Jclombardi highlights afternoon Packers headlines.
Guest senior writer jclombardi @ http://lombardiave.com
First Look at Vikings: The Packers (3-3) host the Vikings (2-3) on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Vikings got right back into the NFC North race on Sunday by edging Dallas at the Metrodome. Oh, and there is that other story line involving a certain quarterback. There will be no lack of story lines with this game considering that it will feature Brett Favre’s second return to Lambeau Field as a member of the Vikings.
Downright offensive: But if you’re searching for the biggest reason that the Packers are a disappointing .500 team, a middling 3-3 after their 23-20 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field Sunday, look no further than their offense, which came out of the preseason looking dominant but has been dysfunctional through six weeks of games that count. “A big part of being successful on offense is when you are in rhythm. I would not say we are in rhythm on offense right now,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after watching his team lose in overtime by a field goal for the second consecutive week. “We had a number of favorable third downs, and we had opportunities. Our defense was on the field, I thought they were hanging in there, ‘bend do not break,’ keep them out of the end zone. And we had opportunities (as an offense) to get out in front of that game.” Instead, not only did the Packers lose, they continued their alarming trend of failing in close games. Since Rodgers took over as the team’s quarterback to start the 2008 season, the Packers have played 12 games that were decided by four points or fewer – and have won just one of them. They were 0-7 in such games in 2008, 0-1 in them last year and they’re 1-3 this year, with the lone close victory coming over Detroit (28-26 on Oct. 3).
Injury report: TE Finley is officially on I.R. to make room for S Smith. Meanwhile, this week, CB Harris, SS Bigby, and RB Starks begin practicing after coming off the physically unable to perform list. LB Poppinga had arthroscopic surgery to repair damage to his left knee, probably out for three weeks to season-ending. WR Driver (quad strain) and LB Hawk (groin strain) will miss practice time this week preparing for the Vikings game.
Controversial Call Falls in Gray Area: It was an aerial shot of the fateful play, a game-turning illegal formation penalty referee Ed Hochuli had called on his punt return unit, a penalty which played an undeniable role in the Packers’ 23-20 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field Sunday. And Slocum, the Packers special teams coordinator, pointed his index finger at linebacker Francois and simply shook his head. “I’ve got this picture which shows me (he’s) one and a half yards (off the line of scrimmage),” Slocum said. “He’s considerably away from the football, which is right there.” And in Francois’ case Sunday, he and the Packers believed he was more than a yard away, meaning the penalty should not have been called.
Rodgers Chips Teeth, Bites Tongue: QB Rodgers had plenty to say to Ed Hochuli. But the Packers quarterback went all Forrest Gump when asked about the conversation by reporters after Sunday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field. The play in question, a bone-crunching and tooth-chipping hit by Miami defensive tackle Randy Starks on Rodgers’ 13-yard completion to Jordy Nelson with 7 minutes left in the third quarter, had not resulted in a flag. Rodgers started the week with his 38-game regular-season consecutive starts streak in jeopardy after being diagnosed with the first concussion of his football career, but after passing all the requisite tests during the week, Rodgers was cleared to play against the Dolphins and wound up completing 18 of 33 passes for 313 yards, including an 86-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings. But he also threw an interception – his seventh of the season, matching last year’s 16-game total after only six games – and was sacked five times, three of them by Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake, who dominated replacement right tackle Bryan Bulaga. He also directed an offense that converted just 3 of 13 third-down situations, an anemic number that was scarcely better than last week’s 2 for 13 effort. “I thought he was prepared. I thought he seemed normal out there. I thought he threw the ball well. I thought he managed the offense,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of Rodgers’ performance. “But third-down production is a big part of how we have been successful in the past. We’ve been a good third-down team. We’re all part of that. We’re not doing a good enough job there.” “If I don’t know if our unit’s as sharp as we’re accustomed to seeing it or as we’d hoped it would be,” offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. “I don’t know that it’s a one-guy thing. I think overall offensively, we’re not as sharp or as productive as we’d like to be at this stage.”