Two battle-tested teams facing off on Sunday night

Posted by Wes Hodkiewicz on December 30, 2016 – 9:55 am

161230-stafford-950GREEN BAY — The Lions have been conditioned for comebacks with eight of their nine wins this season coming after they’ve trailed in the fourth quarter.

It takes a lot composure to endure those close calls, which is why Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy is preparing his team for a 60-minute battle during Sunday night’s NFC North showdown in Detroit.

“They do a heck of a job staying the course,” McCarthy said. “You have success winning a certain way. You do it once and do it twice. You stack success. It’s not how you get there. It’s that’s you get there. That’s been their process. It’s benefited them winning those close games.”

The Packers might not have the litany of fourth-quarter comebacks that the Lions do, but they’ve been battle-tested after having to shake off a 4-6 start to put themselves in position to capture their fifth division title in six years.

McCarthy is pleased with his team’s mindset based on what he’s seen in the team’s two practices this week.

“I thought the two days of practice, the energy was excellent,” McCarthy said. “The padded practice we were able to do a lot of fundamental work, especially with the younger players. The team periods were pretty good.”

The Packers held receiver Randall Cobb out to help rest the ankle injury that sidelined him in Saturday’s 38-25 win over Minnesota. McCarthy said he’s hopeful Cobb might be able to take some reps during the team’s final practice on Saturday.

McCarthy also confirmed it was his decision to hold out linebacker Julius Peppers from Thursday’s practice, a continuation of the team’s plan to taper the 36-year-old pass-rusher.

Peppers is second on the team with 7½ sacks this season.

“I know he doesn’t like to miss practice. I felt it was the best thing for him,” McCarthy said.


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Ty Montgomery has ‘an internal flame’ to his game

Posted by Wes Hodkiewicz on December 29, 2016 – 5:27 pm

161229-montgomery-950GREEN BAY — The Packers’ coordinators plus offensive assistant coaches met with the media late Thursday afternoon. Here’s a sampling of some of their key comments:

Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett

On what Aaron Rodgers getting healthier means for offense:

More flexibility. Obviously he’s going to do whatever he takes to put us in position to win the game. That’s what it comes down to. He’s probably the most competitive player in the NFL as far as who he is and how he goes about it.

Associate coach/offense Tom Clements

On high-stakes games:

It’s a playoff game, really. That’s the mentality you have to have. You’re playing for something and want to play next week. Everyone knows how important the game is.

On Rodgers’ interception-less streak:

It’s everything. It’s protection, guys running the right routes, and obviously Aaron making the correct decision. Sometimes you get an interception when you do everything right and defender makes a great play. Everyone plays a part in it. A large share of the credit goes to him.

On Geronimo Allison:

Everyone was excited about the possibilities he could bring to the offense. He’s a young guy, still learning but he works hard. His play speed is very fast. He takes two steps and he’s going full speed. The game is not too big for him. He’s been a positive for us.

Offensive line coach James Campen

On T.J. Lang getting selected to his first Pro Bowl:

I’m just very proud of him. Obviously I felt the statement of Coach McCarthy, it’s long overdue in my opinion. It’s an honor that fits the player. He plays hard. He’s dependable. He cares a lot about his team. … I think he’s gotten better every year. He’s certainly one that’ll tell you he’s never topped out and at the peak of his profession. Just his awareness and the fact he’s playing a lot. He’s been pretty darn good for a few years now.

On Jason Spriggs’ versatility this season:

He’s done a good job. Things don’t affect him. The game isn’t too big for him. He did a good job. He played guard those two weeks. He played against a quality opponent. He improved and that’s what you look for. He’s just ready to go. That’s a credit to him.

Receivers coach Luke Getsy

On Geronimo Allison’s development:

Since he got here, he’s been an impressive young man. His approach. His instincts. His natural football sense and ability to pick up on things quickly. That’s evolved since he got here. Once he was able to get a good grasp of the entire offense, it made opportunities show for him now. Every time we give him an opportunity, he seems to take advantage of it.

On Jordy Nelson playing in the slot:

Everybody in our room has the ability to play every position. The ability to move somebody around doesn’t allow the defense to dictate what they want to do to you. He’s a guy who can handle that as much as anything. He’s another coach on the field for us.

On Ty Montgomery moving to running back:

That’s special. That’s unique to do what he did and what he’s done, and what he’s doing. I think Randall has that natural ability with the ball in his hand but obviously he isn’t as big of a guy as Ty, and we’ve needed him.

Quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt

On Rodgers’ recent stretch:

He has a great feel for everybody. The plays are being called, the guys are playing really well around him. I don’t know if there’s anything around him that I see differently. … I don’t feel like he’s a different guy now than he was in September. I just think that’s the way the game is.

Tight ends coach Brian Angelichio

On Jared Cook:

I think it’s a testament to him in staying involved. It’s always hard when you’re not out there with your teammates. He’s more comfortable with what Aaron expects and getting on the same page. The more comfortable he gets, the faster he plays.

On how Cook impacts the way defenses matchup against offense:

Typically you try to create matchups. If teams are going to leave corners on a tight end, they’re typically in zone. If they’re in zone, it’s going to create matchups inside. Anytime you’re in zone coverage, you expose linebackers. If you get linebackers on receivers, that’s usually a pretty good matchup.

