was the base.

“I bought a poker table after the first Super Bowl. It was a beautiful oak poker table with seven chairs. I still have the table in my basement at home.


Doug Hart, Vince Lombardi and Bob Skoronski at the end of Super Bowl I.

“Coach Lombardi arranged our lives so it seemed like we didn’t have more than an hour free. We would play poker when we got on the plane. Most planes at that time had a table in the back of the plane and that’s where we played when we would fly to away games. Sort of like a cocktail table I guess.

“Just the poker players would sit there. Jim Taylor played quite a bit with us too. So we would get to our destination and get on the bus and play poker until we got to the stadium to practice. Then we would get on the bus to the hotel and play poker again. And then at the hotel we would go to somebody’s room and play poker again until dinner time.

“Dinner was at 6:00 or 6:30 and Coach would have a meeting like from 7:30 to 9:00. Because curfew was at 11:00, we didn’t usually go out anywhere, but instead usually played poker again.

“Everyone had a little saying at the poker table as well. Little Brother (Hart) used to say, ‘My daddy used to say stick and play and it’s bound to pay.’ And we would say, your daddy’s right, put your money in and stick around as long as you can!”

Hart was also a great teammate. The mantra of those great Packer teams of the ’60s was all for one and one for all. Fuzzy Thurston proved that when he was coaching up Gale Gillingham after Thurston had injured his knee and Gillingham became a starter at left guard in the 1967 season.

Hart did the same thing in 1966, when Jeter became the starter at right cornerback.

Kramer recalled that situation.

“Doug would sit besides Jeter when we would watch film, just like Fuzzy did with Gilly in ’67,” Kramer said. “They would discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the various receivers. What to look out for in this formation and that this guy liked to do this and that guy liked to do that. Doug just opened up his mind and gave it all to Jeter.”

Hart also recalled that scenario.

“Bobby was really a great player,” Hart said. “He could move easily and he was aggressive. Bobby was also intelligent and he was just made for the job. It was easy to help him out.”

Even though Hart was not a starter in 1966, I was at one of the games when Hart returned an interception for a touchdown that season. The Packers were taking on the expansion Atlanta Falcons at Milwaukee County Stadium. The Packers throttled the Falcons 56-3, as Hart returned a pick for 40 yards and a score in that game.

That was also the game where another Texan, rookie running back Donny Anderson, returned a punt for 77 yards and a score.


The Texas contingent of the Packers. From left to right, Max McGee, Doug Hart, Forrest Gregg, Donny Anderson, Lee Roy Caffey and Tommy Joe Crutcher.

Hart and Kramer still get together on occasion. That includes time hunting, fishing and golfing. Kramer who lives in Boise, Idaho, often gets to Green Bay, where he sometimes connects with Hart, who lives now in the Minneapolis area.

“Doug and I have been going fishing for the past six or seven years,” Kramer said. “We’ve fished in Florida, we’ve fished in Idaho and also in Wisconsin. In fact, Doug is supposed to be coming out to Idaho late in November or early December for some steelhead fishing.”

Kramer and Hart have been friends for 53 years now. That friendship blossomed under the watch of Coach Lombardi and still lasts to this day.

Hart talked about that brotherhood that grew among the players who also became multiple champions in their sport.

“We had a great comradery as players,” Hart said. “It all started with Coach Lombardi. We enjoyed playing together and we also enjoyed hanging around together off the field. It was truly an enjoyable time in my life. And it still is.”

A Scout’s Take on Wisconsin’s Chances of Being in the College Football Playoff


After their victory over Northwestern and the loss by Nebraska to Ohio State last week, the 7-2 Wisconsin Badgers now control their own destiny in the B1G West for the remainder of the 2016 season. The Badgers, who are ranked No. 7 in both polls, plus are also ranked seventh in the Playoff Rankings, can make it to the B1G Championship Game by winning their last three games of the season versus Illinois (home), Purdue (away) and Minnesota (home).

