Green Bay Packers: Morgan Burnett injury taking its toll

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 06: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 06: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix /

While no one expected the offense to pick up right where it left off when Aaron Rodgers was guiding the ship, the defense is also hemorrhaging from the loss of another of the team’s unquestioned leaders, who came off a career-best season in 2016.

Though you’ll never hear his name mentioned in the same breath of Kam Chancellor, Eric Berry or Harrison Smith, Morgan Burnett means as much to the Green Bay Packers as the aforementioned stars do to their own respective clubs.

Yesterday’s 26-17 home loss to the Saints was largely due to the defense’s second-half collapse following Green Bay’s one-point advantage at halftime.

Dom Capers’ unit had no answers for Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Ted Ginn and others, as it gave up six plays of 19 yards or more from third quarter on.

Another superlative effort by the omnipresent Blake Martinez (16 total tackles) wasn’t enough to slow down an electrifying Saints’ attack that put its weapons in position to reel off chunk plays once they surpassed the first level.

The defense’s inexperience at cornerback and safety put the team in compromising situations that it ultimately couldn’t recover from.

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Kevin King being out of position on the first drive of the third quarter, for instance, led to Brandon Coleman finding himself standing alone in the end zone on his 22-yard touchdown grab.

King’s dismal performance, however, wasn’t as distressing as Josh Jonesouting that saw the rookie commit three penalties on special teams along with a number of additional misplays on defense.

The young safety’s aggressive nature resulted in Jones getting blocked out of a 24-yard screen to Kamara during New Orleans’ first series.

Later in the fourth quarter, the downhill enforcer was victimized on a 23-yard scamper by Ingram in which Jones couldn’t get off his man at the line of scrimmage.

Burnett’s presence could have made a difference in quite possibly preventing or, at the very least, mitigating the numerous big plays inflicted against the defense.

The 28-year-old defensive back’s leadership in communicating with his teammates alone would’ve certainly helped.

Furthermore, his versatility to play multiple roles from slot corner to hybrid linebacker would have put an extra seed of doubt in the opposing quarterback.

No. 42 not only would have eased Jones’ workload, but he would have certainly been pegged to fill in for Jake Ryan at inside linebacker once the third-year pro left the game with a reported migraine.

There’s something to be said for Burnett’s combination of experience, physicality and athletic ability to cover receivers, as well as tight ends.

Much of today’s Monday-morning-quarterback analysis will undoubtedly be centered around Brett Hundley’s passing woes and how the Packers may need to bring in another signal caller.

But say what you will about Hundley’s flaws, he put up enough points for his team to play with the lead for long stretches and win the contest.

The offensive game plan of relying on Aaron Jones to carry the offense on the ground would have worked if the defense would have prevented one or two plays or forced an extra turnover.

Football is America’s sport because it is the ultimate team game in which several disparate components must work cohesively to outscore the opposition.

Hundley was serviceable for the most part given what was expected from him.

The defense deserves much of the blame and getting Burnett back from his hamstring injury should go a long toward the team’s ability to close games.

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Mercifully, the bye week is here for our boys to regroup and recover in hopes of salvaging a season that has suddenly gone astray.