Sunday, November 17, 2013

Packers fall to the Giants once again: Did they ever look like they had a chance?

There were the Packers, in the fourth quarter, on the road and facing the Giants. Their third QB of the year, Scott Tolzien, hasn’t played lights-out but well enough. Despite the all-too-familiar wretched play by the defensive secondary, things are shifting in their favor. They had just driven down and pounded Lacy into the end zone for their first touchdown of the game. Inspired by this, the defense rises up and sacks Eli Manning twice, forcing a punt. Only down by seven, the Green Bay Packers had the momentum, they had the Giants on their heels and they had a chance. Then Tolzien stepped back and threw the ball right into the very large paws of Jason Pierre Paul, who casually sauntered into the end zone for a pick six. There was still a lot of time left and there would be quite a lot of back-and-forth and even another interception but for all intents and purposes, the game was over. No need for the Giants to go on a 8+ minute drive to end the game. The Pack was done.

I have to say that aside from that brief period early in the 4th quarter, the Packers never looked like they had a chance in this game. They ran six rather anemic-looking plays in the first quarter. The defense, pretty stout for a few downs, would let NY wide receivers casually stroll around the field, allowing long catches at will. There really wasn’t any time where the Giants seemed threatened. With one of the worst offenses in the NFL through the fist six weeks, New York has been getting hot, playing against mediocre teams with sketchy QB situations. They ran their winning streak to four on Sunday, exposing the Packers as one of those marginal opponents. 

This team regressed today to their 2011 and 2012 form - can’t rush the ball, can’t cover anybody and totally dependent on the pass. The difference was that Aaron Rodgers is standing on the sideline sporting a bad mustache and a clip board and not winning football games with his arm. 

It feels like the Pack is in a downward spiral right now that will not be stopped by the return of Aaron Rodgers. Yes, he will certainly score more points that Tolzien and he will pay much more attention to ball security but with this wretched defense weighing him down, Rodgers will be hard-pressed to out-score any team. Eli Manning, mired in one of the worst years of his career, could do no wrong. He made one bad mistake in throwing an interception to Tramon Williams (hey! We go a pick! Woo hoo!) but otherwise the Packers made him look like his old Super Bowl MVP self. 

If you look at the upcoming schedule, you’d have to say the Packers should be posed to make a run straight into the playoffs. Well, maybe you’d think that about the Packer’s team that took the field against the Bears three weeks ago. Since then, they’ve lost two QB’s, their defensive mojo and three straight games. They’ve gone from leading the NFC North to a full game behind both the Bears and Lions. They’ve gone from a top ten NFL team to a plummeting mess, just trying to find a way to win a game. Any game.

Will things change when Aaron Rodgers gets back in the game? If you look at the last three games, you’d have to say “no”. Of course, his exit precipitated the nosedive, so maybe his return will pull the team out of it. The only problem is that the team will likely be 5-6 and riding a 4-game losing streak if he makes is back in time for the Thanksgiving tilt against the Lions. And after watching Matt Stafford make the Steelers look foolish for one quarter (seriously: Pittsburgh gave up 24 points in the 2nd quarter!) I foresee a passing day for him versus the Packer secondary of historic proportions. If Rodgers is still on the sidelines for that game, I would seriously suggest throwing in the towel and protecting his shoulder for 2014. Will Thanksgiving be too early to “wait until next year”? I’m not saying they couldn’t pull out some wins (some pretty awful teams yet to play) but the season will be lost by then.

The Packers have not dropped three in a row since 2008 (when their streak topped five). That’s five seasons under Aaron Rodgers when Packer fans could always count on their team bouncing back. Their next opponent is the truly awful Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau. Even with home field advantage, would anyone their right mind pick the Packers (5-5) over the Vikings (2-8)?  Let’s see...Packers can no longer stop the run and they are going to be facing Adrian Peterson. Their secondary can’t cover anybody and have a total of 4 interceptions on the year. Their offensive line is no longer opening up any holes for Eddie Lacy and, oh, yeah, Scott Tolzien is playing quarterback instead of Aaron Rodgers. 

This team needs to start playing like they have a practice squad QB under center. They need to understand they are on the verge of becoming entirely irrelevant. They need to stop this slide before they slip down that deep, ugly hole that is mediocrity. We’ll all be hoping that playing a terrible Vikings team at home will be just what the doctor ordered. 

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