Wisconsin has been led by their defense all season, especially with the play of their talented group of linebackers. The linebacker play has been stellar all season, even with the loss of inside linebacker Jack Cichy for the season due to a torn pectoral muscle and injuries which have affected both T.J. Watt (shoulder) and Vince Biegel (foot) at outside linebacker.

The Badgers are currently ranked 11th in total defense, fifth in rushing defense and tied for third in scoring defense.

The offense is still a work in progress, especially with Alex Hornibrook, who has six touchdown passes versus seven interceptions for 1,040 yards and Bart Houston, who has three touchdown passes versus three picks for 680 yards, sharing snaps at quarterback, but the ground game is steadily getting better.

In the last four games against Ohio State, Iowa, Nebraska and Northwestern, the Badgers have averaged 204.3 yards per game. Corey  Clement (805 yards rushing and seven touchdowns) has led the way, as he has averaged 121.5 yards per game in the last four weeks.

The running game has also been bolstered by solid contributions by Dare Ogunbowale (350 yards and two touchdowns) and Bradrick Shaw (227 and two touchdowns).

Wide receiver Jazz Peavy has also been very instrumental in helping out the success of the running game, via the jet sweep and reverse plays, as he has rushed for 175 yards for the season, which included a 46-yard score last week against Northwestern.

Peavy also has 31 receptions for 481 and three touchdowns. Tight end Troy Fumagalli also has 31 catches for 381 yards and a score. Wide receiver Robert Wheelwright has 28 receptions for 388 and one touchdown.

The kicking game of Wisconsin has been a little uneven. The Badgers were very solid at the beginning of the season with Rafael Gaglianone as their placekicker, as he connected on seven field goals in eight attempts. But after a back injury ended Gaglianone’s season, the kicking duties have gone to Andrew Endicott.

Endicott has been a bit inconsistent, as he has made eight out of 13 field goal attempts, plus missed a key extra point in overtime versus Nebraska that fortunately didn’t turn out to hurt the Badgers. The good news is that Endicott has a big leg, plus head coach Paul Chryst shows a lot of confidence in him and is not afraid to give him opportunities in the kicking game.

The punting game was also inconsistent earlier in the season, but lately freshman punter Andrew Lotti has been very good, especially in pinning back opponents inside their own 20.

With the Badgers now being ranked No. 7 in the Playoff Rankings and with a solid chance of playing in the B1G Championship Game, I wanted to get the take of NFL scout Chris Landry about whether the Badgers had a chance to be in the the college playoff if they were able to beat either Michigan or Ohio State for the B1G Championship.

I was able to talk with Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show this past Wednesday.

Before I talked with Landry, he talked with Duemig about the college playoff possibilities.

“I see five teams who control their destiny,” Landry said. “That is, if they win out they are in. They would be Michigan and Ohio State, who will play each other. The winner is going to be in. Alabama, Clemson and Washington are the others. If they win out, they are in.

“There is nothing anyone else can do to jump them in my mind. But when we have a loss by one of those teams, that will open the door for some other possibilities who could jump in.”

When I talked to Landry, I asked if Wisconsin was fortunate enough to defeat either Michigan or Ohio State in the B1G Championship Game, whether they would be in the college playoff.

“As I mentioned about Wisconsin, that if they win out and win the Big Ten title, then no, there are not absolutely in, but are in position,” Landry said. “Now if they do knock off Michigan or Ohio State, then yes [it would be good], but would it absolutely put them over Louisville?

“I would probably think so and would vote [that way]. But you don’t know definitely, which is why I put the five teams where I did who control their destiny, as opposed to teams like Wisconsin, Louisville and Auburn needing a little bit of help.”

But it’s first things first for the Badgers. Step No. 1 is taking care of Illinois at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday. After that, the Badgers have to take care of business on the road at Purdue and then finish off the season in Madtown in the Paul Bunyan Axe game versus  Minnesota.

If the Badgers win all three of those games, then they are in the B1G title game. And no matter who they play in that championship game, it will be a monumental task to get a victory.

