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If Davante Adams had not already proved his worth to the Green Bay Packers, what he did without Aaron Rodgers solidified it.

In parts of seven games with Brett Hundley as his quarterback, Adams caught 46 passes for 543 yards and five touchdowns. In parts of seven games with Rodgers as his quarterback, he caught 28 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns.

He was the Packers’ only receiver who managed consistent production after Rodgers broke his collarbone on Oct. 15.

It’s why last week coach Mike McCarthy, for the first time ever, proclaimed that Adams was the Packers’ “best perimeter player.” It was an unofficial moniker that previously belonged to Jordy Nelson.

The only issue with signing Adams to a four-year, $58.75 million contract on Friday was his concussion history. The 25-year-old suffered his third concussion in 14 months when Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis hit him with a blindside block on Dec. 17 at Carolina. Adams hasn’t played since, although it’s unclear if he could have played this week had the Packers not been eliminated from playoff consideration.

Adams returned without missing a game following his first two concussions, including the vicious hit he took earlier this year from Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan.

Last week, it was suggested to Adams’ teammate, Randall Cobb, that Adams shouldn’t play another game until he got a new contract.

“OK, well you tell him that,” Cobb said. “I’ll let you tell him that.”

Either way, the Packers did right by Adams with this deal.

They could have had him for somewhere in the $9 million to $10 million per year neighborhood had they done a deal in August or September, but Adams’ price just kept going up during the season.

Who knows what Adams would have drawn had the Packers let him get to free agency in March, especially if teams felt comfortable with his concussion history.

The Packers clearly did, even though they need to look back only one year at the case of cornerback Sam Shields, whose career ended last season because of multiple concussions. Shields was older (age 29) when the Packers released him with one year left on a four-year, $39 million contract in February. Shields suffered a concussion in the 2016 season opener and never played again. It was the fourth known concussion of his NFL career.

Adams’ known concussion count is at three in his four NFL seasons. As long as it stays that way, the Packers should be glad they kept their best perimeter player.

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Luke Getsy praised his blocking earlier this year. Mike McCarthy called him “the ultimate pro” this week.

Those are the kinds of things coaches say about a receiver when his best days are behind him.

So if the best thing Jordy Nelson’s receivers coach could come up with was his ability to block, and his head coach chose to praise his work ethic, what does that say about Nelson’s future with the Green Bay Packers — or at least his future as one of their $10-million-a-year receivers?

For years, Nelson was viewed as a bargain — both after he signed a three-year, $12.6 million contract extension in 2011 and then again after a four-year, $39 million deal in 2014. He’s had four 1,000-yard seasons and three with 85 or more catches, including two years with at least 97 catches.

That no longer looks like the case.

He’s due to make $10.25 million in salary and bonuses next season in the final year of the deal that still has him ranked as the 15th-highest paid receiver in the league based on average per year.

With fellow Packers receiver Randall Cobb also in the $10 million range (at $9.5 million next season) and Davante Adams expected to command even more than that as a pending free agent, it’s difficult to see how the Packers can keep all three around at those prices.

Perhaps it’s Cobb who would have to restructure his deal or be released, but he’s more than five years younger than Nelson, who will turn 33 in May.

So at this point, all eyes are on Nelson, who might not even play Sunday in the season finale at Detroit because of the shoulder injury he sustained last week against the Vikings.

Even Nelson admitted this week that he’s not sure what his future holds with the only NFL team he’s ever played for, the one that picked him in the second round of the 2008 draft and the one for which he and Aaron Rodgers have the franchise record for most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver combination — a total that reached 65 with Nelson’s six touchdowns this season before Rodgers broke his collarbone on Oct. 15.

“That’s not [a question] for me,” Nelson said. “I’m not worried about that right now.”

After the fast start this season, Nelson’s production plummeted. He didn’t catch a single touchdown pass in the eight games that Brett Hundley started. Anyone who thought it would automatically return when Rodgers came back in Week 15 at Carolina need only look at Nelson’s numbers from that game, too: three catches for 28 yards. That’s on par with Nelson’s season averages of 3.5 catches per game for 32.1 yards.

Nelson looks like he’ll finish with his fewest catches (53) since 2012, when he missed four games, with the fewest yards (482) and fewest touchdowns (six) since 2010.

“I’ve never put anything in my career on numbers,” Nelson said. “That doesn’t change if it’s a bad season or a good season.”

