GREEN BAY – An injury-depleted Green Bay Packers team lost their most prized possession in the first quarter of their game, Nov. 4, against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers went out in the first series of the game with a left shoulder injury and never returned. As legendary Green Bay coach Vince Lombardi said, “What the hell is going on out there?” He would have had Rodgers’ shoulder taped up and trotted him back on the field.
So if Rodgers can’t go for a couple of weeks, do they give Vince Young a call? General manager Ted Thompson was probably on the phone while the game was in progress, saying, “I’m sorry Vince for letting you go. We need you and you need us.” But knowing Thompson, he won’t go out to get short-term help. They need three active QBs and keep Scott Tolzien where he is, on the practice squad.
Not having Rodgers in there gave a psychological boost to the Bears. The Packers stuck to their bread-and-butter offense in running the ball and produced a touchdown each by James Starks and Eddie Lacy, but Chicago exposed Green Bay’s secondary and scorched them for two passing TDs and one running score. The NFC North is up for grabs and the last thing the Pack needed was for No. 12 to go down and the Bears to get back into the race. Rodgers returned to the field in team sweats and stood on the sideline helpless while the Bears ran them roughshod on their own field for 442 total yards.
Somebody out there thought that Thompson should call Brett Favre back and rehash old wounds. Retire his number on the wall of honor after the first snap he takes from scrimmage. Chicago was a double digit underdog, and boy did people lose a lot of money on that game. And after their 27-20 victory, both teams were 5-3 overall along with Detroit. All three teams have a 2-1 division record so far. The winner of the Chicago and Detroit game Nov. 10 will take control of the division. The Packers won’t have any more division games until they play Minnesota at home Nov. 24 and at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.
More injuries to the Packers had head coach Mike McCarthy scratching his head and trying to plug the holes. Throwing backup QB Seneca Wallace in a pack of hungry Bears was about all McCarthy could do. Sure, Lacy ran for 150 yards on the ground and a TD, but if Wallace at 33 years old and rusty couldn’t grasp the system because he mostly watched in practice while Rodgers took most of the snaps, then how did the Packers expect him to run the offense?
“Obviously, not getting the reps in practice (didn’t prepare me enough),” Wallace said. “You got to go out there and just try to play. I tried my best. I put a lot of pressure on myself to make sure that it’s not a letdown in what Aaron’s doing and what I’m doing. Obviously it’s tough to get put in that situation and go out there and not have a lapse, but you want to go out there and compete. That’s what I’m about. I love to compete and I put a lot on myself and I feel like I should have played better.”
Translation: “I’m just winging it out there and seeing which way the ball bounces.” McCarthy was clearly disappointed in losing Rodgers in the first half. He didn’t talk to him at halftime. The coach wasn’t in the mood to speculate on how long Rodgers would be out or the exact diagnosis on No. 12’s shoulder. He isn’t a doctor, so he isn’t trying to play one. But, McCarthy is a master psychologist. He had no choice but to give Wallace more live practice action to prepare for Philadelphia at home, Nov. 10. He could get Wallace to pull a rabbit out of a hat and lead the troops without a wounded A-Rod.
Here’s why McCarthy could be feeling the loss of Rodgers close to the vest: When Rodgers sat out before with a concussion, he had Matt Flynn at the ready because Flynn knew the system and had a breakout game at New England, even though they lost. Wallace has been in Green Bay for the last eight weeks. It takes years to learn McCarthy’s system. Rodgers has an encyclopedia of information and the power to change plays at the line of scrimmage. Rodgers and McCarthy have a long-term relationship. Wallace has a five-page memory and no history with the coach, so some of the plays might have to be simplified for him because he might be gone after the season anyways. Learn and react while you can, Mr. Wallace, for two weeks because Mr. Rodgers is taking over the neighborhood again.
“Seneca needs to perform better,” McCarthy said. “He’ll definitely do that with a short week of practice. Aaron takes a lot of reps during the week. Seneca is probably on the low side of the backups. We do a lot of work with our backup guys after practice. It’s nothing like live reps.”
The confidence level didn’t waver when Wallace came in the huddle for the first time in a regular season game. “(My teammates) know I’ve been working the last eight weeks I’ve been here,” he said. “They are confident regardless of whoever’s in there. We’ve got to have confidence and know we can move the ball and do the things we need to do regardless of who’s playing quarterback. They looked at me and said, ‘Let’s go.’ And I know I’ve got to go there and perform at a high level.”
Receiver Jordy Nelson is endorsing Wallace and is very confident that he will do just fine. “We trust Seneca,” he said. “He has a proven track record and he’s been around the league long enough. We have all the faith in the world in him.”
So if the Packers lose the next three games with Wallace at QB, do they throw out the life rafter and look for help? Call Favre back or Graham Harrell or somebody and buy some time until Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and T.J. Lang (concussion) come back for the stretch run.