But if the Badgers were fortunate enough to win the Big Ten title, like Landry, I would think that would be enough to get them into the Final Four of the college football playoff.

A Scout’s Take on Whether Mike McCarthy of the Packers is on the Hot Seat


When the Green Bay Packers lost their second straight game to the Indianapolis Colts at Lambeau Field this past Sunday, which put their season record at 4-4, some speculation about the future of head coach Mike McCarthy started circulating.

Why? Losing and playing badly at Lambeau doesn’t help matters. For the second time in less than a month, the Packers lost two games at their storied stadium in which they were favorites and then went out and promptly laid an egg in terms of their performance on the field.

It’s one thing to lose to the Dallas Cowboys like the Packers did at home on October 16, as the Boys appear to be one of the top teams in the NFC this season, but to lose to the Colts as a seven-point favorite is another matter.

Just the previous week, the Colts had been drubbed at home 30-14 by the Kansas City Chiefs. Losing at home as a big favorite is becoming a habit for the Packers. Last year the Packers lost at home to the Detroit Lions (10 ½-point favorite) and the Chicago Bears (nine-point favorite) in November last season.

Those two losses were key reasons why the Packers failed to win the NFC North last year for the fifth consecutive year, as they finished a game behind the Minnesota Vikings. To add icing on the cake, the Packers lost to the Vikings at home last season in Week 17, when the Packers still could have won the division title with a victory.

The Packers are 2-2 so far this season at Lambeau. In 2015, the Packers were almost unbeatable at home in the first part of the season as they were 5-0 at Lambeau, but lost their last three to the Lions, Bears and Vikings, all divisional rivals, to finish 5-3.

That means that the Packers have a 2-5 record at Lambeau in their last seven games. That type of performance will surely get some unwanted attention, not only to the coaching staff, but to the team as a whole.

In McCarthy’s tenure as head coach coming into last season, the Packers were 54-17-1 at Lambeau in nine seasons. Not only that, if you throw out the 4-3-1 mark in the the 2013 season when Aaron Rodgers missed half of the season with a broken collarbone, the Packers were 29-4 in the previous six seasons at the stadium on Lombardi Avenue.

But with the latest loss to the Colts, people in the media like Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, were speculating that McCarthy was firmly on the hot seat. I don’t see it that way, at least for now.

I wanted to see if my read on the situation was in line with the opinion of NFL scout Chris Landry.

I had another opportunity to speak with Landry on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show on Wednesday.

Landry did not believe McCarthy is in any danger of losing his job, but he did see a major problem in the passing game of the Packers.

“I don’t think Mike is in any trouble,” Landry said. “Certainly we’ll see how the rest of this season evolves. But when I watch this Packers team, I see nobody open.  Nobody is getting open. There is no separation.

“To me, it’s not a coaching issue and it’s not that they [the receivers] are running the wrong routes. That tells me that there are personnel  deficiencies there. They just aren’t getting it done.

“I can’t really see the problem as being lack of effort. They don’t claim that it is [the problem]. Of course, they rarely do. We’ll just have to see. I think they are being challenged internally. They know where some of the problems are. I think how they respond will determine Mike’s fate there.

“I expect them to be back and I think Mike is a good coach. He has certainly been there awhile. Ted [Thompson] is not a reactionary guy, nor is Mark [Murphy]. Listen, it’s really hard to say at this point. A lot of people throw that out when you are struggling. This guy is on the hot seat and that guy is on the hot seat.

“Everybody is on the hot seat. Now is he [McCarthy] in danger of getting fired? If you crater towards the end of the season, then certainly there is an issue there. But I still wouldn’t count out Green Bay in the North with the Vikings’ problems. I don’t see the Lions being able to sustain.

“We’ll just have to see how the rest of this season plays out. But they have to fix some things in the offseason and I think some of the personnel issues are really standing out.”


Landry’s response about whether McCarthy is on the hot seat also points toward some of the personnel decisions made by Thompson, who of course is the team’s general manager. Landry has known Thompson since back in the days when Thompson was a reserve linebacker for the Houston Oilers.

