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Packers need quick recovery from humbling loss

The Sports Xchange GRENN BAY -- Aaron Rodgers felt he had the ideal tonic to wash away the bitter aftertaste of his and the Green Bay Packers' performance Sunday. "I have a glass of scotch and chill out a little bit," Rodgers said. Flushing away ...

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Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga (75) and Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (98) scramble for a loose ball after a quarterback Aaron Rodgers (not pictured) fumble that the Cowboys eventually recovered in the third quarter Sunday at Lambeau Field. (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

The Sports Xchange

 

GRENN BAY - Aaron Rodgers felt he had the ideal tonic to wash away the bitter aftertaste of his and the Green Bay Packers’ performance Sunday.

“I have a glass of scotch and chill out a little bit,” Rodgers said.

Flushing away the stunning 30-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field had to be done in a hurry for Rodgers & Co.

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The Packers are on a short week with their next game Thursday night, back at Lambeau, against the NFC North rival Chicago Bears.

With the Bears firmly in the basement of the division with a 1-5 record, Green Bay (3-2) has a great shot to heal quickly from a defeat that dropped the Packers two games behind the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings.

“When you play a Thursday night game coming off of a Sunday game, you have to move on the next day,” head coach Mike McCarthy said.

The Packers did just that in an action-packed Monday that included a condensed review of the film from Sunday’s debacle and shifting into game-plan meetings and a walk-through for Thursday’s game.

All the while, the players had to lick their wounds from a mistake-filled game against the Cowboys.

Green Bay’s underachieving offense had five fumbles, lost three of them, and had a season-high four turnovers Sunday.

“We’re not playing up to our standards, we’re not playing up to our potential,” veteran guard T.J. Lang said. “It’s frustrating.”

The easily agitated Packers fans booed lustily throughout a game in which Green Bay never led, and those jeers weren’t just directed at the offense.

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A banged-up defense gave up 424 yards, including 191 on the ground. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott gashed Green Bay’s top-ranked run defense for 157 yards in 28 carries.

“It’s unfortunate,” defensive tackle Mike Daniels said of the loud boos that were hard to ignore. “But, when we’ve been as great as we have been and we don’t show that, you can’t expect ‘em to be particularly happy.”

 

Eyebrows raised

The Packers raised some eyebrows in their 30-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday by making the unusual decision to go into the game with only one true running back.

The fallout from not having James Starks available because of a knee injury that flared up early last week and resulted in surgery during the weekend left featured back Eddie Lacy to carry the load. And Lacy wasn’t a picture of health, either, a week removed from an ankle injury that knocked him out of the win over the New York Giants.

“Eddie going in and out of the game (Sunday) was a challenge,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “But, it was part of the expectation in the game planning in the last couple days (before the game). I just wish I would have handled that better.”

The team decided to hold off on promoting undrafted rookie Don Jackson from the practice squad after the severity of Starks’ injury came to light. He reportedly had a torn meniscus, and McCarthy confirmed Monday that Starks underwent surgery.

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McCarthy had an optimistic outlook for Starks’ recovery per the team’s medical staff.

“They feel it’s something quick, so it’ll definitely be on the front end of whatever the prognosis is,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy had to be careful how much he relied on a hobbling Lacy in Sunday’s game.

Lacy had 17 carries for 65 yards, highlighted by an explosive run of 25 yards early on, but the workhorse had to leave the game occasionally.

“I know he was hurting pretty bad,” veteran guard T.J. Lang said. “The running game was just a little up and down, not as consistent as we have been, as we’d like to be. ... But, I thought Eddie gave us a pretty good spark for the limited snaps that he played.”

To compensate for Starks’ absence, McCarthy continued to utilize receiver Ty Montgomery in the backfield. Montgomery had three carries for 6 yards, and had a late fumble that sealed the Dallas victory.

 

Report card vs. Cowboys

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus

Aaron Rodgers wasn’t immune to the loud boos directed from the home fans at the Packers on multiple occasions Sunday. The struggling quarterback completed 31 of 42 passes, but several of those incomplete throws stood out. Besides an ill-advised pass that was picked off by safety Barry Church early in the second half, Rodgers was off the mark on throws to open targets tight end Richard Rodgers and receiver Randall Cobb, the latter in the end zone. Rodgers, who threw for 294 yards and a late touchdown to Cobb to finish with a 90.8 passer rating, also put the football on the ground twice. One of those resulted in a critical turnover late in the third quarter with the Packers on the doorstep of the end zone and cutting into Dallas’ 20-6 lead. Rodgers audibled to a keeper on first-and-goal from the Cowboys’ 1-yard line but was stopped well behind the line of scrimmage and lost the ball on a hit by defensive end David Irving. Top wideout Jordy Nelson also gave the ball away early in the game as he turned up field after a catch over the middle and promptly was hit by Church. Ty Montgomery had a career-best game of 10 catches for 98 yards in 12 targets, but the young receiver fumbled twice. The offensive line, which lost right tackle Bryan Bulaga to a back injury late in the game, was solid again with Rodgers sacked only once.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C

