Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones goes up to grab a touchdown pass over Arizona Cardinals cornerback Jamell Fleming during the second quarter of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field. H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette
The Insider's take on Sunday's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 31-17.
The big picture
As if their injury list wasn’t long enough, the Packers lost three more starters — tackle Bryan Bulaga (hip), receiver Jordy Nelson (ankle) and outside linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) — in Sunday’s 31-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals at Lambeau Field. So it’s no wonder they were so pleased to have their bye next week. But they’re hardly limping in, having won four straight and five of their last six.
The James Jones highlight film from 2012 will be a long one. That’s what happens when a receiver catches pretty much everything thrown his way. He did it again Sunday against the Cardinals, making another spectacular grab, this one for a 28-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Coming out of the 2-minute warning, Jones lined up wide to the left and a ran a stutter-and-go move on cornerback Jamell Fleming, quickly gaining a step on the defender. But Jones had to slow down to adjust to the ball at the 5-yard line. He timed his jump perfectly and soared above Fleming, who had tight coverage inside. As he was falling, Jones managed to wrap his arms around the ball and secure it before he hit the turf. Fleming fell down, and Jones’ momentum carried him into the end zone for his career-high eighth touchdown catch of the season.
He has made a season’s worth of remarkable catches in just nine games. Who can forget the circus grab he made for the game-clinching first down in the final minutes of the Week 4 game against New Orleans? Or the one-handed, 18-yard touchdown catch in Week 6 at Houston?
What’s more, he’s making the routine catches that sometimes had slipped through his hands in the past. He had another drop-free game — he hasn’t had a drop all season — and finished with four catches for 61 yards.
Just when it looked like Matthews had put his long history of hamstring problems behind him, he came up lame midway through the third quarter against the Cardinals and couldn’t return.
Matthews’ hamstring issues date to training camp in his rookie season of 2009, when he missed all but one preseason game with a left hamstring pull. The next summer, he missed the entire preseason with the same injury. Though the Packers didn’t say which hamstring Matthews hurt against the Cardinals, it appeared he injured that same one. He left the game for one play in the second quarter, when he limped off, and quickly returned. But he was done for good after he failed to wrap up quarterback John Skelton, who avoided Matthews’ sack attempt.
Matthews has missed only one game — Oct. 17, 2010. against Miami — and that was after he aggravated that left hamstring and dropped out of the previous game against Washington. Given that Matthews has the bye week to heal, perhaps he can avoid missing a game this time.
Play of the game
Who would’ve thought backup tight end Tom Crabtree would have the Packers’ longest play from scrimmage this season? But he does, thanks to his 72-yard touchdown catch on the final play of the third quarter. Coming out of the backfield, Crabtree beat inside linebacker Paris Lenon, the former Packers backup, and Rodgers looped the ball over the defender’s head. Crabtree caught it near midfield and couldn’t be caught from behind.
It was the longest reception by a Packers tight end since Paul Coffman’s 78-yard touchdown catch at Miami on Oct. 28, 1979.
Though coach Mike McCarthy didn’t like seeing his quarterback dive head first for James Starks’ fumble in the second quarter, Rodgers saved the Packers with his heads-up play. Had the Cardinals recovered, they would have had possession at the Packers’ 32-yard line trailing only 14-7. Instead, the Packers took advantage of Rodgers’ play, marched down the field and capped the drive with Jones’ touchdown catch that gave them a 21-7 halftime lead.
Did you notice?
♦ The Packers had referee Walt Coleman's crew for the second time since the officials’ lockout was settled. The same crew worked the Packers’ game at Indianapolis in Week 5.
♦ Linebacker Frank Zombo was inactive a day after he was activated off the physically unable to perform list.
♦ With a plus-one turnover differential, the Packers have either won or tied the turnover battle in 25 of their last 27 regular-season games.
By the numbers
1 — Penalty called against the Packers, a false start by tight end Jermichael Finley in the first quarter. It was their lowest penalty total since a flag-free game on Dec. 25, 2011 against Chicago.
5 — Division games remaining in the Packers’ final seven games after next week’s bye.
22 — Touchdown passes by Aaron Rodgers in the last six games, the most by a Packers quarterback over that length of time in a single season. The previous high was 20 by Rodgers (twice in 2011) and Brett Favre (1996).
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.