Quarterback Matt Flynn not only might get the lion’s share of playing time on Sunday, he might get his second NFL start.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy indicated on Friday the starter for the regular-season finale was up in the air, raising the distinct possibility Aaron Rodgers may not play at all against Detroit.
“The most important thing with Aaron is he’s ready to play,” McCarthy said. “Whether he starts, we’ll talk about that today.”
McCarthy was referring to his regular Friday game-management meeting with the coaching staff, which occurs right after he speaks with the media.
He hasn’t revealed all week how much certain players will play in a game that means nothing playoff-wise to the Packers, though receivers Randall Cobb (groin) and Greg Jennings (knee) plus running back James Starks (ankle/knee) have been ruled out. Tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) is doubtful on the injury report, while linebacker Clay Matthews (ankle) and cornerback Charles Woodson (knee) are questionable and also may not play.
McCarthy did hint that he views Sunday as Flynn’s game, when he was asked what he’d like to see from his backup signal-caller.
“I want to see Matt Flynn play like he did in New England, but take it a step further – win the game,” McCarthy said.
The New England game on Dec. 19, 2010, was Flynn’s first pro start, in place of Rodgers, who was out with a concussion. Playing against the AFC’s top team on the road in prime time, Flynn completed 24 of 37 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns, and he had the Packers 15 yards from a game-winning TD when he was sacked on fourth down, ending a 31-27 loss.
With Flynn in the final year of his contract, there’s been all sorts of speculation about his future and whether another team will sign him as a free agent in the offseason to give him a chance to start.
Flynn said this week he feels no extra pressure in that regard heading into this game, but there’s no doubt his performance will matter for his future. A quiet, unflappable leader who earned the confidence of his teammates last year in the Patriots game, Flynn has spent the week focused on the here and now – mastering the game plan and applying what he’s learned since last year’s start to perform even better.
“I’m not really trying to go out there and prove anything to anybody or the rest of the NFL,” he said. “I’m going to go out there and try to win the game. My job as the backup is to do my best to not let there be too much of a drop-off at the position.
“Go in there, execute the offense, move the chains and put points up. That’s my job, and that’s all it should be.”
If Rodgers doesn’t play, he would finish the regular season with the NFL’s single-season record for passer rating at 122.5, besting Peyton Manning’s 121.1 in 2004.
It would then be up to Flynn to help the offense chase various single-season team records that are within reach, though several would take a really big game to achieve.
With 326 first downs, the offense needs 29 to surpass the 354 first downs in 2004. With 210 passing first downs, 26 are needed to beat the 235 in 1995.
With 5,932 net yards, the offense needs 426 yards to eclipse the 2004 total of 6,357.
With 345 pass completions, 39 are needed to beat the 383 completions from both 2005 and 2007.
One record sure to be reached is for gross passing yards. The Packers have 4,681 this season and need just eight to top the 4,688 from 1983. The offense already has set team records for net passing yards (4,455), points (515), touchdowns (64) and TD passes (45, all by Rodgers) and can extend those.
Flynn also can help the offense hold onto the team record for completion percentage. The Packers have completed 67.9 percent of their passes this season (345 of 508), better than the 66.3 percent from 2007.
Truthfully, of course, those numbers are the last things on Flynn’s mind as he prepares for what’s likely to be his most extensive playing time in 54 weeks.
“There’s no experience out there that’s better than live bullets,” he said. “That’s what quarterbacks really and truly grow from.
“I’ve always had confidence in myself, but it’s one thing to have the confidence, and another thing to go out there and show it and prove it. If I get the opportunity, that’s what I’ll have to do.” Additional coverage - Dec. 30