Well, Green Bay Packers fans, this may be the toughest version of Take a Deep Breath to date. As you all know by now, tragedy has befallen the Packers in the form of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ broken clavicle. As millions mourn and Rodgers’ collarbone throbs, taking a deep breath will be more difficult this week than in any week in recent Packers history – it’s reminiscent of the week in 2010 when Matt Flynn had to step in against the New England Patriots when Rodgers was out with a concussion. But if you remember correctly, the Packers improbably nearly won that game, ultimately falling 31-27 after leading 27-21 in the fourth quarter. That Packers team, like this season’s, was also a team embattled by injury across the board (as evidenced by Dmitri Nance getting six carries in the contest – six). And yet somehow that team reached down and found something extra.
Sure, the effort came up short, but perhaps the 2013 version of the Packers has something similar stirring inside? The latest reports say Rodgers is expected to miss as many as 4-6 weeks,. Let’s say he misses four (Rodgers is a tough dude, OK?); can backup quarterback Seneca Wallace find enough consistency to keep defenses honest? If so, can he engineer two wins during Rodgers’ absence? This is a veteran NFL quarterback; if he can help the Packers go 2-2 over the next month, the Packers remain in the hunt with a 7-4 record. Beating the Lions would be the biggest win here, since obviously they are a division opponent. Anyway, I know it looks very doom and gloom, but here are this week’s reasons to relax and take a deep breath. Ummmmm, and maybe cross your fingers this time as well, just for good measure. Reason for concern: Seneca Wallace is now our quarterback, and he looked awful against the Bears on Monday night. Reason to take a deep breath: He looked out of sync with his receivers, to be sure. But keep in mind that he wasn’t in training camp. He got no first team reps leading up to that game. Heck, he’s gotten only a handful of first team reps all season. And the game plan was entirely built around Rodgers as the centerpiece. You can’t master an offense in eight weeks if you aren’t even practicing it – which is why we should all sit back and let Mike McCarthy and his staff come up with a game plan that will play to Wallace’s strengths. Maybe it’s just me, but I think we all might be somewhat pleasantly surprised this week. Reason for concern: Once again, the defense looked sloppy and lost at times. If we can’t stop opponents from scoring, what shot do we have?
Reason to take a deep breath: Well, maybe this isn’t a true reason to take a deep breath, but here it is: The time is now for the Green Bay Packers’ defense to step up and find its identity. We had almost zero pass rush on Josh McCown, whereas we’d been all over the quarterback the previous two weeks. Which is the real Green Bay defense? Honestly, they have to know the next three or four weeks rests on their shoulders. Instead of breaking up passes, they need to make the interceptions. Instead of pressuring the quarterback, they need to take him down before he gets the ball out. Instead of getting a hand on the running back in the backfield, they need to wrap him up. It’s as simple as that. We may get Clay Matthews back this week (although Week 11 is more likely), which would be a huge boost; either way, we’re about to see what this defensive unit is truly made of. Reason for concern: With Rodgers out, opposing defenses can now stack the box and take away our running game. Reason to take a deep breath: Remember what we talked about: game planning. If we as fans see this as a problem, McCarthy and his assistant coaches most certainly area already working on ways to find running room for Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Expect a different offensive look on Sunday designed to help Lacy and Starks keep finding running room. Reason for concern: The Packers aren’t going to sign Flynn; will Ted Thompson do the unthinkable and reach out to Brett Favre? Reason to take a deep breath: You’ve been eating too much cheese and paying too much attention to Tony Kornheiser. Relax.