For all the talk of the Packers’ new-found dominant ground game, and despite owning perhaps the deepest and most talented receiving corps in the NFL, the No. 1 truth in Green Bay is a simple one: Without Aaron Rodgers, the Pack goes nowhere. That truth was put to the test on Monday night, and unfortunately for Green Bay, it looks as true as ever.
The Packers ran for 199 yards (including 150 and a TD by Eddie Lacy), receiver James Jones returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering an injury in Week 6, and Green Bay was facing Josh McCown, in for injured Chicago QB Jay Cutler. But after Rodgers went out with a shoulder injury on his team’s opening drive, the Packers were lost, and ultimately they just lost, 27-20.
For the Bears, they were able to make do with their backup-turned-starting QB — and survive a surprise onside kick by the Packers following a third-quarter TD. They, too, have a strong running game with Matt Forte closing out the game with key third-down conversions and running for 125 yards on 24 carries. And they wore down the Packers with an 18-play fourth-quarter drive that took almost nine minutes off the clock to move into a three-way tie atop the NFC North.
But make no mistake, the postgame aftermath was all about finding out how long Rodgers is out. And until we know, Packer Nation holds its collective breath.
OK, let’s get into what else we know:
How serious is Rodgers’ shoulder injury?
It’s a very fluid situation. While the long-term diagnosis likely won’t come until Tuesday, there is a growing concern that Rodgers could have sustained a fractured clavicle.
“They want to run more tests,” head coach Mike McCarthy said in the postgame news conference. “They don’t have an exact diagnosis is where we are.
One sign of optimism was Rodgers joined his teammates on the Packers’ sideline in sweats without a sling in the second half. He didn’t appear to be in clear pain, but it’s hard to speculate.
The good news is if we were to use history as any indicator, Tom Brady suffered an AC joint separation in the 2011 playoffs, which he was able to play through. While pain tolerance and a number of other factors could come into play, any injury to Rodgers would be devastating to the Packers.
Rodgers’ injury already adds to a growing list of Packers’ stars who have suffered injuries including Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb.
What will the Packers do at quarterback?
Seneca Wallace filled in admirably, but clearly lacked the accuracy and touch that this offense has grown accustomed to. The Packers are at the mercy of Rodgers’ diagnosis, but don’t be surprised if they bring in a couple quarterbacks for a workout on Tuesday. They carry just two quarterbacks on the active roster and have Scott Tolzien manning the practice squad position.
Matt Flynn, who was released in Buffalo on Monday, has some experience in McCarthy’s offense. While a reunion could make sense, it doesn’t help that Flynn has been cut by two NFL teams this season.
The Packers brought in Vince Young for a test drive in the preseason, but they parted ways with him. Other names like John Skelton and David Carr could be candidates for a workout.
The NFC North is up for grabs
Three teams are tied with a 5-3 record at the top of the division. The Vikings, with a 1-7 record, are in the basement and don’t look to be a factor in the race.
Two weeks ago the Bears were the team going through injuries that could alter the course of their season. Cutler and Lance Briggs each sustained injuries in Week 7 and people wondered if they would fall off. After a timely bye week in Week 8, the Bears are in the thick of it all.
The Lions are the team that’s tough to figure out. They have flown under the radar all season long and could be poised for the second half of the season. Although they struggle to defend the pass, Matthew Stafford can hang points on the best of them.
Coming into this game, perception was the Packers would find a way to win the division because of their elite quarterback. The injury, obviously, changes things. Sometimes even good teams are snakebitten by the injury bug. While every NFL team has to deal with such adversity, a blow to Rodgers could be too much. Fortunately, their schedule shakes out in their favor. They play just three teams with winning records (at Lions, at Cowboys, at Bears) in the next eight weeks.
Josh McCown shows some moxie in performance
Cutler’s initial diagnosis for an injured groin was four to six weeks. It has only been 15 days since he suffered the injury, but the eighth-year quarterback is already eyeing a Week 10 return against the Lions, according to an ESPN report.
McCown, who was helped out by great offensive line play, had plenty of time to make this throws. While there was some confusion on several plays, the identity of offense never wavered.
Head coach Marc Trestman hopes to challenge defense’s vertically and that’s what they did utilizing their weapons of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey outside the numbers.
McCown connected with the duo 12 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns. McCown also was able to avoid any big mistakes by not turning the ball over.
Hats off to a serviceable performance to the backup quarterback.
Is it Eddie Lacy’s offensive rookie of the year award to lose?
We’re only halfway through the season, but no offensive player has looked as polished as Eddie Lacy. His 22 carry, 150-yard performance wasn’t enough to grind out a win, but he looks like a major steal for the Packers.
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen, Rams running back Zac Stacy and Bengals running back Giovani Bernard could give Lacy a run for his money.