Packers: Backups step up as injuries pile up
GREEN BAY — No Bryan Bulaga. No David Bakhtiari. No Kyle Murphy. No Jason Spriggs. No Don Barclay.
And apparently, no problem for the Green Bay Packers.
Despite being down to their sixth and seventh options at tackle Thursday night — with left guard Lane Taylor kicking out to left tackle and Justin McCray making his second start in three weeks at right tackle — the Packers weathered the storm on their offensive line during their 35-14 victory over the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
Taylor, who had never played tackle in his five-year NFL career, his four years of college at Oklahoma State or even in high school, got the call when Bakhtiari (hamstring) couldn’t go for the third straight week. Before Thursday night, Taylor had played 1,508 career NFL snaps but none at tackle.
McCray got the call after replacing Bulaga during Sunday’s win over Cincinnati when Bulaga re-injured his right ankle during the third quarter. Bulaga initially injured his ankle Aug. 23 in training camp and missed the Packers’ first two games, with Murphy replacing him in the Sept. 10 regular-season opener and McCray getting the start in Atlanta on Sept. 17, when Murphy started in Bakhtiari’s stead.
Murphy suffered a foot injury against the Bengals and joined Spriggs (hamstring) and Barclay (ankle) on injured reserve this week.
The Packers opened the game with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that began with running back Ty Montgomery carrying five times for 28 yards on their first six plays. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed his first three passes, getting the ball out quickly and not stressing McCray and Taylor in protection.
Rodgers wasn’t sacked until the Packers’ fourth series, when on a third-and-5 play from the Green Bay 20-yard line, McCray was beaten on the edge by linebacker Pernell McPhee. McCray was later beaten for another sack by Leonard Floyd when Rodgers stepped up to escape pressure and Floyd came off McCray and grabbed Rodgers from behind.
Adams carted off
As if the Packers’ existing injuries at tackle weren’t painful enough, they had another position decimated Thursday night — running back — while also losing wide receiver Davante Adams to an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit by Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan.
Adams was injured with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third quarter, when he caught an 8-yard pass across the middle and his forward progress had essentially been stopped when Trevathan launched himself and drove the crown of his helmet into Adams’ facemask, dislodging his mouthpiece with the force of the hit. Wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb immediately waved over to the Packers’ sideline for medical attention for Adams.
Adams left the field on a gurney and was taken to a local hospital, where he was conscious and had movement in all his extremities while being evaluated for a concussion and head/neck injuries.
“The news I was given on Davante — everything looks positive. That’s a great sign,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Before Adams went down, the Packers lost their top two running backs.
First, they lost Montgomery, who sustained what was termed a chest injury by the team during that opening series. NFL Network reported that Montgomery suffered broken ribs on one of his initial carries but continued to play before finally coming out after his fifth run.
Rookie fourth-rounder Jamaal Williams took his place and carried four times for 11 yards before he, too, departed. Williams sustained a knee injury on a 3-yard carry with 10:44 left in the first half and had to be helped off the field. He did not return.
That left only rookie fifth-rounder Aaron Jones at halfback, and Jones did score his first regular-season NFL touchdown on the ensuing series. His 2-yard scoring run was set up by a 58-yard Rodgers-to-Nelson completion. Jones finished with 49 yards on 13 carries and was able to finish the game. The only other halfback on the Packers’ 53-man roster, seventh-round pick Devante Mays, was inactive.
The Packers also lost inside linebacker Joe Thomas to an ankle injury during the second quarter. Two players who did leave the game — rookie safety Josh Jones with a back injury and inside linebacker Blake Martinez, who was evaluated for a concussion — were able to return later. Jones, who was coming off a 12-tackle, two-sack game against the Bengals, appeared to hurt his back when he dove to recover a fumble and collided with Martinez; Martinez left after making a hard tackle early in the second quarter.
Matthews sacks king
Outside linebacker Clay Matthews broke the franchise record for sacks — and he did it in style.
Matthews, who entered the game a half-sack behind franchise leader Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, burst through the offensive line on Chicago’s first play from scrimmage and crushed quarterback Mike Glennon, who fumbled. Inside linebacker Jake Ryan pounced on the loose ball at the Bears’ 3-yard line, and three plays later, Rodgers hit Cobb for a 2-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Sacks didn’t become an official stat until 1982, but Matthews now leads the Packers with 75 in his career. Gbaja-Biamila is next at 74.5, followed by Reggie White (68.5), Tim Harris (55), Aaron Kampman (54) and Ezra Johnson (41.5).
Third-year cornerback Damarious Randall was pulled after giving up a touchdown at the end of the first half, and during the second half, he was nowhere to be found on the Packers bench. The team said Randall was not injured. … The game was suspended for 47 minutes at the end of the first quarter when a storm passed through and lightning lit up the sky. The teams left the field and fans were shepherded into the concourses. … Outside linebacker Nick Perry, who broke his right hand and didn’t play against the Bengals, returned to action wearing a large protective club cast. … Safety Kentrell Brice (groin) and Ryan (hamstring/concussion) also returned to the lineup after missing last week. … Defensive tackle Mike Daniels (hip) and cornerback Davon House (quadriceps) were inactive because of their injuries.