Packers' perfect season wrecked by unlikely opponent

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Packers' perfect season wrecked by unlikely opponent

From Comcast SportsNet

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)Aaron Rodgers kept misfiring, and his receivers kept dropping passes. Typically reliable Mason Crosby missed a field goal, and the Green Bay defense couldnt make a stop.

Nothing was perfect about the previously unbeaten Packers on Sunday.

Kyle Orton threw for 299 yards to outduel Rodgers, one of the games elite quarterbacks, and the Kansas City Chiefs rallied behind interim coach Romeo Crennel for a shocking 19-14 victory that ended the Packers 19-game winning streak. It was their first loss since Dec. 19, 2010, at New England.

Green Bay, playing without leading receiver Greg Jennings and top rusher James Starks because of injuries, also squandered a chance to wrap up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

I didnt see a bunch of guys running around talking about 16-0. That was my sense of it, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. We knew what type of game we were coming into today. This was no surprise. It wasnt just talk. We answered the questions all week.

We knew we were coming into a juggernaut and we didnt overcome it.

If the Packers knew they were facing a juggernaut, they might have been the only ones.

The Chiefs had lost five of their last six games, which culminated in the firing of coach Todd Haley last Monday. Tyler Palko, who started the past four games at quarterback, wasnt even active Sunday as Crennel opted to go with Orton in his first start since arriving in Kansas City.

Orton wound up putting together the kind of solid performance the Chiefs have been lacking since Matt Cassel went on injured reserve because of a hurt throwing handperhaps even before that.

That was a good football team we beat, Orton said. The coaches put together a good game plan for us. Everybody on offense, everybody on the team, did their job. They didnt try to do too much.

Rodgers was 17 of 35 for 235 yards and a touchdown, and he also scampered 8 yards for another touchdown with 2:12 left. But the Packers (13-1) were unable to recover the onside kick, and Kansas City picked up a couple of first downs to secure the victory.

I knew we had the 2-minute (warning) and three timeouts, regardless if we kicked it deeper or onside, Rodgers said. If they got it, we had a chance to stop them and get the ball back.

Ryan Succop kicked four field goals for Kansas City (6-8), while Jackie Battle added a short touchdown plunge with 4:53 left in that ultimately sealed the win.

Everybody had marked it off as a win for the Packers, but those guys in the locker room, theyre football players, Crennel said. They decided that they were not going to lay down. They were not going to give up, so they went out and played a tremendous game.

Neither team played all that tremendous in the first half.

Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson was hit twice with offensive pass interference, Rodgers was harassed by the Chiefs weak pass rush, and Green Bay wound up making five first downs.

One of them came when Kansas Citys Jeremy Horne ran into punter Tim Masthay, giving the Packers 15 free yards. The Chiefs tried to give Green Bay another gift later on the drive when Crosby missed a 59-yard field-goal attempt but Kansas City had 12 men on the field.

With another chance from 54 yards, Crosby again pushed the kick right.

Rodgers finished the half 6 of 17 for 59 yards, with a handful of drops between wide receiver Donald Driver and tight end Jermichael Finley. In fact, things were going so badly for Green Bay that at one point it ran out of the wildcat despite having one of the best quarterbacks in the game.

The Chiefs were still clinging to a 6-0 lead when Rodgers finally hit down field, finding Finley over top the coverage for a 41-yard gain. Three plays later, the star quarterback hit Driver in the corner of the end zone for a 7-6 lead with 8:04 left in the third quarter.

Kansas City answered when Orton hit his own tight end, Leonard Pope, for a career-long 38-yard catch. Jon Baldwin added a 17-yard grab to set up Succops 46-yard, go-ahead field goal.

The Packers moved into field-goal range on their ensuing drive, but rather than have Crosby attempt a 56-yard kick in the same direction he had already missed, McCarthy elected to go for it on fourth-and-9. Rodgers pass fell incomplete and the Chiefs took over.

They needed seven plays to cover 59 yards, but had to settle for another field goal and a 12-7 lead. It was the third time the Chiefs drove inside the 5 and had six total points to show for it.

They got seven on their next trip, though.

With first-and-goal at the 5, Thomas Jones managed to gain a yard and LeRon McClain bulled ahead for three more, setting up third down from just outside the goal line. Battle took the carry over the right side and powered into the end zone, giving the woeful Kansas City offense its highest-scoring game since the Chiefs beat San Diego in overtime in late October.

The Packers marched down field in the closing minutes, and Rodgers showed his moxie by scampering around the end for a touchdown that made it 19-14. But the onside kick ended up in the Chiefs hands, and they were able to pound out a couple first downs to secure the upset victory.

Green Bay came into the game averaging nearly 36 points, but was held to its lowest total since beating the Chicago Bears 10-3 in Week 17 last year. The Packers needed to win that game to make the playoffs, and wound up riding the momentum to a Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

All that momentum finally came to an end in the most unlikely of scenarios.

We set the tone on both sides of the ball, Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said. This is the great thing about football. You cant always look at the records, because youve got grown men out there who are all getting paid. You dont have to be better on paper.

