Monday, October 11, 2010

Hard week ahead for decimated Packers

Coming off a heartbreaking -- and injury-riddled -- loss in overtime to the Washington Redskins, the Green Bay Packers this week are probably going to be spending as much time getting medical evaluations as practicing.

The Pack limped into the game already having a couple starters lost for the season, namely RB Ryan Grant and S Morgan Burnett, while a decision about season-ending wrist surgery is still in the air concerning LB Nick Burnett (and just for good measure, let's remember Justin Harrell, as well, while we're on the subject). A few other players were out for the game, including RT Mark Tauscher, LB Brandon Chillar, S Sam Shields, and FB Quinn Johnson.

By the end of the game, they had lost TE Jermichael Finley (possibly for 2-3 weeks...and that's the optimistic view!), TE Donald Lee, DE Ryan Pickett, LB Clay Matthews, CB and special teams demon Derrick Martin (may be the most serious with an ankle injury), and LB Frank Zombo.

Oh yes, let's not forget the concussion which QB Aaron Rodgers sustained supposedly on his last throw (intercepted) where he clearly had head-to-head contact from the defender (with no flag at all, of course...just like the blow to the head no-call in the playoff game loss at Arizona). So in order for Rodgers to be available for the upcoming game against Miami, he's going to have to clear a number of tests before he gets the OK to play.

Ryan Pickett was quoted as saying, "I've not been part of anything like this that so many guys are injured...It's never been this bad. I've never experienced it in my 10 years."

The bottom line right now is that a team which many picked to go not only to but to win the Super Bowl based upon its talented roster now seems like it's on life support. The injuries are everywhere. Not what you want as you head into one of the toughest stretches of the schedule: Dolphins, ViQueens, Jets, and Cowgirls. It's a month before the Packers get their bye week. And, even without any other players going down, the Pack might be hard pressed to win another game before that bye week.

Yes, injuries played a big part in yesterday's loss by the Packers. You can't lose two of your top playmakers -- Finley and Matthews -- and not have it affect the outcome. But the Packers just left too many opportunities on the field. Failing to push it into the endzone when you have 1st and goal from the 2-yard line, with a chance to go up 14-0 early, just left the door open for the 'skins to hang around. It never should have come down to K Mason Crosby needing to hit a 53-yarder at the close of regulation to win that game. Never. Yes, he was 2 of 4 on the day and needs to make those kicks. But the Pack also needs to convert 3rd downs -- they didn't -- and not give their opponent multiple 1st downs through penalties.

And when, oh when, will the Packers ever get their special teams together?!

The consistent pattern we see emerging in and across games is not the pattern we want to see: fast start, followed by tailing off in the second half, little to no commitment to the running game by head coach Mike McCarthy, and continued penalties and lapses at critical junctures of a game.

Yes, as the players say, they feel they should be 5-0 right now instead of 3-2. But truth be told, they could also just as easily be 1-4 right now. The Buffalo game was the only game that has been a complete, or nearly complete, game by this team. By the time you hit game #5 of the schedule you should know who you are and what you can do and do it in a consistent way. The Packers just aren't.

Granted, the injuries started taking their toll early and often this season on the Pack. And now, it's gotten even worse. The prognosis for the immediate future is not a good one. There are still 11 games remaining. But it's possible, given the injuries let alone other problems which seem to be plaguing this team, that the Packers could go into their bye week at 3-6. They would likely have to win out in order to have a shot at the playoffs. And that's not a position in which you wish to find yourself.

The mettle of this team, coaching staff and management is going to be tested this week and over the coming month. The Packers' season could very well be riding on what happens in these next four games.