Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz, right, and Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers meet after an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, in Philadelphia. Green Bay won 27-13. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)(Photo: The Associated Press)
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Life is good — or at least, better — for the Green Bay Packers, even with a 5-6 record and their star quarterback nursing what he apparently considers a minor left hamstring injury.
What a difference winning can make.
Having snapped a four-game losing skid with their 27-13 victory at Philadelphia on Monday night, even sleep deprivation and an unimaginative in-flight late-night snack couldn’t damper their positive outlook.
“Everybody’s grouchy. … They didn’t get any sleep last night. Too many cheesesteaks on the plane,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy joked Tuesday evening before turning serious. “There’s nothing like winning. I mean, that’s what this is all about. It’s about winning football games.”
That’s something the Packers have become accustomed to under McCarthy, but before beating the Eagles, Green Bay hadn’t won since Oct. 20. Now, while they acknowledge they have a lot of work to do to extend their seven-year run of consecutive playoff appearances — the Packers are two games back of NFC North-leading Detroit (7-4) – they enter Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans at Lambeau Field with renewed hope.
“We’re human. You lose a few in a row and doubt starts to creep in on whether or not you can actually finish one of those games off,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after throwing for 313 yards and two touchdowns (116.7 rating) despite battling a second-half hamstring injury. “There’s a big difference between 4-7 and 5-6, for sure. But I hope there’s not a ton of relief setting in, because we still have a lot of things in front of us we’d like to accomplish.
“This was a step in the right direction in a game we needed to take care of business, but we have a short week and we’ve got Houston coming in and we’ve got to have another similar performance.”
McCarthy claimed to have not spoken with the medical staff before Tuesday evening’s news briefing, but he expressed greater concern for linebacker Clay Matthews’ left shoulder injury than he did for Rodgers’ hamstring issue. Matthews absorbed a crushing block early in the game but was able to come back after a locker-room examination. The Packers needed him, too, as he moved inside to replace injured starting inside linebackers Blake Martinez (knee) and Jake Ryan (ankle).
“I can’t say enough about him coming back out there and fighting through what he did,” McCarthy said of Matthews. “I’m sure he doesn’t feel very good today.”
As for Rodgers’ hamstring, the greatest worry is not that he won’t be able to play against the Texans – “I’ll be good to go,” he said after the game – but how much it could limit his mobility. Rodgers has not only been the team’s best running threat since starting running back Eddie Lacy was lost for the season to an ankle injury, but before Monday night, he owned the team’s only three rushing touchdowns on the season. Fullback Aaron Ripkowski became the first back with a TD run Monday night.
Rodgers was hobbled by a calf injury late in the 2014 season that significantly limited his ability to move out of the pocket.
“Obviously two different injuries,” McCarthy said. “I can only go by what he tells me, and that was last night. I think on any type of muscle strain, particularly a hamstring, the next day is a pretty good indicator.”