When asked if he’d call this a good season or a bad season, Nelson said: “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it too much. Obviously we’ve been in it week in and week out, so that’s something that you’ll think about after the season’s over.”

Nelson also said he hasn’t thought about what might happen if the Packers ask him to take a pay cut or restructure his deal.

“That would be a discussion we’d have if it happens,” Nelson said.

Hundley said he “couldn’t put a finger on it,” when asked this week why he hasn’t been able to get the ball to Nelson as much and in as many playmaking positions as he has with, say, Adams, who has flourished despite the change in quarterbacks. Nelson has averaged just 7.1 yards per catch from Hundley but 11.7 with Rodgers this season.

It was during Hundley’s long stretch as a starter that Getsy took to praising Nelson for his blocking.

“He’s been outstanding,” Getsy said. “He really is. There’s never been a blink of an eye. It really hasn’t. We’ve got to find a way to win games, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to do that.”

But it doesn’t change the fact that Nelson is having one of his least productive seasons or the fact that Packers coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged for the first time last week that Adams — not Nelson — is the Packers’ “best perimeter player.”

“Jordy’s the ultimate pro, he’s the ultimate teammate,” McCarthy said. “So he hasn’t [changed] at all, from my perspective. He’s the same guy every day. I understand what numbers say, but it’s about opportunities and being in rhythm. So I mean, if you look at some of the production even with the younger players in the Minnesota game, I don’t think it’s a surprise you see Brett, he throws to Trevor [Davis] more, he throws to Michael Clark more, just because that’s who he’s been practicing with.

“But Jordy, he’s going through a tough week with the shoulder, but like he always does, he shows up every day and he’ll do everything he can to get out there Sunday.”

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Jordy Nelson’s season is likely over, and the same looks to be true for Davante Adams.

The Green Bay Packers’ starting receivers are unlikely to play in Sunday’s regular-season finale at Detroit, leaving both of their futures in doubt.

Nelson suffered a shoulder injury in Saturday’s shutout loss to Minnesota, and coach Mike McCarthy said the 32-year-old is a long shot to play against the Lions. Adams remained in the concussion protocol on Wednesday and hasn’t played since he suffered his second head injury of the season on Dec. 17 at Carolina.

“It’ll be tough for him to make this week,” McCarthy said Wednesday.

Nelson’s production has slipped this season, and even the return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers from his broken collarbone for the Panthers game didn’t jump-start the receiver. Nelson was leading the league with six touchdown receptions when Rodgers got hurt in Week 6 but hasn’t caught one since. He has 53 catches (his fewest since 2010) for 482 yards (his fewest since 2009). Nelson has one year left on his contract and is scheduled to make $10.25 million in salary and bonuses next season.

The Packers might have to consider cutting Nelson or asking him to take a pay cut if they re-sign Adams, who would be a free agent in March if a new deal isn’t worked out by then. Adams has a team-high 74 catches for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns. The 25-year-old’s production didn’t change much with Brett Hundley at quarterback. Of Adams’ 10 touchdowns, five came from Rodgers and five from Hundley.

McCarthy wouldn’t say whether the Packers have intentionally shut down Adams for the season because they’re out of the playoffs. “He hasn’t been cleared; that’s Davante’s status,” McCarthy said.

Without Adams or Nelson, expect rookie Michael Clark to see more action. The 6-foot-6 former college basketball player caught three passes for 36 yards on Saturday against the Vikings in his first career snaps in a regular-season game.

The Packers also are expected to be without running back Aaron Jones, who suffered a knee injury against the Vikings.

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It’s a good thing this was a meaningless game for the Green Bay Packers, given their inactive and injury lists.

Or maybe the Packers shut down so many key players before things started Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings because it was meaningless.

Either way, what looked like a marquee Week 16 game in prime time when the NFL released its 2017 schedule in April turned into a glorified exhibition game, with players looking to make an impression for next season and coaches perhaps trying to justify their employment.

Yet very few did.

Other than Kenny Clark, the second-year defensive tackle who had a couple of sacks — giving him 4.5 for the season, all of which have come in the month of December — and first-year outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert, who was promoted this week from the practice squad and hit Vikings quarterback Case Keenum more than once, there wasn’t much anyone could claim as progress in the Packers’ 16-0 loss at Lambeau Field.

The Packers were shut out at home for a second time this season. Before this year, no team had been shut out at home twice in a season since 2006, when both the Packers and Raiders were.

“I never felt more defeated, more embarrassed by a performance,” said Packers receiver Randall Cobb, who had four catches for 22 yards. “Yeah, we had opportunities, and we didn’t connect when we did.”

