Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had plenty of time to grow out his mustache while missing the last five games with a fractured collarbone, but the Falcons believe the star QB will play this Sunday. (Reuters)
FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons could face Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers when the teams meet at 1 p.m. Sunday at Lambeau Field.
“Aaron Rodgers has not been cleared by the medical staff,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said to reporters Tuesday. “Aaron Rodgers will practice (Wednesday) in a limited fashion, and we have not ruled him out for the game yet.”
On Wednesday, Rodgers was on the field for the Packers and performed “seamlessly,” in everything he was medically permitted to do, McCarthy said.
The Falcons are preparing for Rodgers, who’s missed the past five games with a fractured collarbone, but they believe the Packers are just posturing.
“That’s the game that everybody plays,” Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. “You want to say your guy is not out. Until they say (he’s out), you have to prepare for him. The last thing you want to do is to show up and not have your work done.”
McCarthy did say that backup Matt Flynn would receive the starter reps at practice.
Rodgers suffered his injury early in Green Bay’s game against the Bears on Nov. 4. The Packers lost that game and three others since, with a tie against Minnesota on Nov. 24, and they trail Detroit (7-5) and Chicago (6-6) in the NFC North.
The Packers have used Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Flynn to fill in at quarterback.
In eight full games this season, Rodgers has completed 167 of 249 pass attempts (67 percent) for 2,191 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. The Packers are 5-2 in games he started and finished.
“He’s one of the best in the game,” Nolan said. “We have to prepare as if he’s playing. I’ve looked at Aaron more than I’ve looked at the other two guys.”
Nolan remembers Flynn from his days at LSU.
“I know that he’s a winner,” Nolan said.
ACTION JACKSON: Falcons running back Steven Jackson helped the Falcons double their rushing average Sunday against Buffalo. The Falcons had averaged 74.7 yards per game before gaining 151 yards against the Bills.
Jackson gained 84 yards on 23 carries and scored two touchdowns.
“It’s not brain surgery. Steven is the type of runner when he gets multiple chances, he’s going to continue to run hard for four quarters,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “He was running hard at the end of that game the other night. That’s what type of back he is.”
Jackson suffered a hamstring injury in Week 2 and has been rounding into form since his return to action against Arizona on Oct. 27.
“It’s just been extremely unfortunate the combination of his injury in Week 2 and then us being out of some games early for one reason or another, we just haven’t been able to consistently run the ball as often as we need to,” Koetter said. “These last couple of weeks, we’ve been running it better.”
SHAKY RUN DEFENSE: The Falcons should have some running opportunities against the Packers, who have given up more than 170 yards rushing in four of their past five games. Chicago (171), Philadelphia (204), Minnesota (232) and Detroit (241) all enjoyed strong days running against the Packers. Green Bay held the New York Giants to 78 yards rushing in Week 11.
The Packers have given up some fine individual performances over that five-game stretch to Chicago’s Matt Forte (125 yards), Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy (155), Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson (146) and Detroit’s Reggie Bush (117). Also, in the Minnesota game Peterson’s backup, Toby Gerhart, ran for 91 yards, and in the Detroit game, Bush’s backup, Joique Bell, ran for 94 yards.
THE SMITH PACKAGE: Since backup running back Antone Smith broke free for a couple of big plays against Tampa Bay, the Falcons installed packages to get him more playing time in the next two games, against New Orleans and Buffalo.
“He’s definitely making the most of his touches,” Koetter said.