Packers' Flynn ready to start if needed
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY--On Sunday, Matt Flynn returns to his home state. He’s one of so many NFL quarterbacks from Texas.
At his locker Wednesday, Flynn bites his tongue. Yes, he grew up a Dallas Cowboys fan. His favorite player? Troy Aikman. The number of ticket requests this week? Eleven.
Sure makes for a fun, career-defining homecoming narrative. Unless it isn’t. The status of the world’s most famous collarbone remains a mystery.
So Flynn keeps a one-track mind.
“It’s not fair to myself, my teammates or anyone else if I don’t prepare like I’m going to take the first snap on Sunday,” Flynn said. “If they tell me Aaron’s playing today, tomorrow, whenever it is, that’s part of the job, that’s part of the gig. I go out there and mentally do the things that I would normally do if I was the full-time starter.”
Flynn is either the man trying to save the Green Bay Packers’ season in Dallas or—zap!—a backup again. Today could bring more clarity. For now, for the week, Flynn is trying to clean up specific areas of his game to put Green Bay in a position to win again. In Game No. 4, Flynn knows he must decode coverages faster, limit the sacks and continue to navigate the no-huddle offense.
Green Bay proved against Atlanta it can win a game without Aaron Rodgers. Flynn might have to do it again Sunday.
“If you ask anyone in this locker room, everyone thinks we can win,” Flynn said. “Everyone thinks we can beat anybody in the league. We just have to go out there and execute and prove it.”
The CliffNotes breakdown of Flynn is written. He’s a gamer. He can make plays with his legs. Failure does not phase him—whether it’s rejection (three times) or a pick-six.
Yet he also doesn’t possess a rifle arm and takes too many sacks. There’s no way to magically fix the first issue. The latter can be addressed. In a 24-14 loss to Washington this season, Flynn took seven sacks. In two starts with the Packers, Flynn has been sacked 12 times. While no one player is to blame, Flynn often had ample time to make decisions against the Falcons.
Too often, he hesitated. Flynn must balance risk with pulling the trigger.
“I just have to get through my reads a little cleaner,” Flynn said. “I wasn’t real sure about throws. Some of those sacks are coming from, I’m not really 100 percent sure on throws and what kind of leverage a DB has on the receivers. So I’m not going to make a throw that I think there’s a chance it’s going to get picked or there’s a chance that something bad could happen.
“So it’s just a matter of seeing it enough times to know when it’s a safe throw, when it’s not a safe throw. If it’s not a safe throw, get it to the next guy. There’s a couple times where I just kind of hung on and tried to decipher where that DB was on the receiver.”
And that, of course, beats a game-killing interception.
Drifting its safeties before the snap, Atlanta disguised coverages throughout the game to confuse Flynn. He’s still learning how his receivers break their routes against certain coverages. Thus, the hesitation. The sacks. Quarterback and receiver must see the same thing in real time.
Another full week of practice should morph some of those check-downs into throws down field. On one second down from Atlanta’s 24, for example, Flynn might have been able to gun a slant to James Jones for a touchdown. The Falcons slid a safety upfield that side, creating a window.
Right tackle Don Barclay was beat inside. The split-second passed. Flynn was sacked.
“Anticipating,” Flynn said, “just being on the same page with that because they’re such good route runners, smooth route runners, long striders.”
On the plus side, the Packers strung no-huddle series together for the first time since Rodgers went down Nov. 4. This was arguably the No. 1 emphasis for Green Bay back in August. With Flynn, now, the Packers can play fast.
Coach Mike McCarthy said the offense had more flow Sunday than its had for a month.
“So, just to get comfortable with the plan,” said McCarthy on areas Flynn can improve. “Every plan is different. Maybe do a couple more things that we have done since he left here that we’ve kind of gotten away from because he’s not totally comfortable. Just trying to find that midpoint of doing things that we feel that we need to win on Sunday, but to make sure he’s comfortable.”
Noise could be a factor. Flynn relies on verbal, not hand, signals. But as he noted, the Packers used more of a muddle huddle against Atlanta.
In Flynn, Dallas’ Tony Romo sees a mini Rodgers.
“He’s got good poise,” Romo said. “You can tell he’s learned a little bit through osmosis with watching Aaron and following some of his mannerisms as far as the drop and the way he goes through the progressions and just his overall footwork in some ways looks similar.”
Count on the Cowboys ripping through their playbook in this one. They field one of the league’s weakest defenses, a unit allowing a NFL-worst 427 yards per game. Quarterbacks have a 95.1 passer rating against Dallas.
So they’ll encourage confusion, chaos. The Cowboys’ owner himself, Jerry Jones, said this week that the defense should take more risks. To which, Flynn plans on playing within the system. The Packers’ offense, he says, has “answers for everything.” “We just have to decipher it,” Flynn said, “and play within the rules and get the ball out.”
And that could be the difference between sacks and touchdowns.
Or, you know, maybe that Aaron Rodgers fellow plays after all.