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Packers develop more options on offense

An athletic tight end added to the passing game. Deep balls turned into game-changing plays.

And in the backfield, a former receiver has turned into a breakaway threat on the ground.

The Green Bay Packers have found offensive balance and more options for quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the team’s late-season surge back into the playoff picture.

That “run the table” comment that Rodgers made when the Packers were 4-6 — referring to Green Bay needing to win its final six regular-season games — isn’t such a far-fetched idea after all.

“Obviously it’s a leap of faith, but also a feeling based on seeing these guys every single day, understanding how close I felt like we were to being a better offense,” Rodgers said Tuesday.


Rodgers looks to keep roll going against Bears

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are once again handing out decisive victories over top teams, and they are hoping to jump to the top of the NFC North.

It might take a Lambeau Leap.

The Packers come into Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field with three straight wins after dropping four in a row and renewed hope — if not much room for error.

Green Bay (7-6) wiped out NFC West leader Seattle last week, intercepting Russell Wilson five times in a 38-10 romp, and will try to keep rolling against a team that has looked lost all season. Whether it has been injuries, suspensions or poor execution, just about everything has gone wrong for Chicago (3-10).


Burnett’s versatility bolsters defense

Now that converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery is listed as a running back, Morgan Burnett has no interest in a similar switch being made on the Green Bay Packers’ roster and depth chart.

“No, I’m a safety,” Burnett said with a big laugh Thursday. “That’s what I am. I’m a safety that sometimes plays in the box.”

Burnett’s transition in recent weeks to playing a valuable role as a hybrid safety and linebacker comes just as the Packers defense is getting better as it gets healthier, especially in the secondary.

Opponents have struggled to score points, the takeaways that were hard to come by earlier in the season are adding up, and Green Bay (7-6) is back to playing winning football in its quest for the playoffs.

“Guys are just starting to click,” Damarious Randall said.

Randall’s return at cornerback has been a boost.


Rodgers misses practice to focus on rehab

As reporters encircled Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at his locker, linebacker Clay Matthews hurried past and shouted out in jest perhaps the most important question of the week.

“A-Rod, are you playing?” Matthews yelled.

Oh yes, Rodgers plans to play Sunday against the Chicago Bears. He just didn’t practice Wednesday to focus on rehabbing his leg injuries, a plan coach Mike McCarthy said will likely stay in place for the quarterback through Thursday.

McCarthy said Rodgers told him not to hold anything back for the game plan against the Bears as Green Bay seeks a fourth consecutive victory as they chase a spot in the playoffs.

“I’m very optimistic by nature. So we can always take things out. It’s harder to add things back in,” Rodgers said. “So get everything in, and if there’s anything we’ve got to take out on Sunday, we’ll do that.”


Green Bay won’t doubt Thomas-less Seahawks

The loss of safety Earl Thomas to a season-ending injury left a gaping hole in the Seattle Seahawks’ formidable defense.

The Green Bay Packers are more concerned about the considerable talent still left with the Seahawks.

Life without Thomas begins Sunday when Seattle travels to Lambeau Field in an important game in the NFC playoff picture. The Packers (6-6) need a win to keep pace with first-place Detroit in the NFC North. The

Seahawks (8-3-1) have two avenues to clinch the NFC West on Sunday, the easiest being a win over Green Bay along with an Arizona loss or tie.

Whatever happens, coach Pete Carroll’s club must play the rest of the season without Thomas, the former All-Pro safety who broke his lower left leg in last week’s 40-7 win over Carolina.


Peppers gets midweek practice break

Julius Peppers doesn’t like to take breaks.

He has missed just two practices in his three seasons with the Packers. One was late last year, and the other came Wednesday. Both were just days off for rest.

Coach Mike McCarthy plans to give Peppers a midweek practice break the rest of the season, his 15th in the league. Peppers is still productive, with a sack in three straight games going into the Packers’ critical contest Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

“He has a very old-school approach,” McCarthy said Thursday. “He just does not want to come off the field, and I think he’s a tremendous example for your younger players and has been a tremendous asset to our program.”


Perry out vs. Seattle with hand injury

The Packers’ banged-up defense has taken another hit with linebacker Nick Perry ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks with what coach Mike McCarthy called a “significant hand injury.”

Perry, who leads the team with eight sacks, was also effective against the run. He got hurt in the first half of last week’s win over Houston before returning after halftime playing with a heavily-wrapped left hand.

McCarthy said Wednesday that he didn’t know how long Perry would be sidelined, but that the pass rusher would be re-evaluated on Monday.

The loss of Perry is the latest blow to a defense that has had injuries mount at cornerback and now linebacker. McCarthy said Clay Matthews wouldn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday as he works through a left shoulder injury.


Hobbled or not, Rodgers on roll

While Aaron Rodgers’ sore left hamstring might affect his mobility, the quarterback’s right arm seems as strong and accurate as ever.

Rodgers is on a roll as the Green Bay Packers return home from a three-game road swing to face the Houston Texans on Sunday.

The two-time NFL MVP has 17 touchdown passes to three interceptions over the past six weeks. He’s had passer ratings of at least 115.0 each of the past two games.

One victory down, five to go to fulfill Rodgers’ confidence-boosting statement the Packers (5-6) could win out, which would boost their chances of returning to the playoffs.

A win last week over Philadelphia snapped a four-game losing streak.

“We’re just one game better than we were last week,” Rodgers said. “A bad performance this week or in any upcoming week, we know what that is going to entail in the days after that, so we’ve got to stay focused on what we’ve got to do to win each week.”


Packers hoping to restore linebacker depth

The Green Bay Packers will have two players line up at inside linebacker Sunday against the Houston Texans.

Who they’ll be is anyone’s guess.

The good news at least for Green Bay is that two starters are getting closer to returning at a position where injuries have sapped depth and weakened the run defense.

Second-year starter Jake Ryan hasn’t played a snap on defense the last three weeks after injuring an ankle on a first-series punt at Tennessee on Nov. 13. Rookie starter Blake Martinez sustained a knee sprain late in the game at Washington on Nov. 20 and didn’t play on Monday night at Philadelphia.


LB Ryan likely to play Monday night

The Green Bay Packers finally got some good news on the injury front, and it came on the side of the ball where they needed it most: defense.

Starting inside linebacker Jake Ryan, the team’s leading tackler, was able to practice Friday and appears likely to play in Monday night game at Philadelphia.

Ryan suffered an ankle injury early in the team’s Nov. 13 game at Tennessee, missing nearly all of that game and sitting out last week’s loss at Washington. Then, with five minutes left in their 42-24 loss to the Redskins, the Packers lost their other starting inside linebacker, Blake Martinez, to a knee injury. That will keep him out Monday night and likely longer.


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