Monday, December 20, 2010

Packers lose another close one

Six losses by a combined total of 20 points. That sums up the Green Bay Packers' season so far. Close, but no cigar, as the saying goes. Many of the problems responsible for early close losses have been present in the last two: missed opportunities both offensively and defensively, and special teams' breakdowns that suck any momentum the Pack may have achieved right out of the game.

All this was on display again last night in the Pack's loss to the New England Patriots. Despite outplaying the Pats for virtually the entire game, the Packers' defenders at least twice dropped possible interceptions, receivers dropped passes, and special teams were -- again! -- very un-special when it counted. Please, someone, anyone, tell me in what bizarro world a 300+ pound offensive lineman almost returns a squib kick for a touchdown. Anyone? Seventy-one freakin' yards! Anyone???

Still, while the disappointment in a second straight loss is real, it must be said that most folks (including yours truly) did not give the Packers much of a chance going into the game. Aaron Rodgers was on the sidelines and backup Matt Flynn was getting his first NFL start. To his credit, Flynn did an outstanding job, throwing for 3 touchdowns and notching a passer rating of over 100. The Packer running game was also doing things we hadn't seen in a long time. Brandon Jackson gained 99 yards and FB John Kuhn picked up some huge first downs.

But the offensive line, while creating some holes, also couldn't get it done at the goal line -- again -- causing the Packers to have to settle for 3 points instead of 7. How many times has that happened over the course of this season? Too many. And they also gave up sacks at inopportune times. Such as in the last minute of play with the Packers driving for a winning TD with no timeouts remaining.

Clock management was not handled well in that last minute or so. Coach McCarthy, despite a generally good game plan, failed to put his young QB in a position to win going down the stretch.

This season is a woulda-shoulda-coulda year. It's amazing what GM Ted Thompson and the coaching staff have done with a roster depleted by injury from the first game onward. Perhaps they have overachieved given the talent actually on the field. But when you are continually this close and fail to get it done, that has to fall back on the coaches. Special teams coach Shawn Slocum should definitely be out the door once the season concludes. He should have been gone by now. Breakdowns have continued all year. Yes, the players available have also changed which affects continuity. But that's happened on offense and defense, as well, and somehow those coaches get their players ready. Slocum doesn't. That's clear.

At 8-6, the Packers are still alive for a Wild Card playoff berth, however, thanks to the great Eagles' comeback versus the Giants yesterday and the Lions upsetting the Buccaneers. If Da Bearz beat the ViQueens in Minnesota tonight they win the NFC North. But if the Pack can beat the Giants and Da Bearz at Lambeau in the next two weeks they will secure a Wild Card spot.

So, there is still hope, Packers fans. At least we have that.