Jones, Cobb not expected to miss rest of season
BALTIMORE—Through the Mike McCarthy years, the Green Bay Packers have lost a Greg Jennings here, a James Jones, Jordy Nelson or Donald Driver there, but they have never before faced the potential of being without such a high percentage of core receivers for such a long time.
The good news for the Packers is that early indications were that Randall Cobb (knee) and James Jones (shin) did not suffer season-ending injuries in a rugby-style, 19-17 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium.
McCarthy said he hoped exams Monday would reveal that neither receiver suffered a major injury. One of their teammates said he was informed neither injury was as bad as it could have been.
What exactly that means for their immediate future isn’t known.
“We’re always worried when someone goes out,” receiver Jordy Nelson said after the Packers improved to 3-2. “As far as I know, it’s not possibly as bad as it could have been. So, hopefully that stays the course. We’ll find out more this week and hopefully it’s a quick recovery.
“We’ll miss them when they’re gone.”
McCarthy wouldn’t make any predictions on the outcome of medical tests, but it was clear he was also told there’s a reasonable chance both will be back at some point this season. He wouldn’t go much farther than that.
“I’m hopeful for good information tomorrow once we get him back,” McCarthy said in response to a question about Cobb. “James Jones, I’m hoping for good information there, too. We don’t have a full diagnosis on either one of those guys.”
Team physician Patrick McKenzie is able to read X-rays and manipulate joints to see if bones are broken or major ligaments are torn. The Packers gave no indication that either play resulted in that kind of injury.
What they do know for sure is that they aren’t the same team without two-thirds of their three-man air force, which came into the game with 67 of the 101 completions, 1,035 of 1,331 yards and seven of the nine touchdowns quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown this season.
And while they were able to beat a hardscrabble team like the Ravens in their own backyard, they’ve got some major hurdles to overcome if the two are out for more than a week or two. They can bring up Myles White from the practice squad or re-sign Jeremy Ross, but it’s not going to be the same.
Neither would have made things easier on the Packers on Sunday.
“It was a battle,” Nelson said. “It could have been easier for us on offense, but the defense played great. Hats off to them for keeping us in the game and letting us score enough to win.”
With Jones and Cobb out, Nelson made the most important play of the day, getting behind the Ravens secondary for a 64-yard touchdown with 2 minutes 12 seconds to go in the third quarter. It gave the Packers a 16-3 lead and ended a 61-minute span in which they had failed to score a touchdown dating to the third quarter of the Detroit victory last week.
Nelson caught just four of the 10 passes thrown his way—he should have caught at least two more of them—for 113 yards and a touchdown. The one that put the Packers ahead by 13 was as important as any he has had this season, particularly given the difficulties the Packers had in the passing game after Jones and Cobb left.
“That was a big play for us,” said running back Eddie Lacy, who carried the offense most of the day, pounding out 120 yards on 23 carries in his first NFL 100-yard game. “It’s pretty much expected with those two, but it was a great play for us and allowed us to keep going.”
McCarthy’s game plan appeared to be to spread out the Baltimore defense, make them play with an extra defensive back and mix in a good dose of Lacy to try to keep them honest.
The Packers settled for a field goal on their first drive after Nelson dropped a slant inside the Baltimore 20 that might have gone for a touchdown and had moved to their own 46 on their second drive. But Lacy’s run to the right came in Jones’ direction and while blocking he got rolled up by the pile from behind, injuring his shin and sending him to the locker room.
He finished with one catch for 10 yards.
More drops, sacks and penalties hurt the Packers throughout the rest of the half, and everything took a dramatic turn for the worse when Cobb caught a 15-yard pass across the middle and safety Matt Elam took his legs out with a flying tackle. Cobb appeared lucky enough not to have had his right foot planted heavily when he took the shot and might have suffered a hyperextension.
But the way he went down, it looked as if he had torn up his knee.
“It was a questionable hit on the play on Randall,” Rodgers said. “I thought he had enough time to make a hit in the legal hitting zone.”
Once Cobb joined Jones on the bench, the Packers had to go to an entirely different mode offensively, moving seldom-used Jarrett Boykin into a starting role and tight end Jermichael Finley into the third receiver position.
McCarthy used more double-tight end sets and after having Rodgers drop back to pass 24 times in the first half, limited him to 15 in the second. Running plays jumped from 10 in the first half to 16 in the second.
“Obviously, we made a big adjustment,” Finley said. “We came in at halftime and the coaches talked to us, and we came out and played our type of ball. For us today, it was next man up, and we just did what we needed to do.”
In all there were three really big plays in the passing game. There was Nelson’s touchdown, Boykin’s 43-yard catch-and-run and Finley’s 52-yard reception.
Boykin had dropped a pair of passes before Rodgers gave him another chance on second and 8 at the Packers 32 midway through the third quarter. He flung the ball to Boykin on a slip screen to the left and Boykin took it up the sideline all the way to the Baltimore 25.
The Packers had looked terrible up to that point without Jones and Cobb, so that reception—even though it set up only a field goal—was huge for the offense. Nelson made his big catch to spread the scoreboard margin and then Finley finished off the Ravens.
His 19-yard reception helped set up Mason Crosby’s field goal that made it 19-10 and his 52-yard reception on third and 3 at the Packers 27 with 1:53 to go all but ended Baltimore’s chances to overcome a two-point deficit.
“That’s all day,” Finley said of his one-on-one matchup with Elam on the 52-yard play. “I’m not trying to brag or anything, but I’m not going to let one guy tackle me. One guy isn’t going to take me down.”
In the end, the Packers hung on and Rodgers summed up the day with this: “That was a lot of fun.”