Jclombardi highlights Packers headlines.
Guest senior writer jclombardi @ http://lombardiave.com
Help is on the way for Packers defense: The Packers get former starters in cornerback Al Harris (knee) and safety Atari Bigby (ankle) off the physically unable to perform list this week, but the Packers acquired some additional assistance. The Packers traded a seventh-round conditional pick in 2011 to the Jacksonville Jaguars for safety Anthony Smith.
S Smith acquired, RB Barber next?: An NFL source said Sunday evening that the Packers had sent a conditional seventh-round pick to the Jaguars for Smith, whom the team released in favor of former third-round draft pick Aaron Rouse at the end of training camp in 2009. Now, it appears the Packers have brought Smith back because Bigby, who is on the physically unable to perform list but is eligible to begin practicing starting Monday, may not be ready for action just yet. Bigby had ankle surgery on Aug 6 but Smith’s acquisition hints that he might take longer than expected to return. Cornerback Harris and running back Starks are also eligible to be activated from the PUP. The Packers also need safety help after placing Martin (knee) on injured reserve last week. Meanwhile, with the NFL trade deadline on Tuesday, the Packers still could acquire running back help if GM Thompson decided to make a move. An NFL source said the Packers have had talks with the Dallas Cowboys about “one of” their running backs. ESPN’s Mortensen reported Sunday morning that it’s Barber that the Packers and Cowboys have discussed.
Special teams–more problems as key penalty and poor punts derail effort: What kind of Sunday was it on special teams for the Green Bay Packers? Maddening, at least when it came to the illegal formation penalty against linebacker Rob Francois that cost the Packers dearly in a 23-20 overtime defeat at the hands of the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field. Disappointing, at least when it came to struggling punter Masthay. The penalty on Francois and Masthay’s poorest punt came within a five-play stretch in the fourth quarter. Masthay punted five times, averaging 38 yards (gross) and 33.4 (net). Two of his punts were inside the 20. On 24 punts, Masthay’s averages of 43.1 and 33.4 actually are worse than Jeremy Kapinos compiled last year (43.8, 34.1) last year in 66 punts. Masthay’s inside-the-20 and touchback efficiency are no better than Kapinos’ performance, either.
Another overtime heartbreaker: A few plays here and there can make an ordinary team a great one or vice-versa, as the Packers are painfully discovering during a season that began with high hopes but is on the verge of spiraling out of control. In a matter of 21 days, coach Mike McCarthy’s team has gone from Super Bowl contender to mediocre because of its inability to win close games. The latest gut-wrenching setback came Sunday afternoon in front of 70,815 fans at Lambeau Field, where Dan Carpenter’s 44-yard field goal in overtime lifted the Miami Dolphins to a 23-20 victory that leaves the Packers with a .500 record after what, at first glance, appeared to be a benign opening stretch of six games. It was the third three-point defeat in four games for the Packers (3-3), who lost in overtime for the second straight game. Even with the three losses by a combined nine points, the Packers are still very much alive in the mediocre NFC North. But with a season-defining stretch of the schedule staring it in the face–Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings visit Titletown next Sunday night–Green Bay somehow needs to figure out how to win close games. “We’re a 3-3 football team for many different reasons,” McCarthy said. “We’ve got three losses, they’ve all been tight games. They’ve all come down to a critical point in the football game. And we’re not getting it done at that particular point.” That’s a familiar trend for the Packers under McCarthy, who fell to 1-5 in overtime games.
Packers grades: OFFENSE D–Going 3-for-13 on third-down conversions just doesn’t cut it. Rookie Bryan Bulaga had a long day blocking premier pass-rusher Cameron Wake. Aaron Rodgers’ surprise quarterback sneak to send it to overtime was brilliant. DEFENSE C–Miami had 26 first downs and 381 yards but was held to 23 points by an injury-ravaged defense that simply won’t quit. Chad Henne isn’t accurate when pressured, but the pass rush was non-existent without Clay Matthews. SPECIAL TEAMS D–Punter Tim Masthay hits more line drives than Ryan Braun. A bogus penalty on Robert Francois and a needless penalty on Korey Hall hurt Green Bay late in the game. Quinn Johnson’s partial blocked punt was the only positive. OVERALL D–For the second straight week, Green Bay lost an overtime game it should have won. The defense deserved better, but the consistently dysfunctional special teams and the recently dysfunctional offense did the Packers in.