GREEN BAY—Aaron Rodgers’ fractured clavicle has put the Packers in a “week-to-week mindset,” according to Head Coach Mike McCarthy, with the focus this week on getting backup quarterback Seneca Wallace ready to face the Eagles.
McCarthy said on Tuesday that some of the uncertainty regarding Rodgers’ injury on Monday night was cleared up, and the news is better than it could have been.
“I’m relieved, no doubt,” McCarthy said. “How long? We don’t have our hands around the timeline yet. I know Aaron is very optimistic and he’ll do everything he can to get back in a timely fashion.”
Apparently Rodgers’ optimism is such that McCarthy wouldn’t officially rule him out for Sunday’s home game against Philadelphia, but it appears he’s the longest of longshots to be able to play just six days after the injury.
“I’m preparing Seneca to be the starter, that’s the way our game planning has gone,” McCarthy said. “But let’s not kid ourselves. If he walked into your office and asked for the ball on Saturday, what would you do? So we’ll just see what happens.”
McCarthy expressed confidence that Wallace would improve on his rough relief appearance Monday against Chicago (11-of-19, 114 yards, 1 INT, 53.4 rating) with a full week of practice snaps and a game plan more tailored to his skills.
The offense was particularly shaky on third down, going 1-for-8 with Wallace under center, including multiple failures near midfield where one conversion might have gotten the offense into at least field-goal range.
“Third down was our Achilles’ heel,” McCarthy said. “He’ll have a week to get some timing with the receivers, specifically in those third-down situations.”
Wallace wasn’t helped by some breakdowns in pass protection on those money downs, as the offensive line was adjusting without right guard T.J. Lang, who missed the second half with a concussion. Don Barclay slid over from right tackle to right guard, with Marshall Newhouse coming off the bench to play right tackle.
The Packers could have another tackle in the mix soon with the activation of Derek Sherrod off the reserve/PUP list on Tuesday, but McCarthy said Sherrod “needs padded work” after his long injury recovery, and the Packers won’t practice in pads during this short week.
Even with the shuffling, the offensive line did the job in the running game, as the Packers moved up to No. 2 in the league rushing rankings after gaining 199 yards on the ground on Monday. It was the offense’s fourth game this year with 180 or more rushing yards.
The effort was highlighted by 150 yards and a TD on 22 bruising carries from rookie Eddie Lacy, who had a 56-yard run on the Packers’ first snap of the second half, running right behind Barclay and Newhouse.
“Eddie definitely carried the torch,” McCarthy said. “I liked the way he ran. I thought he took a step forward as a runner. I thought he was more physical than he’s been in the past, if you can believe that, and I think he has more to give.”
McCarthy knows his defense certainly does. The Packers dropped four spots in the league rankings, from 11th to 15th, after giving up 442 yards to a Bears offense quarterbacked by backup Josh McCown.
The Bears put together four scoring drives of 60 yards or longer, two of them coming on possessions that started on their own 1- and 11-yard lines, respectively.
“I’m always going to stick to the fundamentals,” McCarthy said. “We didn’t tackle very well. We played field-position football, had them backed up and didn’t keep them down there.”
The defense could get a boost this week from the possible return of outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who had the pins removed from his surgically repaired thumb on Monday.
McCarthy said Matthews plans to try to practice this week with his hand wrapped in a club. How that goes is a wait-and-see proposition, but the doctors “feel very good about where Clay is right now.”
There’s no telling how Matthews might energize a defense that looked worn out by the end of Monday’s loss, which finished with the Bears killing 8 minutes, 58 seconds of the clock on a late drive for a field goal. That ending took the last of the air out of Lambeau Field, a stadium that began deflating when Rodgers left for the locker room in the first quarter.
The loss dropped the Packers into a three-way tie atop the NFC North at 5-3 and removed any margin of error they might have had for however long Rodgers might be out.
As the Packers embark on their season’s “third quarter,” as McCarthy calls it – the four games between now and Thanksgiving – the approach is as specific as the timeframe is nebulous on Rodgers’ recovery: week to week.
“This is a great opportunity for our football team to show its mettle,” McCarthy said. “I thought the Monday night game was an awesome opportunity for us to show what we were all about, and we didn’t get it done. We’ll have another opportunity against the Eagles to do that.”