Eddie Lacy gave a valiant effort despite not being healthy. He didn’t practice much last week because of an injury to his left ankle. When the Packers lost James Starks to a knee injury earlier in the week that resulted in surgery, they were left to play Sunday with Lacy as their lone running back. Hobbling throughout the game and occasionally needing a break, Lacy rushed for 65 yards in 17 carries. He ran with authority on a few runs, including a big one for 25 yards in the first half, and hurdled would-be tacklers on three separate occasions. Still, the absence of a capable understudy hamstrung the Packers, who rushed for just 78 yards and averaged 3.3 yards per attempt. Montgomery was utilized again out of the backfield but remained a nonfactor with three carries for 6 yards, culminating with Green Bay’s last giveaway in the closing minutes of the game. Fullback Aaron Ripkowski’s lone carry went for no gain on third-and-1 in the red zone in the Packers’ opening possession, forcing them to kick a field goal.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus

Even without star wideout Dez Bryant, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott had the upper hand in leading the surging Cowboys to their convincing win. Prescott exploited a Green Bay secondary that was left without its top three cornerbacks for most of the game. Damarious Randall aggravated a groin injury in the second quarter and didn’t return. The Packers went into the game without Sam Shields (concussion) and Quinten Rollins (groin). LaDarius Gunter, essentially the next-best cornerback on the roster, had a rough day with downfield coverage of a few deep throws from Prescott. Terrance Williams played a part with four catches for 75 yards (long of 42), as did Lucky Whitehead (one reception for 35 yards) and Brice Butler (20-yard touchdown catch). Prescott finished 18 of 27 for 247 yards and three touchdowns and an Aaron Rodgers-esque passer rating of 117.4. His first interception as a pro came on a short throw intended for tight end Jason Witten (four catches, 42 yards) that safety Morgan Burnett snagged late in the third quarter. What little pressure the Packers generated in the pocket led to an earlier Prescott giveaway on Julius Peppers’ strip sack that resulted in a recovery by fellow linebacker Joe Thomas.

RUSH DEFENSE: D

The Packers allowed all of 171 rushing yards in their first four games. The Cowboys’ top-ranked rushing offense eclipsed that total with ease, thanks to a multitude of missed tackles. Dallas racked up 191 yards on the ground, averaging a hefty 5.8 yards per play. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott showed to be the real deal. The NFL’s rushing leader ran for 157 yards in 28 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per touch. He wore down Green Bay’s stacked front as the game went on, rushing for 97 yards in the second half with big-time runs of 29 and 25 yards. Whitehead fueled a decisive five-play, 97-yard touchdown drive by Dallas in just 33 seconds late in the first half by streaking 26 yards around left end on a jet sweep on a third-and-1 play deep in Cowboys territory.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Previously maligned punter Jacob Schum avoided the frequent boos inside Lambeau Field by striking his only punt 47 yards and having it downed by hustling long snapper Brett Goode at the Cowboys’ 3 right before that crushing touchdown drive preceding halftime. Mason Crosby made all three of his field goals, from 37, 43 and 34 yards. The Packers also had some big-play flashes on returns. Montgomery had a 40-yard kickoff return and averaged 32 yards in two tries. Rookie Trevor Davis’ lone punt return went for 25 yards. Green Bay’s coverage units had to contend with only one kick return by the Cowboys, which was a modest 21-yard runback by Whitehead on a kickoff.

COACHING: C-minus

The most lopsided home loss for the Packers in a game started byAaron Rodgers since the 37-20 drubbing inflicted by the New York Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs during the 2011 season wasn’t pretty. Head coach/play caller Mike McCarthy’s offense continued its troubling first month of the season. McCarthy threw in a few more wrinkles, including empty-backfield sets with five receivers and a heavy inverted wishbone look, but those were to no avail. And, his insistence in recent weeks of having Montgomery line up as a running back hasn’t amounted to much. Of greater concern, however, is whether McCarthy will be able to light a fire under the ineffective Rodgers, who was as much of a culprit as anyone in the season-high five fumbles and four turnovers Sunday. The reclamation project must start on a short week with the Chicago Bears’ paying a visit Thursday night. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers was caught with his hands tied as the Packers played most of the game without their top three cornerbacks. Plus, Capers went in with a game plan to try to bottle up the explosive Elliott by playing more base packages. That didn’t work well.

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