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Aaron Rodgers must practice to play on Thursday

Posted Nov 25, 2013

Packers head coach focused on preparing Flynn, Tolzien for Lions game

GREEN BAY—Mike McCarthy said on Monday that quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ chances of playing in Detroit on Thanksgiving are “slim to none,” and he declined to announce whether Matt Flynn or Scott Tolzien would start if Rodgers does indeed miss another game.

“He’s got to practice,” McCarthy said of Rodgers, who broke his collarbone on Nov. 4. “There are some physical rehab hurdles he has to get through that he hasn’t reached yet. It would be a huge stretch for him to play in this game.”

Due to playing a full overtime period on Sunday, McCarthy has adjusted the team’s practice schedule for this week, scaling back the work scheduled for Tuesday and moving more to Wednesday. Given that, he said Rodgers would have to practice on Wednesday for him to play against the Lions.

As for the backups, McCarthy said the plan is to prepare both of them so as a play-caller he doesn’t keep running into situations like Sunday, when he was calling plays for Flynn that the quarterback had never practiced.

If McCarthy is leaning one way, it would seem to be toward Flynn in a game the Packers (5-5-1) need to win to avoid falling 1½ games behind the Lions (6-5) for first place in the division.

He credited Flynn, the coaching staff and everyone involved for making things work in difficult circumstances on Sunday, using a no-huddle offense that hadn’t been practiced to rally from 16 points down in the fourth quarter and force overtime. The offense “needed a spark,” and Flynn gave it that.

“Matt played very well,” McCarthy said. “He deserves a start. I like the way Scott has grown. Those are the things we’re talking about.

“We’re taking a hard look at our preparation. Who has the ball at the beginning of the game, we’ll let you know down the line.”

Of equal if not greater concern to McCarthy heading into Thursday’s NFC North showdown is the run defense, which was gashed for a combined 237 yards by Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart.

Ranked near the top of the league against the run a month ago, the Packers have given up at least 170 yards rushing in three of their last four games.

“When you’re in eight-man-front football, you need to stop the run,” McCarthy said. “They had over 200 yards.”

The ability of Peterson and Gerhart to keep runs alive by bouncing to the outside and off tacklers was particularly disheartening when the coaching staff reviewed the film.

“Time and time again, we had excellent leverage, but then we don’t complete the play,” McCarthy said. “They have two excellent runners that extended runs, and that’s the part you have to win. When you create leverage and fit in run defense, that’s where the play starts, that’s not where it ends. We just didn’t do a good job finishing.”

McCarthy admitted he thought about trying to finish the game on the first overtime possession with two more Eddie Lacy runs down near the goal line. With the new overtime rules, a touchdown on the opening possession would have ended the game, which a field goal didn’t.

But McCarthy decided to take one shot at the end zone on third-and-goal from the 2, and when that failed, he wasn’t going to risk not getting any points out of the 77-yard drive.

“I thought about running it on third and fourth down, based on where the ball was,” he said. “I thought Eddie was doing a heck of a job, and I definitely thought about putting it in his hand.

“If I had been in a four-down mindset, I would have run the ball on third down.”

Additional coverage - Nov. 25

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