Quarterback Brett Hundley, making his eighth start of the season, did nothing to change the narrative that he isn’t capable of taking over a game. He threw two interceptions, which means his home season ended with zero touchdowns and seven interceptions at Lambeau.

Dropping to 3-5 as a starter, Hundley failed to throw a touchdown pass at Lambeau Field once again. He set the record for pass attempts at home without a touchdown (162) in a single season, according to Elias. Along the way, he threw his third red zone interception this season, tied with Dak Prescott for the second-most in the NFL. Only (six) has thrown more red zone picks, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

In Hundley’s defense, the Packers dropped six of his passes, their most since Week 15 of 2014 at Buffalo, another game in which they dropped six, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

When it comes to the roster, general manager Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy likely wanted to use this game — and the regular-season finale next Sunday at Detroit — to evaluate who stays and who goes in the offseason.

But after missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2009, McCarthy might have already made up his mind about changes to his coaching staff, even though Dom Capers’ defense looked respectable for a change. Still, the most likely change this offseason would be at defensive coordinator, unless, of course, team president Mark Murphy decides it’s time for Thompson to go.

Yes, the game was surprisingly still in play into the fourth quarter, as ugly as it was for the Packers’ offense, with five starters on the inactive list: receiver Davante Adams (concussion), linebackers Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) and Clay Matthews (hamstring), cornerback Damarious Randall (knee) and guard Jahri Evans (knee). That did not include Aaron Rodgers, who went on injured reserve earlier in the week after the Packers decided to shut him down the week after he returned from his broken collarbone.

Who knows how many, if any, of those players could have played if the Packers were still in the playoff race? Then it didn’t get any better when receiver Jordy Nelson (shoulder), tight end Richard Rodgers (shoulder), running back Aaron Jones (knee) and right tackle Jason Spriggs (knee) were lost during the game.

“I mean, it’s really hard,” Hundley said. “When you’ve got two big studs [Adams and Nelson] out there and then you lose them. Your right tackle goes down on the first play, then your running back goes out. I mean, it becomes really hard, but at the same time, a lot of people got reps and experience, and you’ve got find a way to win. That’s the name of the game.

“Defense played their butts off. Offense, we didn’t capitalize on the plays we needed to, and that starts with me. I’ve got to be able to lead this team no matter who’s on the field and get us in better opportunities to put some points on the board.”

As bad as Saturday night’s game looked with all those players out, the finale in Detroit might be even tougher to watch.

“We’ve got to play better,” Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “We have to find ways to win ballgames. We won’t take credit for anything. We’ve just got to continue to stay together, man, find ways to win ballgames, I guess. There’s a lot of things going on down here in this locker room, a lot of guys banged up, a lot of guys not playing, a lot of guys not putting their best foot forward. We’ve just got to hold guys accountable. The ones that step on the field with us, let’s go to work. The ones that don’t want to play, just turn your pads in and wait for next year.”

 

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Brett Hundley knows what he’ll do if he sees Anthony Barr chasing him on Saturday night.

“If he’s coming after me, I get down,” Hundley said. “That’s it.”

The Green Bay Packers quarterback has more to worry about than just the Minnesota Vikings linebacker who broke Aaron Rodgers’ collarbone with his hit when the teams met on Oct. 15. Hundley will start Saturday against the Vikings in the penultimate game of the season.

It’s Act Two for Hundley, who went 3-4 as a starter after Rodgers’ injury. He returned to the backup job last week when Rodgers returned, but after the Packers were eliminated from the postseason race, coach Mike McCarthy shut down Rodgers for the rest of the season and went back to Hundley.

It’s also Hundley’s first chance to play against a team for the second time. Although he didn’t start the first game against the Vikings, he played the majority of the game after Rodgers went down. Predictably, it didn’t go well for Hundley that day. He threw one touchdown and three interceptions in the Packers’ 23-10 loss.

“That was my first extended time ever in the league in a regular-season game,” Hundley said. “It was a bit of a shock. Obviously nerves are running high, my heart is about to bust out of my chest and nerves are going. But now I feel comfortable. I feel like I’m playing my game and I’m just having fun, and that’s pretty much the biggest thing.”

Since then, Hundley has made incremental improvements.

