It is officially panic mode for the Green Bay Packers. Every single second in every game left on the schedule has to be played all-out. One more loss and a playoff appearance doesn’t seem likely at all. Their Week 13 matchup was against the 8-3 Carolina Panthers. The weather forecast for the game at Lambeau Field was the typical Frozen Tundra weather around this time of the season–cold, and some snow. Everything had to be right for Green Bay to pull out a huge win.
Unfortunatley, things went wrong. The defense wasn’t stepping up at all. In the first quarter they let DeAngelo Williams take it in for six. 7-0. After a Mason Crosby field goal the Panthers went back down field and took it in from the one to go up 14-3. This gave the offense a huge challenge. They would have to score touchdowns to bail the defense out, because at that time they weren’t doing well at all. So Donald Driver scores a touchdown, only to see Williams run it in again to go into halftime up 21-10.
In the second half, Aaron Rodgers decided to take over and lead a comeback. With two touchdown passes and a drive that ended in a field goal, he gave his team a 28-21 lead. The cheeseheads were on their feet–this would be a huge win for a team that had to reach .500 to keep the title of a serious NFC North title contender. But, just as he did all game, Williams rained on their snowy parade.
The drive after Green Bay took the lead, Williams took it in for yet another touchdown. With two minutes left, Carolina made a great goaline stand and forced a Packer field goal. Lambeau was roaring again; there was two minutes left in the game and the home team was winning 31-28! What could possibly go wrong? Well, another drive was capped by a touchdown from–you guessed it–DeAngelo Williams. After a nice kick return, it took all of 27 seconds for the Panthers to strike again and take a 35-21 lead. With one minute and 30 seconds left, the Packers would have one last drive to take the lead and win the game.
That drive was shortened, though. On first down Rodgers threw a pass to far over the head of his target, and the ball flew out of bounds. On second down, Rodgers took the snap in the shotgun. There was penetration on the inside, and he scrambled out to the right side of the line. Out of the pocket and with a defender closing in, he could have thrown it out of bounds with no penalty and face a third-and-ten. Instead, he stepped forward and heaved a deep pass in the air. There was one Packer around the throw, but there were two Panthers guarding him. There were also two other Panthers playing a bit further away from the pass, so depending on how one looks at it, Rodgers threw into anywhere from 2-on-1 to 4-on-1 coverage. The ball was picked off, and Carolina ran out the clock for their ninth win of the season.
This game was a perfect example of the saying that the team with the fewest turnovers will win the game. At the end of the first half, Rodgers fumbled the football, turned it over to the Panthers, and Williams scored his second touchdown of the game. And, of course, there was that interception at the end of the game that guarenteed the Carolina victory. To the Packers defense, they did recover one fumble, but they still lost the turnover battle. Not only that, both of their turnovers cost them a lot; a touchdown and a last chance.
The spotlight will be on Williams for most of the recaps of this game, but let’s not forget the passing game for the blue-and-black. Jake Delhomme completed 12 passes, but he racked up 177 yards. Most of those yards were caught by Steve Smith, who had a huge game. With four catches, he topped the century mark and set up some of Williams’ runs. All in all, the offense looked like they were practicing against the scout team most of the game–running with ease, throwing with ease, and scoring with ease.
This comes as a shock for the Packers. Yes, they have a very bad run-defense, one of the worst in the league, and the 130 yards and four touchdowns given up on the ground may have been suspected. The four touchdowns should never happen, but a big running game from the other team should be expected. But nobody saw this coming for the pass-defense, who is fifth in the league at stopping the throwing game. Going up against a 22nd-ranked pass offense, the big game from Delhomme and Smith never seemed likely on paper, and it is still hard to believe they let them do that much damage in the game.
If there was one adjective that described the Packers accurately, it would have to be inconsistent. The 5-7 record shows some of that inconsistency, but it’s easier to see it when taking a closer look at the team. Ryan Grant is a great example. He just had games of 75, 145, and 67 yards, but on Sunday he only put up 39 yards, which marked his fourth game of less than 60 yards. He just had his second-worst running game of this season, and anymore it is hard to predict what he will put up, no matter what defense he goes up against.
Rodgers has also been inconsistent, but seeing that he is in his first year as the starting quarterback and he had a sprained shoulder, everyone should have saw this coming. Both sides of the defense can’t be relied on every game. No game is a guarenteed-win. One week it seems like the team hit it’s stride and was like it’s 2007-08 self (see: games against the Tennessee Titans and the Chicago Bears), in others they looked like a mediocre football team (see: second game against the Minnesota Vikings). Again, to sum it all up in one word, the Green Bay Packers are inconsistent.
With four games left in the season, it is literally do-or-die for this team. If they win out, they become 9-7 and will probably finish first in the division (possibly tied). Next Sunday is a matchup with the Houston Texans. On paper it seems like a win, but the last few games have looked far different on the field than on paper. After that it’s a game with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Their playoff hopes are down the drain, and a win is very possible here, too. Week 16 is between the Pack and the Bears, who might be trying to stay in the division chase depending on their record. This should be a tough game; nobody saw the blowout of the Bears in the first matchup between the two teams coming, and it could have been a fluke. To close out the season, Green Bay plays at home against the Detroit Lions, who had a chance at shocking the Packers early on in the season but gave the game away in the second half.
If the Packers do win out, things should be looking great. 7-5 and division-leading Minnesota has a probable win against Detroit next, but after that things get ugly. There will be a close matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, a shootout with Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons, and a Week 17 matchup with the New York Giants, who are the best team in the whole NFC. Anything from Green Bay taking a nosedive to kill its chances at the postseason to winning the division can happen, but they basically have to win out. If things work out right, we may even see Episode Two of The Packers Making the Playoffs Instead of the Vikings in Week 17. Every Packer fan remembers Episode One, when Josh McCown threw a touchdown to Nate Poole on the final play of the 2003 season, beating the Vikings and tossing the Packers into the postseason.
But right now playoffs shouldn’t be on anyone’s minds. There are four weeks left, and one loss will ruin it. As cliche as it is, the Packers need to take it one week at a time. They also have to become consistent.
Tags: Aaron Rodgers Arizona Cardinals Atlanta Falcons Carolina Panthers Chicago Bears DeAngelo Williams Detroit Lions Donald Driver Green Bay Packers Houston Texans Jacksonville Jaguars Jake Delhomme Josh McCown Mason Crosby Matt Ryan Minnesota Vikings Nate Poole New York Giants Ryan Grant Steve Smith Tennessee Titans