NFL

Packers sputter without Rodgers, Cardinals cruise despite missing Murray

By Sports Desk November 07, 2021

The Green Bay Packers' first look at life without Aaron Rodgers was not a pleasant one, as their offence sputtered with backup quarterback Jordan Love at the helm and the Kansas City Chiefs held on for a 13-7 victory. 

The Packers (7-2) had averaged 27 points during the seven-game winning streak that ended on Sunday after reigning MVP Rodgers missed the game following a positive coronavirus test during the week. 

The visitors did not get on the scoreboard until Love hit Allen Lazard for a 20-yard touchdown pass with five minutes remaining for his first career NFL TD.

That gave Green Bay some hope after their previous drive had ended with L'Jarius Sneed picking off a Love pass on Kansas City's five-yard line, but the Packers ran out of time. 

While the Chiefs (5-4) were not about to complain about the victory that got them back over .500, their season-long concerns about their offence continued as Patrick Mahomes had another unimpressive game. 

Former league MVP Mahomes completed 20 of 37 passes for just 166 yards but avoided throwing an interception for the first time since the season opener. His 54.1 completion percentage was his worst in a regular-season game since completing 51.2 per cent in a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 5 last season. 

 

Cardinals cruise past 49ers without Murray

The other red-hot team playing without their star quarterback fared better, as the Arizona Cardinals rolled to a 31-17 defeat of the San Francisco 49ers despite Kyler Murray's absence through an ankle injury. 

Veteran Colt McCoy stepped in for the Cardinals and completed 22 of 26 passes for 249 yards, while James Conner rushed for 93 yards and a pair of scores as Arizona improved to 8-1. 

Three turnovers proved critical for San Francisco (3-5) as the 49ers lost two fumbles in the first half and had trouble sustaining drives throughout the game, with only 23:13 of possession compared to 36:47 for Arizona. 

Jimmy Garoppolo completed 28 of 40 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for San Francisco. 

In Philadelphia, Dustin Hopkins' 29-yard field goal with two seconds to play gave the Los Angeles Chargers (5-3) a 27-24 victory over the Eagles (3-6). 

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    The San Francisco 49ers prevailed in the Wild Card round as they renewed a storied rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys. Now, they will be underdogs again as they lock horns with a postseason foe more familiar to them in recent years.

    While the Niners' 23-17 upset win over the Cowboys was the first postseason meeting between the two teams since the 1994 campaign, playoff clashes between San Francisco and the Green Bay Packers have been more habitual of late.

    Green Bay and the 49ers have faced off in the postseason in every decade since their first playoff meeting in the 1995 campaign, last doing so on January 19, 2020 when San Francisco won a 37-20 rout in the NFC Championship Game.

    That scoreline carried on a trend in this matchup. The 49ers and Packers have split their eight all-time meetings in the postseason, but the Niners have won each of the last three. In those three games, they have outscored Green Bay by an average of 11.3 points (35.0-23.7). 

    Saturday's game at Lambeau Field is expected to be much closer, with most backing the top-seeded Packers to turn the tide.

    Green Bay won the Week 3 matchup at Levi's Stadium, though the Packers needed a last-gasp field goal from Mason Crosby, following some vintage Aaron Rodgers heroics, to avoid defeat.

    Rodgers is the favourite to retain the NFL's MVP award and enters this game in blistering form. 

    He has thrown for multiple touchdowns and no interceptions in each of his last seven games, the second-longest such streak in NFL history (Tom Brady, nine straight in 2010).

    The three-time MVP threw 37 touchdowns and just four picks this season, the most passing touchdowns with four interceptions or fewer in a single season all-time. 

    Yet Rodgers is going against a Niners defense playing its best football of the season. San Francisco held the Cowboys' number one-ranked offense (407 yards per game) to 307 total yards, with Dak Prescott completing only 53.5 per cent of his passes as he was pressured more than any other quarterback in the Wild Card round, coming under duress 25 times.

    San Francisco's deep defensive front would appear to have the edge this weekend, too. The 49ers' finished the regular season ranked first in Stats Perform's pass rush win rate metric - boasting a win rate of 32.6 per cent - while the Packers were 23rd with a pass protection win rate of 72.6 per cent.