If youre better on that given Sunday, youll get the win.

Bears’ Markus Wheaton says wide receiver group is 'definitely underrated'

Bears’ Markus Wheaton says wide receiver group is 'definitely underrated'

No doubt, there are doubts about the makeup of this 2017 Bears wide receiver corps. But as the departed Alshon Jeffery created doubts, health-wise, the past two years about whether he could stay on the field to prove himself worthy of a big payday (which he didn’t even get from the Eagles), Ryan Pace brought in a handful of replacements who’ve flashed in this league before. But recent history’s shown each of them has something to prove as well.

From Rueben Randle to fellow former Giant Victor Cruz. From former first rounders Kendall Wright to Kevin White, taking a third swing at making it though an entire NFL season.

Then there’s Markus Wheaton, the only free agent signee at the position this season to receive a two-year deal ($11 million total, with $6 million guaranteed). Like the rest of the group, though, he’s at a career crossroads. Following seasons with 53 and 44 catches in Pittsburgh in 2014 and 2015 (with a 17-yard average in the latter), the quick-twitch former Steeler was limited to three games a year ago before eventually undergoing surgery for a torn labrum in January.

“Everyone’s new, so we don’t know what it’s gonna be,” he said of the group at the team’s recent minicamp in Lake Forest. “In Pittsburgh you kind of have a clue `cause they’ve done it for so long. Everybody’s new, everybody’s trying to find their niche, so we’ll see how it goes. Anything’s possible. We’ve got a lot of guys who are looking for opportunity. A lot of guys that are hungry and have something to prove. Anything’s possible. Anyone can come out on top. The ultimate goal is to win games and I’m sure the coaches will put us in position to do that.”

The former third-round pick out of Oregon State (where he’s the Beavers’ all-time career leader in receptions, one ahead of Brandin Cooks) played all three receiver positions in Pittsburgh at various times, and while he seems most natural in the slot, is working to make himself as versatile as possible here. But that comes with some risk as a quarterback room that’s also gone through its share of turnover tries to get on the same page with all the targets. But Wheaton is more than confident the results will come from within this group.

“I think we definitely are underrated," Wheaton said. "We’ve come in and worked to get to where we wanna be. We will get there, and it’ll show up on the field.”

The incumbents in the room include Joshua Bellamy, Deonte Thompson, Daniel Braverman, Cam Meredith, and, of course, White. Wheaton can see the potential in the ex-seventh overall draft pick.

“I couldn’t imagine all the stuff he’s been through, all the pressure that’s been put on him," Wheaton said. "But he’s a down-to-earth guy who works extremely hard, so I think he’s gonna get his. He’s a big-time playmaker, so I’m excited to see him play.

“They welcomed me with open arms. Everybody’s down to earth, been easy to talk to so when I have questions, I’ve been getting answers, so it’s been real easy for me.”

That surgically-repaired shoulder was cleared for full participation just in time for minicamp two weeks ago. And Wheaton won’t allow himself to become hesitant physically as he aims to conquer what hesitation he could have within the offense, working with quarterbacks not named Ben Roethlisberger.

“I really don’t think there’s time for that. When you’re ready to go, you just go,” Wheaton told us. “You come in, you work, you rehab. And for me personally I had to rehab a lot to get back to where I wanted to be. There’s a level I want to be at. I’ve been just working to get there, so there’s no time for that.”

That last statement comes even if some observers hesitate to call Wheaton and these wideouts “underrated.” They’ll start attempting to prove that when the Bears report to Bourbonnais exactly one month from Monday.

Derek Holland not satisfied despite strong outing in White Sox loss

Derek Holland not satisfied despite strong outing in White Sox loss

Derek Holland turned in one of his best starts of the season on Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, the White Sox had nothing to show for it after a 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday afternoon.

In six innings, Holland allowed four hits, one earned run, and two walks while recording six strikeouts. He was charged with his only run in the seventh, when he allowed a single to Yonder Alonso, who came around to score after Holland had been pulled from the game.

Despite his confidence in the bullpen, which has been one of the White Sox biggest strengths this season, Holland would like to see himself go deeper into the games.

“I should be getting into the 7th and not having 110 pitches,” Holland said. “The bullpen's done a great job of picking us up in the seventh, eighth and ninth. The starters, and really pointing more to myself, we need to...I need to go out there and go longer."

Entering Sunday, three of Holland’s last four starts had been the worst outings of the season – allowing 22 earned runs over those four games. Despite the team’s 5-3 loss, Holland felt his outing was a step in the right direction.

“I felt good about everything out there,” Holland said. “(Omar Narvaez) and I were right on the same page. There were just a couple of things that got away from us. Just one of those things. Defense made the plays for us when they needed to, unfortunately we just didn't come out on top."

Manager Rick Renteria also had high praise for the 30-year-old southpaw, who bounced back from one of his shortest outings of the season.

“I thought Holland, hopefully what's not lost is Holland's outing today was really, really good,” Renteria said. “He kept us in the ballgame. They've got some kids that can swing the bat. They were putting things together. All we were trying to do at the end was minimize any damage they could produce. We weren't able to.”