“I think he’s grown quite a bit,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s making a lot of quick decisions. He’s been taking care of the football well. He’s using his legs quite a bit. He’s obviously got a strong arm, very athletic guy. He’s starting to see a lot more as far as the things when he wants to get the ball out to the perimeter when guys are playing off coverage, does a nice job with movement in the pocket, and he’s starting to really — I’m not saying he’s Rodgers, but he’s got a lot of very similar mannerisms.”

The final two games could serve as both a final audition for Hundley to impress a team to trade for him (something that seemed like a decent possibility entering this season but may have faded after Hundley started to play) and as a chance for the Packers to drum up interest in their backup this offseason.

“I don’t look at it [like that],” Hundley said. “I’m trying to play and win this game. What happens, there’s no point to look or worry about what’s going to happen in the future, because if you do that, you miss what’s happening now. For me, I’m just trying to make the most of this opportunity, win this game and worry about next week after this.”

For Hundley, the challenge might be his biggest. The Vikings’ defense ranks second overall in the NFL. Hundley inexplicably has performed much better on the road than at Lambeau Field, where he has no touchdowns and five interceptions compared to eight touchdowns against three interceptions on the road. However, Hundley won his past two starts — at home against Tampa Bay and at Cleveland, both in overtime.

“I’m hoping he builds off a lot of the good things he established the last couple games,” McCarthy said.

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Quarterback Cam Newton on Wednesday was feeling boastful about the way the Carolina Panthers outsmarted Green Bay and linebacker Clay Matthews on their first touchdown of Sunday’s victory against the Packers.

Video of the play, a 7-yard touchdown pass to rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, went viral.

The audio first picked up Matthews shouting to his defense to “watch that wheel route; it’s that wheel rout” when he thought he recognized what play was coming off the formation.

Then Newton, with a big smile knowing McCaffrey wasn’t running a wheel route, could be heard saying, “You’ve been watching film, huh? That’s cool. Watch this.”

Instead of a wheel route, McCaffrey came out of the backfield and went over the middle on a break-in route, untouched for the touchdown catch.

“I’m mad they didn’t see me and C-Mac’s reaction to when he said that,” Newton said of the smirk they exchanged. “It was funny. You could hear it clear as day, ‘Watch the wheel route, watch the wheel route.’

“Then there was, like, a pause, and the referee was right there, and I’m looking at C-Mac, C-Mac is looking back up at me, and we’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s the wheel route.”’

Newton said he was too deep in the end zone celebrating to see Matthews’ reaction to the touchdown.

“You can guarantee one thing about it, we’ll have a new signals meeting a couple times this week,” said Newton, referring to this Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay in which a victory would give the Panthers (10-4) a playoff berth. “We don’t want the Buccaneers to get any ideas.”

Not that the Panthers wouldn’t have scored had McCaffrey run the wheel route, a pattern in which a back runs a quick out pattern and then turns up field.

“There were a couple things we could’ve done on that,” McCaffrey said. “Cam did a good job getting me the ball, and I was pretty much wide open from there. The wheel might’ve been open, too.”

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- The Green Bay Packers will re-sign backup quarterback Joe Callahan, a source told ESPN on Monday.

Callahan was released on Saturday to make room for Aaron Rodgers, who was activated off injured reserve.

The signing did not appear on the NFL transaction list Monday because Callahan had to clear waivers first. That means the Packers do not have to make a corresponding roster move until it becomes official, likely on Tuesday.

It could mean the Packers are considering shutting down Rodgers if they’re out of playoff contention, which would happen if the Falcons beat Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football. However, the Packers like Callahan as a developmental prospect, so the move could have been in their plans all along after he cleared waivers.

Callahan entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and also has spent time on both the Saints’ and Browns’ rosters before returning to Green Bay.

Coach Mike McCarthy was noncommittal when asked after Sunday’s loss at Carolina whether Rodgers would play Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings if the Packers were out of the playoff race.

Sunday marked Rodgers’ first game since he underwent surgery to repair a broken right collarbone two months ago. He threw three touchdown passes but also had his first three-interception game since 2009.

The Packers also worked out two quarterbacks on Monday: veteran Matt McGloin and rookie Garrett Fugate.

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Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis provided the latest example of why the NFL will take a serious look this winter at instituting a “targeting” rule, one that would force an automatic ejection for a hit above the shoulders to a defenseless player.

Davis leveled Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams during an interception return in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, illegally making helmet-to-helmet contact from the side and inflicting a concussion. The Panthers were penalized 15 yards, but Davis was allowed to continue playing. (He will face discipline, and possibly a future suspension from the NFL.) If this season has shown us anything, it’s that the league’s current rules aren’t curbing dangerous hits to the head as well as they should.

