Green Bay Packers receiver James Jones makes a one-handed touchdown catch past Houston Texan cornerback Kareem Jackson in the fourth quarter during Sunday night's game at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette
Best offensive display
How many great catches can receiver James Jones make in a single season? His one-handed touchdown grab against Houston was phenomenal. His first-down catch to seal the victory over New Orleans, also a one-handed special, was next to impossible. His diving grab over a Cardinals defender for a touchdown was a work of art. Jones hasn’t dropped a pass all season, and he matched the great Don Hutson’s team record by catching two touchdown passes in three straight games.
Worst offensive display
Aaron Rodgers got creamed in the first half at Seattle in Week 3 to the tune of eight sacks and zero points. Rodgers was a sitting duck primarily because the Packers tried to pass 23 times and attempted just four runs. The Seahawks took full advantage of that imbalanced attack.
Best defensive display
The Packers made the Chicago Bears’ offense look pathetic during a Week 2 mismatch. The Bears managed just 168 total yards, Jay Cutler was sacked seven times and posted a ghastly 28.3 passer rating, and Brandon Marshall caught two meaningless passes for 24 yards. It was utter domination from start to finish.
Worst defensive display
Colts receiver Reggie Wayne was targeted 20 times in Week 5 and caught 13 passes for an astounding 212 yards, including the game-winning touchdown in the final minute. The Packers knew Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was going to Wayne just about every time he dropped back, yet were powerless to stop him.
Best special teams play
On fourth-and-26 in Week 2, the Packers lined up for a 45-yard field goal but shocked the world with a fake that went for a 27-yard touchdown on a shovel pass from holder Tim Masthay to Tom Crabtree. The Chicago Bears were caught completely flat-footed, and the play catapulted the Packers to a 23-10 victory.
Worst special teams play
Giving the ball to Tim Masthay instead of Aaron Rodgers in Week 8, and expecting the Packers’ punter to read the Jaguars’ defense and complete a fourth-down pass on a field goal fake was ill-advised. Rodgers summed up the play best: “It was bad.”
— Aaron Rodgers, when asked what he said to the critics after throwing six touchdown passes against Houston.
“I think it’s a punk mentality, frankly.”
— Mike McCarthy, scoffing at the notion his team might panic after a 2-3 start.
“(He’s) a rattled quarterback. He’s not decisive, whereas last year he was. He hesitates, he misses.”
— ESPN commentator Ron Jaworski, on the morning of Oct. 14. That night, Rodgers threw for a franchise-tying six touchdown passes against Houston.
“Got (expletive) by the refs.. Embarrassing. Thanks nfl.”
“(Expletive) NFL.. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs.”
— Guard T.J. Lang, following the official’s bad call on the final play of the game that cost the Packers a victory against Seattle. (In the days after the game, Lang’s first tweet was re-tweeted nearly 70,000 times and the second 98,000, which at the time was an unofficial Twitter record).
Lang completed the Twitter trifecta with this gem after the NFL and regular officials reached an agreement, spurred on by the Packers’ controversial loss: “Good to see the regular refs coming back! I’m sure the scabs are disappointed they have to return to their jobs at footlocker.”
“ARod is a great QB he isn’t a great leader. There’s a major difference. Leaders take the blame & make every1 better. He doesn’t.”
— Blake Baratz, the agent for Jermichael Finley, who for some reason decided to rip his client’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
The way Mike McCarthy handled his team following the bitter loss in Seattle on a blown official’s call should appear in the next head coaching textbook. McCarthy refused to publicly lambaste the officials, didn’t allow the Packers to feel sorry for themselves and wouldn’t make excuses. He implored his team to focus on the future and not look back. The result was victories in five of the next six games.
The Packers held a 21-3 halftime lead at Indianapolis and inexplicably attempted to pass on the first seven plays of the third quarter. It was a disastrous strategy, based on the four incompletions, one interception, two penalties, one sack and one punt that followed. The Colts scored 10 quick points, the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd came to life, and Indianapolis eventually won 30-27 in one of the biggest collapses in Packers history.
Most Valuable Packer
Aaron Rodgers once again is at or near the top of the NFL in several key passing categories. He ranks first in touchdown passes (25), second in passer rating (107.4), second in completions, fourth in lowest interception percentage and fifth in completion percentage. His six touchdown passes against Houston tied the franchise record. In his last four games he has thrown 15 touchdown passes and one interception.
Most Valuable Rookie
The Packers are getting immediate payback from drafting Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward in the second round with the 62nd overall pick. He is tied for third in the NFL with four interceptions despite limited duty in the first half of the season. Hayward’s profile has been raised since Charles Woodson went down with an injury, and he is bound to get better with more playing time.
Randall Cobb was loaded with potential, but could anyone have guessed he would be this good? He is a big reason why the Packers’ offense has survived despite the loss of top receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson to injury. Cobb leads the team in receptions with 45 and has racked up 500 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He also has rushed for 96 yards in spot backfield duty and remains one of the better return men in the NFL. Rodgers predicted Cobb would go down as the best draft pick in general manager Ted Thompson’s tenure.
Jermichael Finley once was considered a major offensive threat. Now, he’s just a run-of-the-mill tight end averaging 3.2 catches and 30.1 yards per game. Those numbers are pedestrian for someone with Finley’s potential and talent. Everyone including Finley keeps waiting for a breakout game but it has yet to materialize.
Watching Aaron Rodgers dive to the turf, with no concern for life or limb, to recover a James Starks fumble against Arizona was a thing of beauty. Many marquee quarterbacks shy away from unnecessary contact, but not Rodgers. He’s a football player first and is willing to do the dirty work necessary to win games.
It will go down as the “Fail Mary” in Seattle, when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson heaved a desperation pass on the final play of the game and Packers safety M.D. Jennings leaped up for a game-saving interception. Or so we thought. Replacement officials ruled simultaneous possession and a touchdown catch by Golden Tate, which handed the Seahawks an undeserved victory. At least the subsequent outcry from across the nation forced the NFL to settle its labor dispute with regular officials, but it shouldn’t have come to this.
Backup tight end Tom Crabtree has six catches this season, which doesn’t sound like much. But his 30.5-yard average and three touchdowns are remarkable. For a guy not blessed with great speed and known as a better blocker than pass-catcher, Crabtree has made the most of his opportunities. His 72-yard touchdown catch sealed the victory last week against Arizona and is the longest reception by any Packers receiver this season.