Big Changes Happening on August 7, 2019.


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Leaky pass defenses to be tested on Sunday

The Green Bay Packers’ blueprint to slow down Atlanta in the NFC championship game focuses on turning the high-octane Falcons into a one-dimensional offense.

It sounds simple enough. But this plan could be tough to execute for the Packers with their injury issues in the secondary. It’s tough enough to contain All-Pros Matt Ryan and Julio Jones with a healthy defense.

Linebacker Clay Matthews is eager to take on the next test when the Packers visit the Georgia Dome on Sunday.

“I think that’s easier said than done. But that’s ultimately what we strive for each and every week,” Matthews said about slowing down Atlanta’s fifth-ranked rushing attack to create favorable pass-rushing situations. “It’s about stopping the run and getting after the quarterback.”

The Falcons’ own leaky pass defense will also be stressed.


Packers flip script, experience last-second playoff win

For once after a game, Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby felt sore.

He got mobbed by giddy teammates after hitting the 51-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Dallas Cowboys.

At one point, Crosby had to beg hulking left tackle David Bakhtiari from trying to pick up the kicker for a victory parade.

After getting eliminated from the playoffs on the last play in each of the previous three seasons, the Packers experienced last-second elation in the 34-31 win over Dallas on Sunday.

Green Bay will face the Atlanta Falcons on the road in the NFC championship game on Sunday.

“Usually after a game, I don’t feel beat up,” a smiling Crosby said on Monday. “We play a kid’s game, and those moments like that, just kind of bring that (joy) out of us.”


For Rodgers, Hail Mary is more than a prayer

Not so long ago, it was a one-in-a-million play, the sort of thing a player or fan would pray about.

These days, Aaron Rodgers is turning the Hail Mary into touchdowns — and doing so at such a rate that his high-in-the-sky heaves into the end zone feel more like routine and less like a miracle.

Three times over the past 13 months, including last week against the Giants, the Packers quarterback has dropped back at the end of a half, reared back and thrown the ball high toward the end zone. The ball has dropped on the trajectory of a javelin from the sky and landed in a Green Bay receiver’s hands.

The plays have resulted in touchdowns no one could’ve expected, though maybe now, they should.

“Because he’s done it before, you’re thinking, ‘You never know,’” said Roger Staubach, the Hall of Fame Cowboys quarterback who famously coined the term ‘Hail Mary’ for the desperation heave he used to beat Minnesota in 1975.


Steady McCarthy steers Packers to playoff power

For all the postseason appearances that the Green Bay Packers have made in coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure, this year’s run to the playoffs might be the most unique.

The Packers were considered a likely Super Bowl contender in the preseason. They look like a Super Bowl contender now going into the divisional round game on Sunday against Dallas.

In between, the middle of the season resembled a roller-coaster ride. But the Packers are peaking at the right time.

They haven’t lost since falling to 4-6 following a 42-24 defeat to Washington in Week 11. Just like other teams, Green Bay had to make adjustments after losing key players.

They got healthier on defense. They have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is playing perhaps the best football of his career.


Pass game options grow for Packers in playoffs

The options for quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the Green Bay Packers’ passing game are growing at just the right time.

It’s not just Jordy Nelson making the big plays as the Packers roll into an NFC playoff game on Sunday against the New York Giants with a six-game winning streak.

Davante Adams capped his breakout regular season with three touchdown catches over the last two games, giving him 12 for the season.

Athletic 6-foot-4 tight end Jared Cook is a matchup problem in coverage. Undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison has turned into a late-season find with eight catches for 157 yards and a score over his last two games.

Receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery remains a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. Fullback Aaron Ripkowski made his first career touchdown catch last week against Detroit.


Packers look to keep streak going

Aaron Rodgers backed up his confidence-boosting “run-the-table” statement with a remarkable six-game run of quarterback play that helped get the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.

In the locker room, or on sideline conversations in practice, Rodgers’ attitude didn’t change. He remained steady, and believed in his teammates whether they were two games under .500 or NFC North champions.

Winners of six straight games, the Packers hope to keep their hot streak going Sunday when they meet the New York Giants in an NFC playoff game.

“The biggest compliment I could give him, he is coming in here every single week and been the same dude,” center Corey Linsley said Wednesday night after practice. “No matter when we were 4-3 or 4-6 or where we are now, he’s never changed who he is. I think having that kind of consistency, with your leader is huge.”

A strong arm and uncanny knack to extend plays helps a lot, too.


NFC North race goes down to the wire

It’s not the biggest game in the history of Ford Field, though it’s probably the biggest that’s actually involved the Detroit Lions.

Motown’s new football stadium opened in 2002, and since then, it has hosted a Super Bowl and a Final Four. The Lions, however, have never had an opportunity in the building quite like this weekend, when they host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night with a chance to win Detroit’s first division title since 1993.

Whoever wins this game takes the NFC North, and whoever loses could be out of the playoffs.

“I can’t wait,” Lions receiver Golden Tate said. “I’m excited for this team. I’m excited for this city. We have a great opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done in a long time.”


Packers get pass rush punch back

The star pass rusher has a sore left shoulder. The team leader in sacks played with a thick left wrap resembling a large oven mitt protecting his injured left hand.

Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are nowhere close to 100 percent healthy. The Green Bay Packers’ outside linebackers head into the regular season-ending showdown in Detroit for the NFC North title with momentum after powering through their injuries against Minnesota last weekend.

“They’re our bookends, they’re our pass rushers. It’s obviously a premiere position on defense for anybody and these guys have been battling injuries all year,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I just give them a ton of credit, ton of love just the way they’re going about it.”

Getting to Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on Sunday night will be important, especially after two straight porous games in pass coverage for the Packers (9-6).


Packers-Lions outcome will determine plenty for playoffs

Here’s why the NFL switched the Green Bay-Detroit showdown to prime time: The loser could be staying home for the playoffs.

By the time the Packers and Lions, both 9-6, kick off for the NFC North crown at Ford Field, they will know how much of a must-win situation they are in. Or even a must-tie scenario.

If the Redskins (8-6-1) beat the Giants (10-5 and already owning a wild card), that means the loser in Motor City won’t make the postseason. Unless the Packers and Lions tie, in which case Green Bay wins the division and Detroit gets the second wild card for having defeated Washington.

Got it?

There’s more.

The Packers could advance if the Redskins tie, Tampa Bay wins and Green Bay clinches at least a tie in a strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Tampa Bay. How can that happen?

Don’t ask. Just wait for Sunday’s results.


Vikings, Packers headed in opposite directions

The Green Bay Packers have powered through injuries to Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews to surge back into postseason contention.

The fading Minnesota Vikings need a miracle to get into the playoffs, especially now that running back Adrian Peterson is sidelined again.

Heated division rivals headed in opposite directions meet Saturday at Lambeau Field in a game that could help clear up the NFC playoff picture.

Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn would rather muddle things up.

“Most definitely. If we can’t go, they can’t go,” Munnerlyn said. “We’re going to try to spoil their parade and put them in a bad situation.”

A four-game winning streak has changed the fortunes of the Packers (8-6). A win over the Vikings (7-7) would set up a winner-take-all showdown at first-place Detroit for the NFC North crown.


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