It really can’t get any worse than this for the Green Bay Packers, can it?
“Three-game losing streaks are not the norm around here, that’s for sure.”
Those were the understated words of Green Bay Packers inside linebacker A.J. Hawk who was recounting Sunday’s 27-13 loss to the New York Giants.
Packers fans have to go back about five years to find a Green Bay team that had lost three in a row. That was Aaron Rodgers‘ first season as a starter – and many were ready to burn the bridge at that time, as well.
The Packers, playing with their third string quarterback, undrafted free agent Scott Tolzien, the University of Wisconsin product who had a productive day but threw three costly interceptions, found it difficult to get the team into the end zone once again despite matriculating the unit up and down the field – when the defense gave them the opportunity to get on the field.
The Giants had something to say about the outcome. Though the Packers sacked quarterback Eli Manning four times, Green Bay was ineffective in stopping the Giants’ drives and, for the most part, couldn’t get off the field on third down. The Giants had the ball for 11 minutes more than the Packers, who again allowed a team to gash them for big plays.
The biggest of those plays came early in the fourth quarter. The Packers had just scored to get within a touchdown, the defense had one of its best series of the game and forced the Giants to punt. However, on their first play from scrimmage, Tolzien attempted to sling the ball toward tight end Andrew Quarless in the left flat, but Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul drifted into the line of sight, picked it out of the air at the line of scrimmage and jaunted into the end zone untouched for the touchdown.
From there, the Packers were done.
“I think definitely better days are ahead,” head coach Mike McCarthy said.
Again, another huge understatement.
It can only get better from here, right? If it gets any worse, the Packers may as well mail in their season, put Aaron Rodgers on IR and let Tolzien get his reps. After all, the Packers are still looking for a reliable backup to Rodgers and they need to decide whether that guy is Tolzien.
Next up for the Packers is a home game with the Minnesota Vikings. In a game that three weeks ago looked like an easy win, now it looks difficult. Yes, Tolzien looked good when he had the time to throw on Sunday, but he looked like the third-stringer that he is when he saw any kind of rush. Will he improve? We’ll find out next Sunday.
Ironically, the Packers sit just one game out of first place in the NFC North at 5-5. The Lions and Bears are tied at 6-4. In addition, the Packers still have one game each with their division rivals. Much can change over the next month and the sooner Aaron Rodgers gets back on the field, the better. That’s one phase of the game that will be helped immensely.
However, it’s been the defense that has been the biggest disappointment. Starting the season tough as nails against the run and competing with the best in the defensive backfield, this team is now back to being soft, giving up large chunks of yardage on the ground, letting receivers have their way with them and mounting little to no consistent pass rush.
Most importantly, the Packers defense isn’t getting off the field. They are allowing long, clock-chewing drives to the opposition and because of it the offense sits on the sidelines.
Here’s what Clay Matthews had to say about things after yesterday’s game:
“It’s not good. We’re definitely in different territory, at least since I got here in 2009. We’re talking about 11-5, 10-6, 15-1, 11-5 … to lose three, it doesn’t feel good. At least on the defensive side, it’s not as if we’re not trying. I know we’re going out there and playing to the last whistle.
“But right now, we’re not playing our best ball – and we need to. The NFC North leaders are 6-4 right now, we’re 5-5. We’ve got to continue to move forward with the guys we have and play better. That’s what it comes down to.”
The Giants tallied 19 first downs yesterday, eight of them coming off the run. They also had 63 offensive plays to the Packers’ 54.
McCarthy tried to sum it up:
“Winning. It’s about winning. We don’t have to dance around the fact that we’ve lost three in a row. We need to win games. We’re not doing enough of the little things, top to bottom. Are we tackling well enough? Are we making enough plays? We’re not getting the ball in the end zone, so we need to score more points. We need to keep them out of the end zone more. We need more big-play production, that’s how you win in this league.”
Thanks for stating the obvious, Mike.
Now what do you do to make that happen? Packers fans who are waking up this morning with that bad taste in their mouths want to know.
It really can’t get any worse than this … can it?