Sunday, January 15, 2012

MMQB: The Packer team that dominated the regular season disappears in the playoffs

The Green Bay Packers went 15-1 through the regular season by doing two things consistently: making big plays on offense while piling tons of yards and many, many scores and surrendering tons of yards on defense while piling up big plays. So when the game started at the most hallowed of grounds for the Packers vs. Giants in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, you can forgive me if I thought there would be more of the same.
Unfortunately, not so much. In fact, I wondered where the team that went 15-1 went on Sunday...
  • That team always won the turnover battle. The team I saw tonight put the ball on the ground so many times I almost lost count.
  • That 15-1 team scored an average of 35 points per game. This other team I was watching could barely make it to 20.
  • The best team in the NFC had a dominating passing attack. The team I saw today dropped at least 7 passes (and you could argue that total should be 9 or 10).
  • The worst defense in the NFL was best when defending in the red zone but surrendered a whopping 37 points, some of which were almost uncontested.
How do you get a handle on a loss like this? Can you take anything positive away?  I can’t think of a thing. The most humiliating moment came when the Giants were merely trying to run out the clock and the almost accidentally scored a touchdown in the final minutes. At one point in the dark moments at the end, the Packers put 11 men in the box, snuffed the point of attack and should have had a stop for a loss...but gave up a 23 yard running play. Think about what that means: your defense, with 11 men all keying on the run, got whipped by 10 guys and 1ball carrier when you kew exactly what the other guy was going to do.
That debacle in the last two minutes of the first half...can you play any worse defense? That sequence was the worst I’ve seen the Packers play all year. Maybe in two years. How does that happen in the post season???
The turning point was when the Packer defense finally put some pressure on Eli Manning and forced a pick. Yes, great, high-fives all around and then John Kuhn fumbles the ball back to the Giants a few plays later. Then it was a TD and the rout was on.
Aaron Rodgers was harassed all day, and did what he could. The Giants’ pass rush was far better than our offensive line. The Packer defense had a few moments of pressure but the Giant protection was far better than the almost pointless effort put forth by our team. When the Giants passed, there was always a man open. When the Packers passed, it was always into coverage. When the Giants made a play, there was always a Packer there to miss a tackle. When the Packers made a play, there was always a Giant defender there to strip the ball.
I’m sorry to be so negative here: the Packers had a GREAT regular season! They set team records for wins, consecutive wins, yards, points, passer rating...the list goes on and on. But the team that did all that through 17 weeks in the regular season was not the team that showed up this Sunday. Sad to say it but it’s true.
I’m not usually the one to point the finger of blame but in this contest there are fingers a-plenty to go around:
  • Mike McCarthy had two weeks to get his team ready to play this game. And they looked like scared play-off newbies from the opening kick-off. The Giants are a pretty good team playing their best ball of the season, but they are just not that good.
  • Dom Capers has had four months to try to develop some kind of defense. ANY defense. And, if you are to judge this season by any objective measure, he has failed miserably. One of the best defenses in the NFL in 2010 devolves into one of the worst in 2011. You have to place a lot of the burden on the coaching for that failure.
  • Where were the stars in this game? Where were the playmakers? I can tell you where: they were on the visitors side of the field. Woodson? Missing. Matthews? Absent. Rodgers? Not firing on all cylinders. Jennings? Who? Read the stats and down the line and you will notice the usual suspects to have played an exceedingly mediocre game.
To see the Giants celebrating at Lambeau with blue-cheese headed fans after this win was almost too much to bear. The Packer team that had brought us so much joy in a 15-1 season was absent from the friendly environs of Lambeau Field Sunday and we sincerely missed their attendance. If the team we enjoyed watching this year had just shown up, this  would have been a better game. But, alas, they fumbled away any chance to repeat the glory of the 2010 season. I hope each and every player who missed a tackle, dropped a pass or put the ball on the turf is taking a good, long look at themselves in the mirror as I write this. The window of opportunity to win a Super Bowl is very tight. The 2011 Green Bay Packers just slammed that window shut on themselves and they all have to live with that.
I give a lot of credit to the New York Giants for developing a superb game plan and executing it to perfection but, in the final analysis, it was the Green Bay Packers that handed this victory to them in the form of turnovers, missed tackles and dropped passes.
As always, it’s been a great time reporting on the Packers for you this season. Despite the final outcome, I think we can all say this was a great season, one for the record books. We here at The MMQB compound will watch the conference championships with interest (did you hear the Lambeau faithful set up a cheer for the Niners late in the contest?) and, as always, enjoy the Super Bowl for more than just the commercials. Tonight the Packers booted away any chance to be a team of destiny, a team of dynasty. Now all we can do is trust that Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy can learn from this defeat and build a better future for us in 2012: that’s all we’ve got, after all.
See you on Draft Day!

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