First report on Rodgers will come Wednesday

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By Tyler Dunne
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

GREEN BAY--For at least two more days, the suspense continues at quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.

Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Aaron Rodgers would be evaluated Wednesday. Rodgers has missed six straight starts with his fractured collarbone. So Matt Flynn, again, will prepare as the No. 1 for Sunday's matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“We're game-planning right now for Matt Flynn,” McCarthy said. “That's where we started our conversation Saturday. We do some preliminary game-planning each week for the next opponent. That's the way we're going about it as an offensive staff.”

The team, McCarthy says, will have a plan for Rodgers on Wednesday. Of course, the Packers have been cautious every step of the way since Rodgers went down Nov. 4 against Chicago. Despite another week of practice—this time taking a healthy dose of first-team reps—Rodgers was sidelined again Sunday at Dallas.

And all Flynn did was lead a 23-point comeback, taking down the Cowboys, 37-36.

Rodgers' return remains the question mark hanging over a team still very much in the NFC North hunt.

The back-up has taken strides. Flynn admitted Sunday he stuck on his initial reads too long. On the interception of a pass intended for Jordy Nelson, he said that was the case. In the second half, Flynn adjusted, taking what the Cowboys' defense gave him. On the 3-yard touchdown to James Jones, Flynn looked one direction and came back to the receiver. Hesitant or inefficient along the boundary weeks past, he hit Jarrett Boykin on the receiver's back shoulder for 27 yards.

“I think he kind of got stuck on maybe a guy, anticipating that he'd be open and hung onto that guy a little too long in the first half,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. “In the second half, he just reacted to what we saw and made good decisions. And you get into a little bit of a groove. Guys made some great plays for him. He made some nice throws. Protected very well in the second half.

“You hit a couple passes, you start feeling good and you start moving the ball, everybody feels good. It's a snowball effect.”

The coaches, Clements noted, did not consider benching Flynn for Scott Tolzien at halftime.

Flynn's ability to forget proved valuable. Down 26-3, he had the persona the Packers needed under center. Patience again paid off for Green Bay as Flynn upped his mark to 2-1-1. Flynn has completed 64 percent of his passes for 914 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

“If something happens bad previously, you have to forget about it and focus on the next play,” Clements said. “That's really at each position. We talk about it a lot. If things go well, great, forget about that play and move on. If things don't go well, try to learn from it and move on because the most important play is always the next play.”

Turnovers, found

Forcing turnovers has been an adventure in Green Bay most of this season. Each week, defensive coordinator Dom Capers stresses the importance of those two or three plays that change a game.

Yet week by week, the Packers defense came up empty. A team that led the NFL in interceptions 2009-2012 has toiled near the bottom all season.

The last two weeks, the Packers have turned the tide. In a win over Atlanta, Mike Neal's sack-fumble was the difference, and then Jarrett Bush iced it with a pick. At Dallas, Sam Shields and Tramon Williams sparked the victory with interceptions.

If Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had a stable pocket, he might have been able to hit Miles Austin for a 65-yard touchdown. Outside linebacker Clay Matthews forced Romo to spin, and Shields lunged in front of the wideout for the interception.

“You saw Clay come off the edge and actually he missed the sack and I'm kind of glad that he did,” Capers said, “because we wouldn't have had the interception and flushed Romo out of there and of course it disrupted his rhythm and he threw the ball over the middle, and Sam made an amazing play undercutting that thing to get the football.

“It was a real key play at crunch time by Sam. Anytime you could go to throwing the ball in those situations you flip a coin. If you hit it the game is probably over because you're making big plays because we're committed to stopping the run at that point.”

The Cowboys have been slammed nationally for the decision to pass. Capers does see why a team would throw the ball with the Packers had nine players in the box.

“Some people when you stack them up in there,” Capers said, “they say 'Hey, we're not going to beat our head against the wall. We're going to take what you give us,' and we were in that same defense a few times and they took shots up the field on us.”

Shields and Williams upped Green Bay's turnover count to 18 for the season.

Near disaster

The Packers were upset they needed to use a timeout to buy time for a replay on Williams' interception during Dallas' final series. With less than 2 minutes remaining, McCarthy couldn't use a challenge on the ruled incompletion. So when he saw the Cowboys hustling to the line of scrimmage to get a snap off, he didn't leave it for chance.

Green Bay was fortunate it had a timeout to use. If not, the Cowboys might have been able to drive downfield for a winning field goal.

McCarthy chose his words carefully when asked about the NFL's current replay system, even saying he should keep his comments private. But he did say, that “when you start taking the game decisions away from the playing field, I think that's dangerous area to get into.”

The call was reversed.

Texas two-step

Over the weekend, ESPN reported that McCarthy was on a list of NFL coaches Texas athletic director Steve Patterson is considering for Mack Brown's vacancy.

On Monday, McCarthy said he doesn't have a reaction to the report.

“Number one, the University of Texas, Austin is a great city,” he said. “My daughter obviously grew up there, but I am proud to be a Green Bay Packer. It's an honor to hold this position. This is home for me. This is home for my family.”

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