Boy, oh boy. That one was within reach – probably even more so than the Bears game the week before, despite what the scoreboard said when it was all over. But instead of stealing a much-needed win in the absence of Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers bungled their way to a humiliating 27-13 loss at Lambeau Field in Week 10.
And now I’m charged with somehow telling Green Bay Packers fans to take a deep breath and not panic. All is not lost, right?
Rah rah. Rah.
If you watched the game, you saw what I saw: An offense that moved the ball, controlled the clock and simply didn’t get it done when it absolutely had to get done. Nelson’s near-catch in the end zone (was it or wasn’t it?) would have changed the texture of that game. The unfortunate end zone interception after a beautifully-orchestrated drive by fill-in-of-the-week, Scott Tolzien, was an absolutely brutal disappointment.
Two first-half misses by kicker Mason Crosby could have set us up for a lead at halftime, and yet there he was, back again: Mr. 2012. I understand that the winds were swirling at Lambeau and that he narrowly missed both of those long kicks, but these are the games in which “almost” simply isn’t good enough.
And that brings me to the defense.
That was as sorry a performance as I can remember from a Packers defense in quite a while, especially in the fourth quarter when – yep – it mattered the absolute most. Linebackers lost the edge time after time, normally reliable players missed tackles, and the entire unit just seemed to look lost. If you replay that final drive in fast motion with the Three Stooges theme playing behind it, you’ve got a short film comedy of errors in the vein of the Keystone Cops. It might even go viral.
And yet, here I am again, prepared to tell you to take a deep breath and relax.
This is my task, so here we go:
Reason for concern: What? We’ve lost yet another quarterback?
Reason to take a deep breath: I like the new one better, and you should, too. Tolzien went from practice squad to national spotlight in the tweak of a Seneca Wallace groin muscle, and he gave a darn fine accounting of himself, connecting on 24-of-39 passes for 280 yards with a touch and two picks. He didn’t totally light it up and was sketchy in the red zone, but remember that he had zero reps coming into the game. He showed a willingness to go down the field with the ball and didn’t seem the least bit rattled by the situation. With a week of preparation, I really believe he’ll give the Packers a chance to beat the New York football Giants.
Reason for concern: The offensive line is in shambles. We can’t possibly survive another injury.
Reason to take a deep breath: Without Evan Dietrich-Smith, we had basically no running game. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, Green Bay’s running backs carried the ball 18 times for 59 yards (3.3 average) before Dietrich-Smith’s injury. Afterward, they went 11-for-21 (1.9). Blech.
But again, this was a case in which a player – T.J. Lang – was forced into a difficult position. Lang had never played center at any competitive level until that point. He not only had never played center in the NFL, he never played it in college. Or high school. Or Pop freaking Warner. Same as before: If Dietrich-Smith doesn’t return for Week 11, it hurts us badly, but Lang will at least have a week to practice with Tolzien and the rest of the patchwork line.
Reason for concern: The defense is so bad, I think my mom could score on it.
Reason to take a deep breath: She probably could have in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Or she would have at least picked up a first down – all she would have had to do was break it outside, and the Keystone Cops would have lost the edge, missed a couple of tackles, and that would be that (cue Three Stooges theme).
But seriously, can the defense really be this bad?
Something has to give.
Vic Ketchman at Packers.com believes that when your best player goes down, it reaches across the entire team. Did the defense quit? Did it concede?
Only Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers have the ability to figure that out. Only the players themselves have the power to change it. Here’s hoping it happens. Like, immediately. Otherwise, I’m not sure taking a deep breath is going to help any of us.