Monday, September 21, 2009

The morning after

It's now the morning after the Packers' surprise loss at home to the Cincinnati Bengals, the 9-point underdogs who wound up beating the Pack by 7. And rather than having a better sense where the team is going into Game #3 of the season, Packer fans really don't have much to rely on. When every phase of the game graded out at a "D" level, it's not a matter of fixing one or two things.

For the third straight year, the offensive line is off to a slow start. This, despite this summer naming the starters well in advance of the regular season to try to establish the continuity that wasn't there before. So much for that idea. And now, add in a serious ankle sprain (X-rays were negative) on left tack Chad Clifton and the Pack once again has a line in flux. If anything, it seems to have regressed. Last season, if memory serves (don't count on it), QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked roughly 34 times. In the first two games of this season, he's already been sacked 10 times. That doesn't even count the knock-downs, rushes, etc. that Rodgers has also been subjected to early in this season.

Of course, to be honest, a few of those problems are Rodgers' own doing. For whatever reason, he seems to be hanging onto the ball far too long and taking a sack or hit when he should just be throwing it away. That's something he did earlier in his career as a backup. But after a full year as a starter, he should know better. Trying to do too much, perhaps. Get over it, Aaron: get rid of the dang ball!!!

Aside from the offensive line's pass protection woes, they also aren't showing any ability to open running lanes. Ryan Grant still doesn't garner great respect around the league or among many Packers fans for that matter. Still, over the last several years there's only been a handful of running backs that have performed better. But ill-timed fumbles, like yesterday, leading to go-ahead touchdowns for the opposition will not do much to calm the naysayers. The fact is that for the first two weeks the running game has consisted of just Grant and DeShawn Wynn -- Brandon Jackson has been inactive because of his nagging ankle injury -- and certainly hasn't created much punch. Rather underwhelming, really. Just allows the opposing defense to come all out on the pass rush and continue to batter Rodgers.

The receiving corps? Again, inconsistent. A couple early drops really set the tone for the rest of the game. Greg Jennings, for the first time in his 4-year career, was shut out without a catch yesterday.

On the defensive side of the ball, we knew that the 3-4 would not be a challenge for Cincy since they see it a good deal in their division and conference. But the absolute inability to stop the run -- I mean, we're talking Cedric Benson here, kids -- was inexcusable. Ditto getting pressure on Carson Palmer. Didn't happen much. Then take out Nick Collins with a shoulder injury and replace him with Jarrett Bush, and with Aaron Rouse already replacing the injured Atari Bigby, the defense may not be able to run all the things that Dom Capers would like.

As for special teams, they weren't. K Mason Crosby missed an early 55-yarder. Punt coverage was deplorable. Penalties also helped Cincy to gain the field advantage position most of the afternoon.

Again, plenty of blame to go around. If the players and coaches don't get things turned around this week they could find themselves losing to the 0-2 Rams in St. Louis this next weekend. And if that happens, all bets are off as to how the season goes as it will show that the team's preseason performance was just a mirage. The team can either go into Minnesota on Oct. 5 at 1-2 or 2-1. Sad to think that at the start of the season the consensus seemed to be the Pack would be heading to the HumpDome at 3-0 with the division lead on the line.

I know: this is why they play the games. Someone might want to share that news flash with the team.