NFL officials have the right to eject players for such hits but are clearly reluctant to. None of the 15 ejections in the NFL this season have been for on-field incidents. When he acknowledged the possibility of a targeting rule earlier this month, NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent noted it can serve as a “deterrent.” It would also lift the responsibility of ejections from officials and make them automatic every time they called a penalty that fell under the rule.

Would targeting actually deter helmet-to-helmet shots on defenseless players? As we noted recently, results from the college targeting rule are mixed at best. But if you operate under the assumption that the NFL will follow every avenue to minimize hits to the head, whether its intent is genuine or for public relations, you can expect a serious targeting discussion this offseason. Davis’ hit on Adams and the minimal immediate consequences he faced for it are the latest reasons why.

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The last time Aaron Rodgers returned from a broken collarbone, Julius Peppers was on the other side of the line. It was the 2013 regular-season finale at Chicago, and the Packers quarterback narrowly avoided Peppers to throw the game-winning touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the final minute.

Four years later, Peppers will be there again. The pass-rush specialist is back in Carolina, where he started his career and where Rodgers will make his return from his broken collarbone on Sunday.

In between, the two spent three years together with the Packers, and although Peppers didn’t get the Super Bowl ring he came to Green Bay for — the closest he got was two appearances in the NFC Championship Game — he left quite the impression around here.

Known as a soft-spoken, keep-to-himself kind of guy, the Packers saw a different side of Peppers almost from the beginning.

Unlike some teams, the Packers don’t pick captains for the entire season. It rotates on a game-by-game basis until the playoffs. Peppers got a turn for his first game against the Bears at Lambeau Field in 2014.

And anyone who remembers that the Packers were a little late for the pregame introductions on that night now knows why. Peppers, as one of the captains, had the last word two minutes before the Packers took the field.

Except two minutes wasn’t enough time for Peppers.

“He was on a roll, a big-time roll,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy recalled.

At that point, McCarthy’s administration coordinator, Matt Klein, tapped McCarthy on the shoulder and said: “‘We’re out of time.’”

“And I said, ‘Hell, don’t worry about it, he’s on a roll. Let him go,’” McCarthy said. “It was one of the funniest things as we broke as a team and we come down the hall here and out the tunnel, and you could see the TV [people were surprised because] you could see we missed the introductions. We had to run onto the field. I thought that was classic. Those are the things you don’t hear about, but he was a great teammate.”

The Packers trounced the Bears that night 55-14, and afterward just about everyone in the locker room was talking about Peppers’ speech.

Then-Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said at the time: “It was actually a pretty long speech he made. And it was good. We went out there and did everything that he said. It was a really good speech. I wish y’all could have heard it personally.”

No wonder Peppers was selected as a playoff captain all three years in Green Bay.

Peppers recorded 25 of his 153 career sacks during his three years with the Packers, and if they had known he would continue to be this productive — he has 9.5 sacks for the Panthers at age 37 — then perhaps they wouldn’t have let him go back to Carolina.

“He’s a freak of nature,” Packers left guard Lane Taylor said. “He’s like 37 years old and he’s still getting it done out there, nine sacks, still top of the league. He’s a good player. We knew he was even when he left here.”

Rodgers knows he’ll have to keep an eye on Peppers, just like he did in that 2013 game at Chicago. It was on the 48-yard game-winning touchdown to Cobb that day when Rodgers, with the help of a timely block by John Kuhn, sidestepped Peppers. That was Peppers’ last play as a member of the Bears.

Rodgers said this week that he won’t change the way he plays to try to keep from getting hit on his collarbone, but when asked whether he’d request that Peppers take it easy on him, Rodgers joked: “Well, I might do that.”

Peppers said he won’t do anything special to try to prepare his younger teammates to face a future Hall of Fame quarterback.

“We’re not going to add any unnecessary pressure that we don’t need to,” Peppers said. “We’re going to treat this like a regular game regardless of who is playing quarterback. Any kind of tip I might have, whether it’s watch out for the substitution because he likes to try to get 12 people on the field or watch out for the hard count … any insight I have on those things I’ll share, but technique things and game plan, I’ll let the coaches do their job.”

“Obviously, Aaron is a great player,” Peppers added. “He takes the team to another level. But it’s the same type of plays and things like that as far as the scheme part of it. He does elevate that team to another level when he’s out there. We’ll be ready, though.”

