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Eight Is Enough: Packers Survive Another Blast of Injuries

The Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday even with one-third of their starters out with injuries.
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CHICAGO – David Bakhtiari has missed all six games. Za’Darius Smith has missed the last five games. Kevin King missed his third game. Jaire Alexander missed his second consecutive game. Josh Myers returned to action, only to exit on the opening series.

And yet the Green Bay Packers keep winning.

The injury bug has been relentless, particularly to key players, but Green Bay has continued to overcome the pain. On Sunday, it dispatched the Chicago Bears 24-14 to win its fifth consecutive game even with eight starters – left tackle Bakhtiari (knee), outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith (back) and Preston Smith (oblique), cornerbacks King (shoulder) and Alexander (shoulder), Myers (knee), safety Darnell Savage (concussion) and receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring) – either out entirely or dropping out of Sunday’s game.

Eight players is one-third of the starting lineups based on base personnel and three-receiver/three-cornerback groupings.

Coaches can talk about the “next man up” until they’re blue in the face – LaFleur uttered those words after the game – but the reality is starters start for a reason. Bakhtiari and Alexander are All-Pros and Za’Darius Smith is a Pro Bowler. There’s no replacing star players but the Packers have persevered.

“That was a tough, gritty win out there,” LaFleur said. “I’m really proud of our group to overcome a lot of injuries. This is a really quality football team, a playoff-caliber team, in the Chicago Bears, and it’s always tough when you go into somebody else’s home, a division rival. I’m just really proud of our guys for stepping into some situations where, as you prepare throughout the week, you always tell the guys you’ve got to have a starter’s mentality. I think it’s a credit to those players who are putting in the work each and every week to step in and come through for us in a big-time game.”

Myers, Preston Smith and Savage started but didn’t make it out of the game.

Myers, the rookie center, missed last week’s game with a finger injury. He was back in the lineup, only to suffer a knee injury on the fifth play of the game. Lucas Patrick played the final 52 snaps.

“I’m really proud of Lucas,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “We sat down a couple Thursdays ago, had a real heart to heart. I love the kid. I have a lot of trust in him, a lot of respect for the way he goes about his business. He’s a pro’s pro. Battled through getting rolled up on. Not much else you can say. I thought he handled things really well.”

LaFleur, who blamed the injury on a “bad play call by me,” said he didn’t think Myers had sustained a season-ending injury. But Patrick potentially will be the team’s starting center for at least the short term.

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“Shoutout to Lucas, man, for being a pro all the time and always stepping up to the challenge,” Pro Bowl offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins said.

While Patrick did his usual good work off the bench, the same couldn’t be said for Isaac Yiadom, who got the start at cornerback with King out with last week’s shoulder injury. Yiadom played the first series, giving up 46 yards on a 20-yard catch and a 26-yard penalty for interference to help hand the Bears the opening touchdown. Rasul Douglas, a former third-round pick who was grabbed off Arizona’s practice squad a week-and-a-half ago, played the rest of the game and probably will start next week against Washington if King isn’t ready.

Savage suffered a concussion on the first play of the second half. Dime defensive back Henry Black took over at safety and rookie cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles moved into the lineup as the sixth defensive back. Preston Smith, who has played all 102 games in his career, played less than 10 snaps, meaning more snaps for Jonathan Garvin and La’Darius Hamilton.

Back in the lineup was Jenkins, who had missed the previous three games with an ankle injury. Taking over again for Bakhtiari at left tackle, he gave up a sack to Robert Quinn on the second play of the second series but otherwise turned in a strong performance against one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers.

“I did feel like that first, second quarter, I was kind of slow to my assignment. I guess that was probably just knocking the rust off, not playing a game in three weeks,” Jenkins said. “Came out the second half, I feel like I played better. We played better as an offensive line and as an offense as a whole. Me personally, I feel like I played much better the second half than I did in the first.”

Jenkins suffered the injury during the second half of the Week 2 game against Detroit. While the injury was severe enough to keep him out for three weeks, he was tough enough to finish that game.

“I guess my adrenaline and me just wanting to be out there for the team at the time,” Jenkins recalled. “I got hurt on one play. I felt it and it was hurting but, when I’m hurt, if I can, I’m going to get back up. I felt like it was one of those times where I could get back up and at least finish the game. We scored on that drive, as a matter of fact. That was a big plus for me. When I can get back up, get back up and finish the drive, try to finish the game. If I start a game, I like to finish it. I guess the toughness and the grit just to play.”

The Packers, perhaps, are getting healthier. Valdes-Scantling can return from injured reserve this week and Bakhtiari can be designated for return and potentially practice on Wednesday. Out now for going on 10 months, Bakhtiari will need some time to get himself ready physically and mentally.

Still, with a 5-1 record, the Packers are in a strong position all things considered.

“I’m just really proud of the guys,” Rodgers said. “These are character wins. These are wins that are really, really important. We’ve got to get healthy. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up, a lot of guys we could use moving forward. But I really like where we’re at, two up in the division after six and playing winning football.”


Aaron Rodgers Owns the Bears