But before personnel changes can be made in the offseason, there is still the rest of the 2016 season to be played. And based on the track record of the Thompson/McCarthy combination in the past, all is not certainly lost.

Going into this season, that duo had put together a 104-55-1 record in 10 seasons, which is good for a .653 winning percentage.  That also included eight playoff appearances (which is seven straight currently), five NFC North titles, and one Super Bowl title.

The biggest problem which is hurting the team this season is a common dilemma that has happened in the past in the Thompson/McCarthy regime.

That would be injuries.

It’s tough to win when your defense is playing without the team’s top three cornerbacks on the field, which has been the case for a number of games. It’s also very difficult to win when your top pass-rusher (Clay Matthews) is not able to play, which has been the case recently.

The offense has had it’s share of injury issues as well. The Packers have had to play the past three games without either Eddie Lacy or James Starks at running back. The Packers have been leaning on wide receiver Ty Montgomery to take the bulk of the running game carries.

The offense has also been without tight end Jared Cook since Week 3, when he sprained an ankle against the Lions. Cook was the one and only free agent who Thompson signed this offseason. It was hoped that Cook’s seam-stretching ability would enhance matchup issues across the board for opposing defenses this season.

Both Starks and Cook practiced on Wednesday and the team is hopeful both will be able to play on Sunday versus the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.

This has happened before for the Packers under McCarthy. The Packers had 15 players who went to the IR (injured reserve) in 2010. That included their starting tight end (Jermichael Finley), their starting running back (Ryan Grant), their starting right tackle (Mark Tauscher), one of their starting inside linebackers (Nick Barnett) and one of their starting safeties (Morgan Burnett). Still, the Packers went on to win Super Bowl XLV.

The team has also weathered slow starts and finished strong under McCarthy. The team was also 4-4 and had just lost to the then win-less Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009, when the team had a players-only meeting and went 7-1 the rest of the season to finish 11-5 and make the playoffs as a wild card team.

In 2010, the team was 8-6 and had to win their last two games to make the playoffs. The team did just that and went on to win the Super Bowl.

Bottom line, there is still half of the season to be played. The Packers are only one game out of first place in the NFC North and will play all of their divisional opponents one more time before the season is over.

When the season is truly over, not to mention the postseason, then it will be the time to determine whether the job status of McCarthy is really in danger.

A Scout’s Take on the Wisconsin vs. Northwestern B1G West Matchup


After winning two straight key B1G West games versus the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the 6-2 (3-2) Wisconsin Badgers will attempt to take down another obstacle on Saturday, when they face the 4-4 (3-2) Northwestern Wildcats in Evanston.

With a win against Northwestern and also with a loss by Nebraska against Ohio State at Columbus, the Badgers will be in the driver’s seat in terms of being the favorite to win the B1G West. The Badgers would then hold tie-breakers over Nebraska, Iowa and Northwestern.

There is also another team in the mix for the B1G West. That would be the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who like Wisconsin is 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the Big Ten. The Badgers, who are ranked No. 8 in both polls as well as in the playoff rankings, will host Minnesota in the final game of the season at Camp Randall on November 26.

That game will not only be for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, but a lot more could be at stake for the Badgers.

That would be a chance to play in the B1G Championship Game versus either Ohio State or Michigan.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Beating the Wildcats in Evanston will not be easy. The Badgers haven’t won there since 1999. Northwestern always plays Wisconsin tough it seems.

The Wildcats got off to a slow start this season, which included a loss to Illinois State at Ryan Field in Evanston, but it looks as if the ship has been righted under the leadership of head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Northwestern won three straight games against Iowa, Michigan State and Indiana, before losing narrowly to Ohio State on the road last Saturday.

Looking at Northwestern statistically, the Wildcats wouldn’t appear to be much of a threat to the Badgers. After all, Northwestern is ranked just 88th in total offense in the FBS, while being ranked just 73rd in total defense.

But you better not sleep on the Wildcats, especially when quarterback Clayton Thorson has the ball. Thorson has thrown 15 touchdown passes versus six interceptions for 1,942 yards.

