By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Not all losses are created equal.
Broken collarbone KO’s QB in brutal loss to Vikings, 23-10
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The Packers’ 23-10 loss to Minnesota Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium was bad. The loss of quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone was downright brutal.
Packers’ receiver Randall Cobb called it “devastating.”
That may be an understatement.
Rodgers’ potentially season-ending injury sucked the life out of the Packers’ players and fans alike. Receiver Jordy Nelson was asked what Rodgers meant to the team.
“Everything,” he said. “He’s our leader. He’s our quarterback … great person on and off the field, great guy in the locker room, old guys, young guys, best quarterback in the game.”
Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t try to sugarcoat the obvious.
“Losing Aaron Rodgers speaks for itself,” he told reporters. “In my opinion he’s the best player in football.”
Rodgers’ injury occurred in the first quarter when the Vikings’ Anthony Barr hit him as he rolled to his right and threw a pass intended for Martellus Bennett. The Packers’ tight end dropped the ball, and then Barr dropped the quarterback. Barr’s hit was within the rules, but it couldn’t have been more destructive.
As the franchise lay flat on his back, looking skyward and thinking God only knows what, I likely joined him in hoping for the best while fearing the worst.
This was 2013 all over again. That season, the 5-2 Packers lost Rodgers to a broken collarbone for seven games, during which they eked out a 2-4-1 record.
Rodgers returned for the regular-season finale and the Packers finished 8-7-1 to capture a wild-card berth. Then, San Francisco KO’d Green Bay with a 23-20 upset at Lambeau Field.
Fast forward to today.
At 4-2 the Packers’ designs on winning the NFC North or a wild-card playoff berth are still in play, albeit on life support.
Rodgers was just one of a handful of Packers to be hurt.
The offensive line was down to five players when left tackle David Bakhtiari reinjured his hamstring, right tackle Bryan Bulaga left with a concussion and left guard Lane Taylor limped off with ankle and knee injuries.
When the NFL owners meet this month they ought to adjust the game-day active players from 45 to 53. In a billion-dollar industry it’s penny wise and dollar foolish to limit the number of players who can suit up, especially in the concussion era.
When the Packers and Kansas City played in Super Bowl I there were 40 players on the active roster. That was more than a half-century ago. The game’s strength, speed and violence has far out-paced the NFL’s minimal increase in available bodies.
If Rodgers hadn’t been hurt in the first quarter it may have been only a matter of time given the offensive line’s injuries.
Las Vegas bookies adjusted much quicker to Rodgers’ loss than Packers’ backup quarterback Brett Hundley. The betting line for Sunday’s Saints-Packers game moved 10 points. The Packers were 6 ½ point favorites before Rodgers’ injury. They fell to a 3 ½ point underdog to New Orleans immediately after it.
After McCarthy acknowledged that Rodgers’ loss was beyond significant, he also noted that it’s no time to give up.
“This is a team game, the ultimate team game, and we need to be better,” he said. “We need to be better with the 11 players we have, with the phase that we’re in, and ultimately that’s my responsibility.”
For now, there is no quarterback controversy.
“Brett Hundley is my quarterback, Joe Callahan is the backup, that’s the direction we’re going, that is the focus and that’s where we are as a football team.”
Hundley had moments both good and bad behind a ravaged offensive line. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 157 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
His nifty move in the pocket bought him time to hit Davante Adams on a 14-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-7 in the second quarter.
It wasn’t nearly enough as the Vikings’ strong defense sacked Huntley four times and harassed him into three interceptions.
Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones were largely ineffective against the Vikings. They combined for 23 carries that netted an inconsequential 69 yards. Jones’ long carry was 9 yards; Montgomery’s was 7. Their 3-yards-per-carry average was abysmal.
Meantime, the Vikings’ offense did just enough to get the win.
Case Keenum completed 24 of 38 passes for 239 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Adam Thielen caught 10 passes for 97 yards on 13 targets.
Jerick McKinnon rushed 16 times for 69 yards and a touchdown. He also caught five passes for another 30 yards, including a touchdown on a cleverly designed screen pass.
The Packers’ depleted secondary was down to Lenzy Pipkins at cornerback after Quinten Rollins exited with an ankle injury. The secondary already was without safety Morgan Burnett and cornerbacks Davon House and Kevin King.
The Packers’ few highlights included Damarious Randall’s second interception in as many games, Clay Matthews’ fumble recovery and return, and Kenny Clark’s exceptional play. Clark forced the fumble that Matthews recovered while making six tackles with 1 ½ for a loss.
Also, Trevor Davis averaged 27.5 yards on two kick returns and should be used to return kicks as well as punts.
Beyond that there wasn’t much to cheer about.
When the Packers announced that Rodgers had a broken collarbone and could miss the rest of the season my concern level increased a couple of ticks.
Typically a broken collarbone is a six-week injury. With 10 games and the bye remaining here’s my greater concern: Suppose Rodgers’ injury is more than a broken collarbone and actually includes damage to the shoulder.
As brutal as Rodgers’ injury was the hope here is that it isn’t anything beyond the broken collarbone.
Early reports Monday suggest that there may be a chance Rodgers returns later this season.
That was the best news in the wake of a horrible situation.