GREEN BAY—The circumstances have been different each time, but the Green Bay Packers will be asked to display their resiliency for a third time this season on Sunday.
On the previous two occasions, the Packers proved their mettle. They followed up the injustice in Seattle with a down-to-the-wire win over New Orleans, and they rebounded from the second-half meltdown in Indianapolis with a thumping of then-unbeaten Houston.
This time, it’s NFC North rival Minnesota on tap following a 28-point loss to the Giants, the Packers’ largest margin of defeat in five years, dating back to Week 16 of 2007.
“I think you find out something about your team every week, and obviously we have a different challenge because of what happened last week,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “When you get hit like we did Sunday, it’s important for us to bounce back and show what kind of team we are. But more importantly, we need to go win this division game. That’s how clear it is to us.”
It’s also clear that receiver Greg Jennings will play but linebacker Clay Matthews will not.
Jennings, who has missed the last seven games, is probable on the injury report after participating fully in every practice this week. The only question is how many snaps Jennings will play, but McCarthy said the “flow of the game” will determine that.
“I think Greg looks good,” McCarthy said. “He’s going through some of the bumps that you have when you come back for the first week of practice, but he’s got spring in his step. He’s ready to go.”
Matthews, however, is not. He will miss a third straight game with a hamstring injury that did not allow him to return to practice at all this past week.
“He’s making progress, he’s just not ready to play in the game,” said McCarthy, who declined to speculate on whether Matthews would be ready next week.
The Vikings are dealing with a major injury as well. Receiver/returner Percy Harvin is doubtful with an ankle injury that has kept him sidelined the past few weeks. Minnesota’s return game and offense both miss Harvin, who was averaging a whopping 35.9 yards per kickoff return. He also has 23 more receptions and 316 more receiving yards than any other Viking despite missing the last two games.
The Packers, of course, will offer no sympathy on the injury front. Green Bay is more concerned with avoiding consecutive losses, which have been rare in recent years.
Not counting last year’s playoff loss and this year’s season-opener, the Packers haven’t lost back-to-back games since Weeks 14-15 of 2010, and six of those eight quarters were played without quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
With Rodgers, the last consecutive defeats came in Weeks 5-6 of 2010. In fact, since a five-game losing streak late in 2008, his first season as a starter, Rodgers has lost back-to-back games only twice. Weeks 8-9 of 2009 was the other time.
“Losing is not really an option, to tell you the truth,” said cornerback Davon House, who correctly spelled out the importance of this game, namely that the Packers and Vikings would hold identical 7-5 records if Minnesota wins.
“We’ll come out here on Sunday planning on winning, planning on doing a lot better than we did last week. It’s a new start. We had a nice little five-game winning streak, lost to New York and hopefully we can get it going again.” Additional coverage - Nov. 30