Tagged in: Matt LaFleur

Green Bay Packers clinch No. 1 seed with one week to spare

Matt LaFleur has this regular-season thing all figured out.

Three years with LaFleur as the Green Bay Packers’ coach, three times they’ve had a first-round bye in the playoffs — including the No. 1 seed each of the past two campaigns.

But he has never done this before: His team wrapped it up with a match still left in the regular season.

Before the Packers (13-3) even stepped on Lambeau Field on Sunday night, they knew that a victory would make next week’s regular-season finale at Detroit meaningless in terms of their playoff position.

They had the Arizona Cardinals, who beat the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the day, to thank for that.

They took care of the rest themselves with a 37-10 triumph over the Kirk Cousins-less Minnesota Vikings. Before LaFleur & Co. start to think about that, they’ll have to decide how to handle Week 18 versus the Lions. The past two years, they needed the final weekend of the season to secure their playoff seed.

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Now, LaFleur faces the age-old NFL debate: Play the starters in the finale to keep them sharp or give them the weekend off to preserve their health. After the Packers watch wild-card weekend, their first playoff game will be either Jan. 22 or 23 in the divisional round.

Aaron Rodgers’ fractured pinkie toe on his left foot no doubt will factor into LaFleur’s decision.

The toe didn’t seem to bother Rodgers on Sunday night even in the bitter cold. It was 11 degrees at kickoff and got colder as the night went on.

“This is a first game that my toe got through the game without any issues,” Rodgers said. “No pregame painkiller shot. I’m feeling good. I’m happy about it.

There was definitely a time a few weeks ago when I started to project out and think if we can get the 1-seed, it could be two-plus weeks of rest. I’m going to play next week, and I expect Davante to play and our guys to play. So, we’re looking forward to finishing off the season on a high note and then getting the bye.”

Rodgers, who stated this week that he likes it “the colder, the better,” threw for 211 yards in the first half, 118 of them to Davante Adams. It was Rodgers’ highest first-half total since Week 4 of last season and Adams’ highest in a first half since Week 4 of 2019.

The Packers’ halftime lead of 20-3 should have been even bigger but for three failed red zone trips (two field goals and a turnover on downs).

They even ran the ball well, with their second-highest first-half total (88 yards) of the season, thanks in large part to Aaron Jones’ runs of 27 and 28 yards — the first time in his career he has had multiple 25-plus-yard carries in the same game.

Rodgers concluded 29-of-38 for 288 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was his sixth straight game with multiple touchdowns and no interceptions, tying Don Meredith for the second-longest streak in NFL history. And Adams ended with 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown.

He’s 21 yards away from Jordy Nelson’s single-season record and half-jokingly offered that as a reason to play next week.

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Chicago Bears hire former Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as senior assistant

Mike Pettine did not have far to go to find his next job. The Chicago Bears hired the former Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator as a senior defensive assistant Wednesday.

Pettine spent the past three years running the Packers’ defense but was not kept after he let his contract expire following the 2020 season.

The Packers ranked ninth in total defense last season under Pettine, but a defensive breakdown at the end of the first half in the NFC Championship Game on what coach Matt LaFleur called “a flat-out miscommunication” between him and Pettine on what the call should have been on Tom Brady’s 39-yard touchdown pass with one second left in the second quarter ultimately led to LaFleur’s decision to move on from Pettine.

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The Packers hired Joe Barry to substitute Pettine.

Pettine, 54, never signed a contract extension that was offered to him after last season, meaning he was in the final year of his deal, a source told ESPN after the season, making it a cleaner split.

Most coordinators and position coaches always have two years on their deals with the Packers, but Pettine preferred to go into the last year of his contract and see how things played out.

The Chicago Tribune reported last week that Bears coach Matt Nagy was leaning toward hiring a senior defensive assistant to aid new coordinator Sean Desai. In Pettine, the Bears not only will have an experienced defensive coordinator but also a former head coach (Pettine coached the Browns in 2014-15).

The Bears promoted Desai, who had been their safeties coach, to replace Chuck Pagano, who retired after the season.

The Bears on Wednesday also promoted Mike Snyder from offensive quality control coach to offensive quality control/assistant quarterbacks coach and moved Henry Burris from Bill Walsh Coaching Fellow to offensive quality control coach.

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Packers rookie Kamal Martin has surgery on knee, to miss at least six weeks

The Green Bay Packers got some unsatisfactory news on the injury this week. Head coach Matt LaFleur alluded to some injuries on Monday during his press availability, noting that there were a few players who were banged up and whose statuses could affect the makeup of the 53-man roster.

Indeed, it appears that the team will be without a promising young player for at least the first several weeks of the 2020 regular season. That player is linebacker Kamal Martin, the Packers’ fifth-round draft pick in April.

According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Martin will be having knee surgery that will keep him out for an extended period of time. The injury is to Martin’s meniscus, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who notes that it is not expected to be season-ending. It would therefore appears that Martin may be a candidate to start the regular season on injured reserve.

He injured a knee last campaign while playing for the University of Minnesota, though it is unclear if the injuries are related.

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The Packers can maintain Martin’s eligibility to return this season from injured reserve if they keep him on the active roster through the 53-man roster deadline on Saturday and place him on IR afterwards. However, if they send him there before the cut-down deadline, he would be lost for the entire season.

Martin has fascinated heavily in training camp this summer and was reportedly taking snaps with the starting defense early in camp before the team cracked down on the detail that media members could report about the depth chart in practice.

This is just the latest injury at a position that keeps to be a problem for the Packers

Oren Burks missed a few days of practice late in camp and Curtis Bolton remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list in his attempt to return from a torn ACL he suffered last preseason.

That leaves the Packers with just presumed starter Christian Kirksey plus youngsters Ty Summers, Krys Barnes and potentially Tipa Galeai (who seems to be a better physical fit on the inside than on the edge) at the position.

Martin and Burks appeared to be the front-runners to start this season next to Kirksey, but if both of them are unavailable or unready to play, this could drive defensive coordinator Mike Pettine back to using a safety like Raven Greene at the second linebacker spot.

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