Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

After Green Bay Packers' 38-35 victory over the New York Giants, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. With the San Francisco 49ers at 10-2, the Packers aren't going to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs this week. But coach Mike McCarthy appears to have made up his mind on how he would approach the Packers' remaining regular season games if and when that does occur. As much as I would like to take an educated guess in hopes of looking good when it happens, it really would only be a guess. If McCarthy has confided in anyone, his decision hasn't leaked out. Most reads of his personality would suggest McCarthy would want to keep playing his starters, keeping the proverbial pedal to the metal in his aggressive Pittsburgh mindset. That's what helped the Packers get to and win the Super Bowl last season. But you also wonder if McCarthy will at least consider protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers from a hard hit or two on the cold turf at Lambeau Field in December. Remember, the suspension of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be over by the teams' Week 17 matchup.

  2. The performances of backup linebackers D.J. Smith and Robert Francois were admirable considering the circumstances, but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that starters A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop weren't missed. Giants running back Brandon Jacobs totaled 59 yards on just eight carries, and quarterback Eli Manning threw all of his touchdown passes against the Packers' base 3-4 scheme that included Smith and Francois. The Packers had given up only two touchdown passes against their base 3-4 scheme in the first 11 games of the season. Nothing is official, but Bishop said on Twitter last week that he would return to the lineup Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

  3. Receiver Greg Jennings' juggling 20-yard touchdown in the third quarter stirred some debate, but referee Jeff Triplette got the call right. First, in a nuance that I myself had to brush up on, the so-called "process" requirement only applies in instances when the receiver falls to the ground, which Jennings did not. Second, Jennings intentionally used his left hand to secure the ball and didn't want to move it close to his body for fear it would appear as though he didn't have control. Here's how Jennings put it: "I was able to catch the ball, and I caught it on my fingertips, and all I could think was, 'Don't let the ball move.' I didn’t want to pull it in, I didn't want to do anything. I'm thinking, 'Don't let the ball move.'" It worked.

And here is one issue that I still don't get:

I guess I hadn't been keeping track, so I'm glad that Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was. Before Sunday, Packers place-kicker Mason Crosby hadn't hit a game-winning field goal since Week 1 of his rookie season in 2007. And Sunday was only Crosby's fifth opportunity in so-called decisive moments of Crosby's career. He had previously missed from 52 against Minnesota in 2008 and had a 38-yarder blocked by Chicago in 2008. He also missed a 53-yarder in 2010 at Washington. It's worth noting that Crosby admitted he was rooting for the possibility Sunday, going so far as to say that he was "glad" that receiver Jordy Nelson "didn't keep running down the sideline" on the 27-yard play that got the Packers into field-goal position. That’s the kind of mentality you want from your place-kicker.