Thorson has also run for 130 yards and four touchdowns. But the big running threat for Northwestern is Justin Jackson, who has run for 868 yards and six scores.

Austin Carr is the big receiving threat for the Wildcats, as he has 58 catches for 878 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Wildcats will be facing a very good Wisconsin defense. The Badgers are ranked 10th in the FBS in total defense, third in scoring defense, 12th in rushing defense and 23rd in passing yards allowed.

The defense of the Badgers is led by their talented set of linebackers, which lost inside linebacker Jack Cichy for the season a couple of weeks back due to a pectoral muscle tear. Cichy was having a fantastic season and has been named as a Butkus Award semi-finalist.

Fortunately for the Badgers, the team has a lot of depth at the linebacker position. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt leads the Badgers with seven sacks. Watt injured his shoulder against Nebraska last Saturday, but is not on the injury list released by Wisconsin on Thursday.

The offense of the Badgers is scuffling a bit at the quarterback position, as both Alex Hornibrook (6-7-948) and Bart Houston (3-3-629) are getting snaps each game. Head coach Paul Chryst has opted to start Hornibrook against Northwestern after having Houston finish the overtime win last week against Nebraska.

The running game is not scuffling however. Corey Clement has rushed for 699 yards this season and has scored six touchdowns. Clement has rushed for 380 yards in the past three games versus Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska.


Corey Clement

Dare Ogunbowale has also been very effective toting the rock, as he has rushed for 338 yards and two scores. That includes rushing for 120 yards and the game-winning score against Nebraska last week.

The three big receiving threats for the Badgers are Troy Fumagalli (29-351-1), Jazz Peavy (27-408-3) and Robert Wheelwright (25-353-1).

With this big game looming in the B1g West, it’s always a pleasure to gain some insight from NFL scout Chris Landry.

I wasn’t able to speak with Landry like I normally do each week, but I did check out his preview of the Wisconsin-Northwestern game on his great website.

Here is Landry’s take on the game:

Northwestern has been a thorn in the Wisconsin side over the last two years.

The Badgers turned it over five times in last year’s 13-7 loss – despite badly outplaying the Wildcats – and gave it away four times in 2014 in another game they should’ve had.

In 2010, Wisconsin slipped by Northwestern 70-23 thanks to seven takeaways. The two didn’t play again until 2013. In the last three meetings, the Badgers are a ridiculous -11 in turnover margin. This year’s Bucky team can’t misfire on its opportunities and get away with them against these Wildcats.

Northwestern has played really, really well over the last month, going on a three-game winning streak before pushing Ohio State in Columbus.

The team isn’t getting hit with bad penalties, it’s moving the chains just fine, the special teams have been strong, and it’s not turning the ball over in bunches. However, what it’s not doing is scoring enough when it gets its chances in the red zone.

The Badgers couldn’t put away Ohio State, struggled to get through the Iowa game, and gave Nebraska every opportunity to stay alive. Over the last three games, missed kicks and failed drives have been a major problem for a team that doesn’t explode offensively.

The two defenses have been terrific, and now the improved Wildcat run defense has to stop a boosted Wisconsin running game that found the fire again after sputtering over the first half of the season.

But the defense is banged up with the linebacking corps losing Jack Cichy for the season and with T.J. Watt’s shoulder among other issues for a group that keeps on producing, but it losing bodies left and right. That’ll be a problem against an efficient Northwestern offense that’s starting to roll thanks to QB Clayton Thorson.

Can the 1-2 punch of Thorson and RB Justin Jackson be enough to get past a Badger team that might be this win away from rolling through the rest of the Big Ten schedule?

