GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy didn’t reveal many specifics regarding the Packers’ injuries on Monday, but he did give the following updates:
Receiver Randall Cobb (knee) will be out “multiple weeks.”
Fellow receiver James Jones (knee) “may have a chance” to play this week.
Outside linebacker Nick Perry (foot) “does not have a chance” to play this week.
“Nick Perry was a bit of a surprise to me. I didn’t expect that,” McCarthy said, declining to provide a timetable.
As he always does, McCarthy is simply taking the approach of soldiering on.
“When injuries happen, you have to flip the page,” he said. “It’s like anything in life. Are you going to cry about it, or are you going to look at it as an opportunity to improve? Really, these injury situations are opportunities … for any player on our roster to jump up and take the rope.”
With Cobb and Perry both out for possibly extended periods, the Packers will need receiver Jarrett Boykin and rookie outside linebackers Andy Mulumba and Nate Palmer to pick up where they left off Sunday in the Baltimore game.
Boykin struggled early getting in sync with Aaron Rodgers, but McCarthy called his 43-yard catch-and-run early in the third quarter a “spark play.”
Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers said Mulumba played roughly three dozen snaps on defense, while Palmer also got a few reps for the first time. With starter Mike Neal the only other healthy outside linebacker, it’s possible Capers will have to line up with two rookies at the linchpin positions in his defense at times this week, and possibly going forward, until Clay Matthews and/or Perry return.
“You find out about your young players, and I think in the long haul it can help you a little bit later on because of the experience these guys are gaining now,” Capers said. “Those guys have to do double-time in their preparation, and they have to feel their responsibility to the rest of the team.”
The only thing Capers didn’t like about his defense’s performance were five big plays allowed in the passing game. Flacco’s completions of 31, 45, 59, 20 and 63 yards – the latter on fourth-and-21 – accounted for nearly two-thirds of the Ravens’ total yards (218 of 360).
Damage from two of those big plays was erased, however, by getting stops in goal-to-go situations, none bigger than the four-down goal-line stand in the second quarter that stuffed three straight runs from inside the 2-yard line.
McCarthy had a chance to move the Ravens back off the goal line when holding was called on third down, but he declined and let them take their last crack on fourth-and-1.
“The thinking was simple, and it’s exactly what I said on the headsets,” McCarthy said. “I said, ‘We’re playing great defense, and we’re declining the penalty.’ The penetration on that goal-line stand was outstanding. That’s a moment as a defense you can really build off of.”
The stop was one of nine runs for zero or negative yardage Capers counted from the defense on the day.
The Packers’ running game was far more productive, with Eddie Lacy (23 carries, 120 yards) helping give the offense four straight games with at least 139 rushing yards. The offseason emphasis on the ground game has shown up early and often thus far.
“I think you could see it coming, but more importantly, it’s part of who we are, especially losing two starting receivers this past week,” McCarthy said. “I’m happy where the run game is, but I’m excited about where it can go. There are things we’ve laid out for the run game we haven’t tapped into, yet, and that’s exciting also.”
Lacy’s effectiveness also helped spring the biggest play in the game, Jordy Nelson’s 64-yard TD catch off play-action. Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements said the play fake to Lacy caused Baltimore’s two deep safeties to hesitate as Nelson streaked into the clear.
“It’s a good development,” Clements said. “I think last year when we tried to run those types of plays, we got no reaction from the secondary. They were playing the pass first and they weren’t reacting to the run as much as they had in previous years.”
McCarthy and Clements also praised the overall play of Rodgers, who deftly adjusted to the injuries and personnel changes against the Ravens and had the offense functioning best late in the game. Over their final four possessions, the Packers produced two field goals, the long TD pass and two clock-killing first downs to seal the win.
Clements said throughout the game Rodgers had more than a dozen run-pass checks at the line, and only one or two of them were questioned. He also flipped Lacy’s final run to convert third-and-2 from the right side to the left side.
Those are examples of the command Rodgers has of the offense, particularly under adverse circumstances like Sunday, whether or not his statistics approach the otherworldly numbers he put up his MVP season of 2011.
“I love the way Aaron Rodgers is playing right now,” McCarthy said. “He’s been asked to do things on the run that he’s adapted to. He’s played through some frustrating moments.
“I like him when he’s salty and conflicting and all that. It’s good to see that side of him. He has a tremendous competitive streak in him.” Additional coverage - Oct. 14