ARLINGTON, Texas - The Green Bay Packers are advancing to the NFC championship game, but coach Mike McCarthy might have to hold his team together with string and duct tape.
Just when it looked like the Packers had brought their injuries under control, they saw five starters need help getting up, leave temporarily or get knocked from their 34-31 victory Sunday over the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
Only safety Morgan Burnett (thigh) was unable to return, but left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) and receiver Davante Adams (ankle) are going to be nursing bad sprains and cornerback LaDarius Gunter and tackle Bryan Bulaga will most likely be on the injury report after needing attention during the game for unidentified injuries.
After the game, receiver Jordy Nelson, who sat out because of broken ribs, said he was doing much better, but could not say for sure he would be ready to play in the championship game at Atlanta Sunday.
DOUGHERTY: Packers will live or die with Rodgers
D'AMATO: Dagger through the heart of Texas
PLAYOFFS: Schedule, times
Nelson did spend the game on the sideline and didn’t seem to be in any discomfort getting dressed and didn’t have his side taped up. However, he refused to say if there was ever a chance he might play in the game against the Cowboys.
Asked if it was almost guaranteed he would play against the Falcons, he said: “No, there’s no guarantees. We’re a whole week away.”
Nelson did say he made considerable progress during the week.
“A lot better than Monday,” he said.
As for those who got knocked around against the Cowboys, Burnett injured his thigh when he collided with Gunter on a deep pass on the first series of the game. Burnett went to the bench, received treatment and tried to come back, but he couldn’t stay on the field.
“Morgan’s an iron man,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “He never wants to let the team down. He loves to fight through adversity. He tried to come back and fight through it, but It just wasn’t having it.
“He’ll be back for sure.”
PREVIEW: Packers (12-6) at Falcons (12-5)
Not having Burnett cost the Packers dearly and forced them to play rookies Kentrell Brice and Josh Hawkins in their dime package.
Things could have been much worse had Bakhtiari not figure out a way to return from a bad looking injury that forced him to go to the locker room without about 7 minutes left in the half. Bakhtiari got hit on the side of his knee, usually where MCL injuries occur, and was down on the field for awhile.
He eventually gathered himself and jogged off the field, but the training staff took him inside the locker room and started working on him.
“I decided I needed to come back, so we might as well start working on it now,” he said. “I jogged in here, taped it up and got ready to go. If I come back there’s no excuses. We put some heat on it and I went on the bike to keep it warm.”
Asked what would have kept him out, he said, “I don’t know. The fact is I didn’t. It’s my body. They (the medical staff) had their advice, but it’s my body, my choice.”
Bakhtiari finished the game and said he would definitely play next week, but there’s no question doctors will be looking to see how much swelling and pain he has throughout the week.
Adams got hurt on the Packers’ go-ahead drive that started with just over 4 minutes left. On second down, he beat cornerback Brandon Carr on a slant route for 16 yards, but on Carr landed on top of his ankle as he brought him down.
NAGLER: The buzz on Packers-Cowboys
It was the same kind of circumstance as last year when Adams suffered an ankle injury that bothered him the entire season.
“I didn’t know right away,” Adams said. “I had to get to the sidelines and test it out a little bit. It seemed like it was good to go. I was through that all last year, it was just another walk in the park.”
Adams had the ankle taped again on the outside and came back for the Packers’ final series. He did not see another pass the rest of the game. His ankle will be monitored closely throughout the week.