GREEN BAY—The resiliency of the Green Bay Packers and the depth of their roster continue to be the stories of 2012.
Already down a handful of starters, the Packers lost three more throughout the course of Sunday’s 31-17 win over Arizona, yet, still managed to extend their winning streak to four games heading into this week’s much-needed bye.
“Yesterday’s game was a little bit of a microcosm of our season so far, where there were so many adjustments through the four quarters, but we were still able to walk off the field with a two-touchdown victory,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday.
Some of those adjustments were new, as far as the positions they affected.
The Packers’ starting offensive line hadn’t missed any time all season until right tackle Bryan Bulaga left Sunday’s game in the first half with a hip injury. Left guard T.J. Lang slid over to right tackle, Evan Dietrich-Smith came off the bench to take Lang’s old spot, and the ground game continued a strong start to the day to finish with its highest rushing total in three years.
Outside linebacker Clay Matthews also had been injury-free this season until another hamstring pull – Matthews’ bugaboo since entering the league in 2009 – struck. It forced him to leave in the third quarter, and undrafted rookie Dezman Moses filled in and nearly forced a fumble by getting a hand on Cardinals quarterback John Skelton’s cocked arm.
Receiver Jordy Nelson left the earliest of the three starters, with an ankle injury, but the Packers have grown accustomed to playing without Greg Jennings, and Nelson had missed the previous game, too. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers still threw four TD passes.
Obviously, the Packers want to get their injured players back as soon as possible, but how many will be able to return right after the bye remains uncertain.
McCarthy said Nelson was going to be “OK,” and he’s hopeful fullback John Kuhn (hamstring) also can come back after the bye, but the rest of the injury updates weren’t as promising.
The early diagnosis on Matthews is that he may miss a couple of weeks, though Matthews doesn’t feel the hamstring injury is as bad as some he’s had in the past, McCarthy said. For all his hamstring troubles over the years, Matthews has only missed one regular-season game due to injury in his career.
Meanwhile, more information is needed on Bulaga’s hip injury, and outside linebacker Nick Perry is getting a second opinion on the knee injury that has kept him out of the last three games.
No update was announced on cornerback Sam Shields (ankle) or defensive lineman Jerel Worthy (concussion), while running back Cedric Benson (foot) and defensive back Charles Woodson (collarbone) won’t return until December at the earliest.
Regardless, the Packers will soldier on, and they’ll come back from the bye with a trip to Detroit that’ll mark the first of five division games on the schedule over the final seven weeks. The stretch includes three straight division games the first three weeks of December, one against each NFC North foe.
“That’s where we are today, 6-3, and hopefully we can get healthy in the next two weeks,” McCarthy said. “We won’t be totally healthy. That’s the reality of it. But we have to get ready for these division games. To me, this is a whole different season.”
It’s a different challenge for the Packers, too. Under McCarthy, they’ve never had so many division games crammed together like this. In 2006, they played three straight NFC North games to close the season, and in both 2009 and 2010 they had a five-week stretch with three division opponents, but five-in-seven is new territory.
McCarthy noted that having the bye week now will help with the preparation, but he’s not yet sure if he prefers a schedule like this one.
“I’ll have to answer that in January,” McCarthy said. Additional coverage - Nov. 5