Wisconsin won’t have the big turnover problems this time around, but issues with the kicking game will prove costly. Northwestern will hang around for a full four quarters, but unlike the last two seasons, it won’t find a way to pull it off. It won’t be pretty, but the Badgers will survive and advance.
——————————-Wisconsin 27, Northwestern 21—————

Zeke Bratkowski Talks About Aaron Rodgers and the Offense of the Packers


This Sunday the 4-3 Green Bay Packers will be hosting the 3-5 Indianapolis Colts at Lambeau Field. This game will be only the ninth time the two teams have met in the regular season since the Colts moved to Indianapolis from Baltimore.

Overall, the Colts lead the all-time series 21-20-1 with the Packers. Since the Colts moved to Indianapolis, the Colts have won five of the eight games that they have played against the Packers. That includes the only time Aaron Rodgers of the Packers and Andrew Luck have faced each other playing quarterback.

Luck and the Colts beat Rodgers and the Packers 30-27 in 2012 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Rodgers had a nice game, as he threw three touchdown passes versus one interception for 235 yards. No. 12 also ran for 57 more yards in that contest.

Luck attempted 55 passes, completing 31, as he threw two touchdown passes versus one pick for 362 yards. Luck also ran for 24 yards on the ground, including a three-yard touchdown run.

Looking back at the history of the Packers and the Colts, the  most famous game between the two teams was the 1965 Western Conference Championship game at Lambeau Field.

I wrote about that game earlier this summer after talking with former Green Bay quarterback Zeke Bratkowski. The former Georgia Bulldog star, who also wore No. 12 just like Rodgers is currently, had to come into that classic game in relief of Bart Starr, as No. 15 was injured on the first play of the game.

Bratkowski threw for 248 yards in that game, as the Packers won 13-10 in overtime. The game was controversial because a number of observers felt that kicker Don Chandler had missed the game-tying field goal late in regulation.

Bratkowski was sure that the refs were correct in saying that the kick was good.

“The field goal was good,” Bratkowski said. “The reason I say that is Bart and I were both holders. If he was hurt and couldn’t hold on kicks, I would hold. In practice, the quarterback who wasn’t holding would be under the goal posts catching the kicks, just like in that game.

“But with those short goal posts, unless you were under them, you couldn’t tell if a kick was good or not. And that’s were the officials were when they said the kick was good.”

I had another opportunity to talk with Bratkowski this week and I wanted to get his take on the play of Rodgers and the offense of the Packers in general as of late.

“The running back injuries to [Eddie] Lacy and [James] Starks can really effect how productive the offense will be,” Bratkowski said. “Without them, you really can’t utilize the play-action pass.

“I have to congratulate Coach McCarthy for spreading out the offense because of the injuries at running back. The offense has really been effective since he has done that.”


There is no doubt about that. In the past two games, Rodgers has put together two of his best efforts in the past year or so. Versus the Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons, Rodgers has thrown seven touchdown passes without tossing an interception for 572 yards. That adds up to a cumulative passer rating of 113.7, as he has two straight games of having a passer rating of over 100.

Having a passer rating of over 100 used to be the norm for Rodgers until the 2015 season. In fact, Rodgers had six straight seasons of having a passer rating of over 100 up until last season. In addition to that, Rodgers is the No. 1 quarterback in NFL history with a career mark of 103.6 based on 1,500 pass attempts.

Russell Wilson (100.5) of the Seattle Seahawks is the only other QB with a career mark of over 100 in NFL history.

But starting last season, the passing game of Rodgers and the Packers started to struggle somewhat.

At first glance, looking at the 2015 season Rodgers put together for the Packers, it looked fairly normal.

Why? Because Rodgers threw 31 touchdown passes compared to just eight picks last season. That was very comparable to what No. 12 did over the previous six seasons.

But when you peel back the onion, one can see a number of declining stats.

The yards passing for the season was one red flag. Rodgers threw for just 3,821 yards last season, which was the lowest of his career, based on a full season.

In addition to that, Rodgers also only threw for an average of 239 yards per game in 2015. That is a steep decline based on the previous six seasons which averaged 279 yards per game.

The passer rating also went way down. In 2015, the passer rating of Rodgers was just 92.8, which was the lowest of his career since he became a starter in 2008.

