Green Bay’s last game at Lambeau Field was a Sunday night contest against Dallas on Nov. 7, with the bye week and back-to-back road games at Minnesota and Atlanta after that. Sunday’s contest against San Francisco will start a stretch of three homes games in the season’s final five weeks for the Packers.
The extended time away from Lambeau Field is nothing new for the team under Head Coach Mike McCarthy. This is the fourth straight season Green Bay has had nearly a month between home games at some point with back-to-back road contests on one side of the bye each year.
The Packers come into Sunday’s game as one of the hotter home teams in the league, with their 8-1 record (.889) since Week 10 of 2009 tops in the NFC and tied for the No. 2 mark in the NFL behind only New England’s 8-0 record over that span.
“No. 1, you have to win your home games,” McCarthy said. “Everybody knows that, especially this time of year. We feel it is an advantage for us to A, play at home, and B, to play at home this time of year. It’s December football. There really are no re-dos.
“To be able to play at noon in front of our crowd, I know everybody is excited to get back home and have that type of environment that we are blessed to have here with our fans. We’re looking forward to it.”
Since McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006, the Packers have also been one of the better teams in the league in late-season games. Green Bay’s 12-6 mark (.667) in December/January contests over that span is good for No. 2 in the NFC, and that includes a 7-2 mark (.778) at Lambeau Field.
“Obviously when you get into December football you get into some more meaningful games,” nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “Every game counts, especially with how everything is shaping up in the NFC.
“It’s going to be a tight race. If you don’t win your division you are going to be in some trouble at the end of the month. We all have that in mind and we’re looking forward to playing our best football.”
At 7-4, the Packers are a game behind the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears (8-3), who play at Detroit this Sunday. Green Bay is one of three teams in the conference sitting at 7-4, with the Falcons leading the conference at 9-2 and the Bears, Saints (8-3) and Eagles (8-4) behind them in the NFC standings heading into this weekend.
But focusing on the immediate challenge of the 49ers is the priority, a task made easier with San Francisco winning three of four and four of its last six since starting out the season 0-5.
“This game is really important for us,” defensive end Cullen Jenkins said. “No. 1, it’s the next game, and No. 2, coming off of a loss last week (at Atlanta), we want to get things back on track and get the momentum swing going back in our favor.
“This time of year, you know how important things are. You have to keep winning every week to make sure that you can accomplish your goals. You don’t want to worry about looking around and seeing what everyone else is doing. You just want to keep winning your games and that way you know you are taking care of your end of the bargain.”
In Friday's practice, Green Bay’s offensive players sported the 1929 throwback jerseys that the team will wear in Sunday’s game against the 49ers.
The defensive players, who typically wear green jerseys in practice, worked in white jerseys against the blue of the offense. McCarthy said the decision to bring out the throwbacks was done for the quarterbacks so they could get used to throwing to a different colored jersey than they are accustomed to.
“That’s just the old quarterback coach philosophy, just make sure the quarterbacks are throwing to blue jerseys at least once this week before the game,” McCarthy said. “That’s really the only reason why we wore the blue jerseys at practice today.
“I’ve been part of programs that the offense always wore the jersey they were playing in before, that week, because of the quarterbacks. So yeah, it’s nothing new to me. I just thought it was important for our quarterbacks to get used to it.”
McCarthy got into the act as well, donning a navy blue sweatshirt along with a blue and white ‘Acme Packers’ hat.
“I think (the uniforms) look great,” McCarthy said. “I think they look a lot better than hanging on a mannequin, that’s for sure. They look better on our players, and I think everybody will appreciate the look and the tribute to our 1929 first championship team.
“I like the look. I think the players like the look too.”
Cornerback Pat Lee (ankle) is out for Sunday, while safeties Atari Bigby (hamstring) and Anthony Smith (ankle) are doubtful. Bigby and Smith didn’t participate in practice all week.
Tackle Bryan Bulaga was added to the injury report on Friday with an ankle injury that he sustained at the end of Thursday’s practice during one-on-one drills. He was a limited participant in Friday’s practice, but is listed as probable for Sunday.
“I fully anticipate he’ll be fine,” McCarthy said. “We took him through a series…he went through the jog-through and went through a series of one-on-one drills with (offensive line coach James) Campen, and we sent him up just to get the treatment. He’s got 48 hours. It’s not an issue in my mind.”
Second-year tackle T.J. Lang is the backup to Bulaga on the right side. Lang started three contests as a rookie last season, opening games at both the left and right tackle spots.
“I think T.J. is ready,” McCarthy said. “If training camp began today, he’d be pushing for a spot. I think he had a little bit of a setback with that wrist injury (in the offseason) and the amount of time he missed in the spring and going into training camp, but I like what I see in T.J. Lang.”
Jenkins (calf), tackle Chad Clifton (ankle), safety Nick Collins (shoulder), wide receiver Greg Jennings (foot), linebacker Clay Matthews (shin), running back Dimitri Nance (concussion) and defensive end Ryan Pickett (ankle) are all probable.
McCarthy said the staff will watch the practice film early Saturday morning before making a final decision on whether Nance or rookie running back James Starks will be active on Sunday.
For San Francisco, kicker Joe Nedney (right knee) and tackle Joe Staley (fibula) are out for Sunday. Center David Baas (concussion), linebacker Parys Haralson (ankle) and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (quadriceps) are questionable.
Running back Brian Westbrook (ankle), the No. 1 back with starter Frank Gore lost for the season with a hip injury, returned as a full participant on Friday and is probable for the game after not practicing the previous two days. Wide receiver Josh Morgan (shoulder) is also probable.
Additional coverage – Dec. 3