    The Packers will hope the potential return of left tackle David Bakhtiari can redress the balance but if it does not then the contest could tilt in the favour of San Francisco. When under pressure this season, Rodgers completed 49.6 per cent of his passes. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts under duress, the only two to fare worse were rookies Zach Wilson (41.7 per cent) and Trevor Lawrence (45.7 per cent).

    If the Niners pressure Rodgers and get the Packers behind the chains and playing catchup on the scoreboard, then they will look to control the clock by keeping the ball on the ground with All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel and rookie running back Elijah Mitchell.

    Samuel scored the first rushing touchdown by a 49ers receiver in postseason history to put San Francisco 23-7 ahead against the Cowboys, while his 72 yards on the ground were the most in the playoffs by any wideout in the Super Bowl era.

    Mitchell rushed for 96 yards last weekend, a 49ers rookie playoff record. The Niners are 7-1 when Mitchell rushes for at least 75 yards this season and 1-3 when he plays and does not.

    A long night may be in store for the 49ers and their secondary should Rodgers stay on schedule, and that could mean history for his favourite target, Davante Adams.

    Adams has had exactly nine receptions in each of his last three playoff games. That is tied for the longest streak of postseason games with nine-plus catches in NFL history (Julian Edelman, 2015-2016).

    With at least nine catches in four of his five games against San Francisco (regular and postseason), he is a strong bet to break that record. Adams failing to do so would be a major indicator of Green Bay suffering another nightmare against a team that has continually haunted them in the playoffs.

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    Baker Mayfield has undergone surgery to repair a torn labrum, which the Cleveland Browns quarterback labelled a "complete success".

    After helping the Browns to the Divisional Round of the playoffs in the 2020 season, Mayfield struggled badly in 2021 as he battled the injury to his left shoulder.

    Mayfield finished with career-lows in passing yards (3,010) and touchdowns (17) while throwing 13 interceptions in 14 games having been picked only eight times in 16 games in 2020.

    His decline in performance has led to increased scrutiny over his long-term viability as the Browns' starting quarterback. The 2018 first overall pick is a free agent after next season.

    However, speaking in a video on Instagram, Mayfield was upbeat about his prospects of returning to his best.

    "Surgery went great, it was a complete success, now it's on the road to recovery, this is one of the steps to get back to my true self," he said. 

    "This is not the end of my story, it's gonna be one of those little things that I'll look back and I'll remember that it's one of those challenges and adversity that I'm going to try take advantage of."

    The Browns expect Mayfield to make a full recovery in four to six months and begin light throwing in April. It is anticipated he will be ready for the start of training camp ahead of the 2022 season.

  • Prescott apologises over comments about fans throwing objects at officials Prescott apologises over comments about fans throwing objects at officials

    Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has taken to social media to apologise for comments he made about the officials following their last-gasp 23-17 playoffs defeat to the San Francisco 49ers.

    Prescott felt he had spiked the ball in time to get one more shot at a game-winning touchdown in a bizarre ending to their Wild Card round loss.

    The officials ruled that Prescott had not spiked the ball in time, as NFL rules state the ball must be spotted by an official which umpire Ramon George attempted to do, colliding with Prescott and Tyler Biadasz causing a delay that prevented the QB from getting a Hail Mary away.

    Prescott was asked after the game about fans throwing objects at the officials, to which he replied: "Credit to them, credit to them."

    However, the Cowboys quarterback apologized for those comments on Tuesday via a Twitter post.

    "I deeply regret the comments I made regarding the officials after the game on Sunday. I was caught up in the emotion of a disappointing loss and my words were uncalled for and unfair," Prescott said.

    "I hold the NFL Officials in the highest regard and have always respected their professionalism and the difficulty of their jobs. The safety of everyone who attends a game or participates on the field of a sporting event is a very serious matter.

    "That was a mistake on my behalf, and I am sorry."

    In his pool report after the game, referee Alex Kemp insisted umpire George had done everything correctly in spotting the ball.

    The referees association posted on Tuesday via their official Twitter account: "The NBRA condemns the comments by Dak Prescott condoning violence against game officials.

    "As an NFL leader, he should know better. We encourage the NFL to take action to discourage this deplorable behavior in the future."

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