One of the big reasons for the decline of the overall statistics of Rodgers was the season-ending ACL injury suffered by wide receiver Jordy Nelson in the preseason. That, plus the fact that the Rodgers wasn’t given a lot of help by his younger receivers. Namely Davante Adams.

No. 17 struggled with lingering ankle issues for a number of games last season. But that doesn’t excuse the number of dropped passes, running the wrong routes at times and the overall lack of production.

Adams ended up with just 50 catches for 483 yards and one touchdown.

Zeke in Super Bowl II

Zeke Bratkowski in Super Bowl II.

Bratkowski talked about that situation.

“It takes awhile for quarterbacks to get into a rhythm with young receivers,” Bratkowski said. “The ability to run a concise pattern is really a work of art. If the receiver is not where he is supposed to be really creates issues for the quarterback.

“Plus the loss of Jordy really hurt last year. And you can see that it has taken him awhile this season to get back to where he was before the injury. But he’s coming along just fine.”

The lack of production from last year ran into the early part of this season as well for the passing game. Going into the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field in Week 3, Rodgers had gone 14 straight games without achieving a passer rating of over 100.

But in the game against the Lions, which was also the alumni game in which Bratkowski and so many former Packers greats attended, Rodgers threw four touchdown passes without tossing a pick for 205 yards. No. 12’s passer rating in the game was 129.3.

And with the two straight games of having a passer rating over 100 in Week’s 7 and 8, Rodgers looks to be back on track.

Nelson is looking like his old self again in the deep passing game, at least based on what he did against the Falcons last week. For the season, Nelson has 31 receptions for 415 yards and six touchdowns.

Adams is also having a great bounce-back season and is becoming a huge threat in the passing game. No. 17 has 40 receptions for 424 yards and five touchdowns. In the last two games alone, Adams has 25 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns.

With his recent success, Rodgers is putting together another very solid season. No. 12 has thrown 17 touchdowns versus just four picks for 1,742 yards. His passer rating (96.4) is not over 100 yet, but is heading that way.

Bratkowski shared his thoughts on Rodgers.

“Aaron has a very nice arm and also has great mobility,” Bratkowski said. “He’s trusting his young receivers more and they are earning his trust. The concept of the offense over the past couple of weeks has been really good.

“But the key to the passing game is pass protection. And the Packers have done a great job protecting Rodgers so he can look over his various reads. Aaron has taken advantage of that situation the past couple of weeks.”

NFL: Super Bowl II

Zeke Bratkowski (No. 12), Bart Starr (No. 15), Don Horn (No. 13) and head coach Vince Lombardi on the sideline near the end of  Super Bowl II.

Bratkowski will be watching the game between the Colts and Packers at his home in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. Bratkowski will have a very special guest at his house to watch the game with him. That would be Bart Starr.

Bratkowski and Starr have talked about Rodgers with each other.

“We have a great feeling about what Aaron has done as a Packer,” Bratkowski said. “He has certainly added to the great lineage of the position in Green Bay. Bart and I both admire what he has done.”

I asked Bratkowski if he has ever met Rodgers.

“Except for shaking hands and saying hello at alumni games, I really haven’t had a conversation with him,” Bratkowski said. “I have pointed to my jersey No. 12 and sort of grin, which gets a smile from Aaron.”

Based on my conversations with Bratkowski, I think it would be well worth the time of Rodgers to have a discussion with another No. 12 who played with the Pack. Bratkowski had 15-year career in the NFL as a quarterback with the Bears, Rams and Packers, plus was an assistant coach in the NFL for 26 years.

Bratkowski is an encyclopedia of knowledge about playing the quarterback position. He gained a lot of that knowledge by learning under Vince Lombardi during his time in Green Bay.

Bratkowski talked about being in the quarterback’s meeting room with Coach Lombardi in a story I wrote earlier this summer.

Bratkowski and Starr were together in those quarterback meetings with Lombardi for five consecutive seasons. I’m sure that they will reflect on those meetings as they watch Rodgers lead the Green Bay offense this Sunday afternoon.