On Richard Rodgers’ TD catch:

Awesome. His family was here. His girlfriend was here. Aaron did a hell of a job looking off the safety. Rich did a great job stretching Harrison Smith. It was a well-executed play. … The thing about Rich is he’s consistent and steady, and he’s going to be in the right spot. You see that since he’s been here since his rookie year.

Running backs coach Ben Sirmans

On Ty Montgomery’s transition to running back:

I think probably the biggest thing is how competitive he is and anything he’s asked to do, he wants to be perfect at it. If you put him in a challenging situation, the way he’s going to go about it and attack it is to make sure he’s the best at what he’s doing.

On where that competitiveness comes from:

Just having the opportunity to hear the stories about his upbringing and getting a chance to meet his mom. He has an internal flame that burns in him that he wants to be successful. He wants to succeed.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers

On high-stakes games:

I think it always helps if you have veterans who have been in these type of games before. They understand the focus that you need. Obviously, you have good teams playing this time of the year. So the margin for error goes down. You have to try to make sure you take care of business. The opponent is going to make their plays. You have to make your plays when you have the opportunities.

On getting the combination of Nick Perry and Clay Matthews back in the pass rush:

Last week it was nice to have them both back. I thought they impacted the game in their own ways. Nick will still have a club on his hands. I thought Clay made strides with what he has been able to do.

Special-teams coordinator Ron Zook

On Andre Roberts as a returner:

He runs strong with the ball. If you watch, he breaks tackles. He’s shifty. He has great vision, great acceleration. He runs away from people. Whatever speed he is, he gets there in one step. The thing we showed all week is how he break tackles.


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Lions’ passing attack has changed without Megatron

Posted by Mike Spofford on December 29, 2016 – 10:56 am

161229-tate-950GREEN BAY — It was a given going into the season that Detroit’s passing game would be different without WR Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, who retired after 2015.

But the Lions have compensated for the absence of a future Hall of Famer about as well as any team could.

QB Matthew Stafford has completed at least 50 passes to five different pass-catchers in 2016, led by WR Golden Tate, whose production has been complemented by WRs Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin, TE Eric Ebron and RB Theo Riddick.

“Their passing game has definitely evolved,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said before Thursday’s practice. “They’ve gotten more people involved. They had a commitment to Calvin and rightly so. I find they’re tougher to prepare for when you play wide open and you throw the ball to the guy that gets open. I think it’s definitely helped their passing game and helped them schematically with how they challenge the defense.”

Regarding Thursday’s practice, which will be in full pads, McCarthy said RB Christine Michael would be back after being excused on Wednesday for a personal matter. LB Julius Peppers would probably rest for a second straight day, while RB James Starks (concussion) has been in meetings and is “making progress.”

As the Packers prepare to play in a dome stadium for the first time in two months, McCarthy said Detroit’s Ford Field holds plenty of noise even though it doesn’t have a reputation for being as loud as other indoor venues.

“It’s definitely a challenge when you go over there,” McCarthy said. “I think it would be a great place to watch a game. It’s a very unique setting. I’ve always felt it was a very difficult place to play.”

Packers.com will have more following practice and locker room interviews.

 


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McCarthy: ‘We feel our season is just getting started’

Posted by Wes Hodkiewicz on December 28, 2016 – 2:06 pm

161228-rodgers-ford-field-950GREEN BAY — While all the outside talk is about playoff scenarios and positioning, the Packers are keeping their focus set on only one thing entering the final week of the regular season.

Beating the Detroit Lions.

A win over the Lions would mean a fifth NFC North championship in six years for Green Bay and the right to host a wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field.

As much hype is building around the Packers’ five-game winning streak, Head Coach Mike McCarthy is concentrated more on the getting the team’s 10th victory than the path Green Bay took to bounce back from a 4-6 start.

“I’m not really here to talk about season review. We feel our season is just getting started,” McCarthy said. “We understand what we needed to do to get to this point. This is about beating the Lions, beating them in that dome. It’s a tough place to play. … We’re about beating the Lions. That’s what we’re focused on.”

This will be the first time the Packers have played in a dome since traveling to Atlanta in Week 8, amplifying the importance of the team’s preparation inside the Don Hutson Center this week.

McCarthy said the team had a lot of excitement when it returned on Wednesday. The players will get a chance to unleash some of that energy when the Packers hit the practice field at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

The Packers-Lions game will be the 256th and final regular season game of the 2016 season after the NFL decided to flex it to Sunday Night Football earlier this week.

Although the rest of the NFL action will be wrapped up by the time the game kicks off, McCarthy said he doesn’t plan on doing anything different with his team during the day of the game.

“We’re going to do everything the way we normally do it,” McCarthy said. “I’ll be working on my call sheet at that time and doing everything I normally do. We haven’t played in a dome since Oct. 30. I’m getting ready to play in this environment.”

McCarthy didn’t have many updates to the injury report, but said he is expecting second-year cornerback LaDarius Gunter to play against the Lions after leaving with an elbow injury during the Packers’ 38-25 win over Minnesota on Saturday.

Receiver Randall Cobb, who missed the Vikings’ game with an ankle injury, will be a part of the rehab group during Wednesday’s practice.


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