With Rodgers getting antsy and Matt Flynn getting reacquainted with the Packers' playbook, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy made it clear that Scott Tolzien will start what amounts to a must-win game against the Vikings.
"We all understand the importance of players returning from injury, the anxiousness of any player to get back on the field, but that's always a collective conversation – the medical staff, the player," McCarthy said on Monday, the day after a 27-13 loss to the Giants sent the Packers to 5-5. "Really, I don't make medical decisions. That will be no different with Aaron Rodgers. We all know he wants to play. He wants to play as soon as he can, but those are big decisions when you put a player back on the field. When everybody's confident, then that's when it will happen."
McCarthy said he hadn't received an update on Rodgers' broken collarbone from the medical staff. Without the former Super Bowl and NFL MVP, the Packers have lost three consecutive games to fall from first place in the NFC North to 10th place in the NFC.
For the second consecutive week, Tolzien put up gaudy numbers. His 339 passing yards against the Giants and 280 yards in relief of Seneca Wallace last week against Philadelphia game him a two-game total of 619 yards. That's the fourth-most in NFL history for a quarterback in his first two starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. However, Tolzien has thrown five interceptions – including three against New York.
"He's a good football player. He's got a lot to work with," McCarthy said. "We need to focus on winning games right now, but there's a lot there for a young quarterback. He's played a lot of football, he's a successful college player. He's been in two other professional programs, excellent programs, so he's been exposed to different systems and has an extraordinary work ethic. So, he has a lot of good football ahead of him. But the reality is, and he knows this better than anybody, he has to take care of the football."
Tolzien picked apart a Giants defense ganging up on the Eddie Lacy-led running game. While Lacy was limited to 27 yards on 14 carries, with a long run of just 5 yards, Tolzien completed five passes for at least 25 yards.
"I have never seen a quarterback hit all his big throws like that in a game," McCarthy said. "That was the most impressive big-play, big-pass play production from a quarterback. … I was talking to Scott and going through his grading session this morning and I can't think of another time in my career that I've had someone hit every one. Every big shot we called yesterday, we hit them. Excellent protection, took a couple of hits on the throws, but the ball placement was extraordinary."
Still, the interceptions are a crippling issue. On the first, linebacker Jon Beason bit on a play-fake to Lacy but recovered to get in the throwing lane. Tolzien never saw him.
"Hopefully, with the fake you make, you're going to get the outside linebacker to react and the middle backer, also, but that's a guy who can fall off," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "You just have to be able to look in that area and find guys and move them or negotiate the throws."
The second was the big one – a pick-six by Jason Pierre-Paul, who made an incredibly athletic play at the line of scrimmage to give the Giants a 27-13 lead.
McCarthy said that was a "hard learning experience for a young quarterback" and a wrong adjustment was made based on Pierre-Paul being in a "flat stance" instead of a "rush stance." Once the ball was snapped, other than asking "the guy to rush harder next time," Clements said there wasn't much that could have been done to prevent that play.
"It's a quick pass, it's a pass we've hit a number of times, it's been very effective," Clements said. "They won on that particular one. It was obviously a big play in the game."
The third came late in the game, when Tolzien got away from immediate pressure by Justin Tuck but broke the cardinal rule of quarterbacking.
"We always say never throw late down the middle," Clements said.
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