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The Green Bay Packers’ season was on the line, much like it is right now, and no one knew what to expect from Aaron Rodgers when he returned from his broken collarbone.

“I’m sure if I miss a pass, that’s going to be because I’m rusty,” Rodgers said at the time. “Or if I hit one, then it’s going to be a big deal or something.”

That was nearly four years ago, and it’s relevant today because for the second time in his career, Rodgers is back from an extended absence because of a busted clavicle. Last time, it was his left and he waited seven games for it to heal sufficiently enough for the Packers to clear him. This time, it was to his throwing side, and he underwent surgery to stabilize it with plates and screws nearly two months ago.

Still, there’s reason to think his return this Sunday at Carolina could look similar to his first game back from his 2013 collarbone injury. It was the final day of the regular season, and it was a typical cold (26 degrees), windy (16 miles per hour) afternoon at Soldier Field in Chicago with the NFC North title on the line.

This time, there are three games remaining, but the Packers (7-6) are in a similar must-win situation to stay alive for a playoff spot.

Everyone remembers how things ended on Dec. 29, 2013, when Rodgers won the game with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the final minute, but a film review of every pass and every dropback showed that Rodgers was a combination of conservative yet spectacular when necessary.

His stats looked like this: 25-of-39 passing for 318 yards with 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and 3 sacks.

But they only tell part of the story.

The film tells the rest.

The ‘big deal or something’ plays

Packers coach Mike McCarthy did a masterful job of calling plays designed to help Rodgers rediscover the timing with his receivers and minimize the chances of his quarterback getting hit.

After a toss play to Eddie Lacy on the Packers’ first offensive snap of the game, Rodgers went to work with several short passes. He hit receiver Jarrett Boykin for a 5-yard gain. He followed that with another short pass to tight end Andrew Quarless for a first down.

Then, he got Jordy Nelson involved. That season, Nelson caught seven touchdowns in the first seven games before Rodgers got hurt. He caught only one after that. It was much the same this time around — Nelson led the league with six touchdowns through five games but hasn’t caught one since Brett Hundley took over. Rodgers easily reconnected with Nelson, who had 10 catches for 161 yards in that regular-season finale at Chicago.

Then there was Cobb, who had missed the previous 10 games because of a broken leg. His return also helped Rodgers. Although he had only two catches for 55 yards, both were touchdowns. The first was one of the few plays Rodgers went on the move. He stepped to his left and bought time for Cobb to run an out-and-in route for a 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter. By that time, Rodgers had completed passes to seven different players.

While Rodgers didn’t go deep often, he hit on four downfield throws — a 32-yarder to Nelson that traveled 28 yards in the air, a 26-yarder to Nelson that went 24 yards in the air, a 22-yarder to Quarless that went 25 yards in the air, and the game-winning bomb to Cobb.

Rodgers scrambled just once, for 5 yards, but waited until the game-winning drive to do it.

He also made sure he went down before he took any big hits. In fact, on his first sack, he wasn’t even hit. He went to the ground as he could see it coming. He then gave Lance Briggs a sack in the first quarter by taking a dive before Briggs could hit him. However, Shea McClellin, the player who hit Rodgers earlier that year to break his collarbone, was penalized for piling on late. Rodgers’ third sack actually worked out in the Packers’ favor because when Julius Peppers forced Rodgers to fumble, just about everyone thought it was an incomplete pass. But after a few seconds, Boykin, at the urging of those on the Packers’ sideline, picked up the stationary ball and ran it into the end zone for an unlikely touchdown.

The ‘rusty’ plays

Rodgers had thrown just four interceptions in eight games before his injury, so it was surprising to see him throw two — both in the first half — in his return.

The first one came at the end of a 14-play drive, and it was just his fourth career red zone interception to that point. Chalk that one up to a bad decision, something Rodgers almost never makes. Rodgers was flushed out of the pocket and tried to throw for Boykin in the end zone but apparently never saw safety Chris Conte.

The other one went off the hands of Nelson, but it’s hard to call it a drop because Rodgers threw the slant high and behind Nelson.

This season, Rodgers comes back with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions in the five-plus games he appeared in.

Of Rodgers’ 14 incompletions that day, seven could have been considered either bad throws or bad decisions. On one of them, he wasn’t expecting center Evan Dietrich-Smith’s shotgun snap and was lucky that the ball hit in a spot where he could grab it, but the timing of the play was off from the start. He also threw three balls away, had two others dropped and two broken up.