Sunday, September 22, 2013

Packers fall behind, get ahead, look dominant, look inept and lose the game. What did we just see?

The fans of the Green Bay Packers have long, long memories. Walk into any Packer bar on game day (or any other day for that matter) and you are just as likely to hear someone talking about an interception by Ray Nitschke or “4th and 26” as you are about the game last week. As such, I can pretty much guarantee you this loss will stick in the craws of Packer fans for a while. Maybe not as long and the “Fail Mary” last year, but it’ll be a while.

The game definitely had one of those “what the hell did I just see” vibes that left Packer fans stunned. Mrs. MMQB and I had to give #1 Son a lift home after the game and here is a sampling of what we saw just in the few blocks around our house: A man in a Favre jersey, standing in his driveway, staring blankly out at the road, possibly mumbling very bad words under his breath. Another man tossing a kiddie golf club like he just dropped his third straight tee shot into a water hazard. A woman hand-spreading something in her lawn which I would have to guess would be salt so nothing would ever grow there again.

Yeah, that was a painful one.

This game had more ups and downs than a carnival at the county fair. The Packers, thanks to a lax defense and a “you’re being cut before we get to the airport” play by Jeremy Ross, found themselves down by 14 before their jocks could get settled in place. Then, with the offense sputtering and the defense making stands and taking away the ball, reeled off 30 unanswered points. Then, thanks to that same inconsistent offense and a defense that suddenly found itself without it’s biggest playmaker, gave up the next 20 unanswered points. Add it all up and you might as well run yourself into a wall (try it sometimes - it feels GREAT when you stop!) as watch this football game.

Mrs. MMQB and I hosted #1 Son, DIL Becky and granddaughter Gracie for brunch prior to the game and we had a few mimosas, and some home-brewed barley wine, but even that nice little Sunday morning buzz was not enough to minimize the damage to our brains through the sheer whiplash of this game. How many times can you trade high-fives and face-palms on one Sunday afternoon? 

And the injuries - all I can say is OY! Before the game, the Packers gave injury scratches to Eddie Lacy, John Kuhn, Jarrett Bush, Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward. During the game, they lost Finely, Matthews and Starks and even Franklin for a while. Can a team sustain those kind of losses and still continue to play football in the NFL? Want to make a bazillion dollars? Figure out how to prevent or treat hamstring injuries and sell your idea to the Green Bay Packers. Even if you do it as piecework, you’ll make a mint!

What was up with Aaron Rodgers today? When he wasn’t missing his wideouts, he was hitting his opponents. #12, the best QB in the NFL, had a worse passer rating today than Christian Ponder of the 0-3 Minnesota Vikings. Can you fathom that stat? He went 26-for-43, 244 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions, breaking a 41-game streak of games without multiple picks, best EVER in the NFL. By comparison, Rodgers had over 250 yards last week in the first half! Wow. Now, the Bengals have a much, much better defense than the Redskins. They play tough, the make tackles and they don’t beat themselves. Still, you would think that our offense, with all our weapons (even with Finley looking for his marbles on the sidelines) could find some way to put up even a field goal after DOMINATING the Bengals and going up 30-14. Sadly, they never even got close. The turning point - you guessed it: going for in on fourth and 2 (the correct call), failing to get any push by the line, handing it off to a rookie RB (only guy left) who fumbled the ball before he hit the line and giving up a recovery TD for the final go-ahead score. How many ways can you fail in one play? I’m not sure but I think the Packers found them all. If the Packers make the first, they continue their drive and most likely put some points on the board. A TD wins it, a field goal puts them up by six and requires the defense to step it up. Either way, that was the ball game.

It’s a shame, really, to have Franklin’s day be marred by such a terrible play. Coming in for the injured Starks (himself in for the injured Lacy), Franklin had a great afternoon, going 103 yards on 13 carries (7.9 yards per tote) and one TD. That’s right, sports fans, the Packers have put up back-to back 100-yard rushers in the last two weeks. But we won’t be talking about that on Monday. We’ll be talking about his fumble on the biggest play of the day. Was it too much to ask of a rookie who had never played a down on offense before today? Maybe it was. 

A few weeks ago, I talked about the Packers having a “ridiculously early” bye this year. #1 Son called me on that almost as soon as the words left my fingers and it turns out HE is the prophetic one in the family. The Green Bay Packers have three defensive backs injured, four running backs injured, one tight end injured and their most valuable player on defense (Matthews) injured. If the Packers have ANY hope (I say unto you again ANY HOPE) of converting a 1-2 start into a Super Bowl run, all these men need to get healthy and do it in a hurry. Rodgers can throw the ball to Quarless but I’m not sure if he can catch it. Our second and third string DB’s can go out on the field, but I’m not sure if they can cover. Our front seven can blitz as one but I’m not sure if they can get a sack. Our QB can attempt to hand off the ball...well, I’m not sure if anyone will be back there to take it. So this bye, coming in week four of the season, could not be better timed. 

Did this look like a championship team on Sunday? Last week, the Packers did what a better team does and pretty much stomp on a lesser opponent. This week, when the foe is a little more equal, the Packers looked alternatively sad and dominant. What happens when they face a team that might be a little bit better than them? Are we looking at a blow-out? Do we get smacked around? I’m not sure. All I know is that an inconsistent team is a team that is usually sitting at home in January.

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