Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Two Bad Games in a Row

My old college buddy Dick Karth (make that my very old college buddy Dick Karth) said it best:

"I didn't like what I saw on Monday night.

I didn't like what I saw on Sunday.

What I saw in both games is a football team with lots of talent and with almost the same ability to squander the talent as it has talent.

I saw a team that, if it doesn't get its act in shape, is going to be 12-4 or 11-5 (maybe 9-7) which will probably be good enough to make the playoffs, but then not get past the first round.

I don't like what I saw."
I was thinking more or less the same thing. If the Packers have this much trouble with the 0-3 Lions, how are they going to handle the 2-2 Redskins, with a proven veteran quarterback, on the road? Let's assume for the sake of argument that they can beat the 2-2 Dolphins at home in two weeks, but that brings Brett Favre and the Vikings back to town. They may be 1-2 now, but it is safe to assume that they will be suitably revved up and ready to go in three weeks.

Monday Night Bears Game

So, with that depressing intro, let's review briefly the last two games.

The Monday night game against the Bears was certainly a disappointment. In many ways, the Packer outplayed the Bears, and yet a flurry of penalties and, to a lesser extent, turnovers, made it impossible to win the game. The Bears prevailed, on a last-second field goal, by the score of 20-17.

To make matters worse, Mike McCarthy made a couple of critical errors in the closing moments of the game. First, he challenged the recovery of James Jones’ fumble, when there was almost no chance of having the call overturned. He had, maybe, a 1% chance of having the recovery overturned, and a 99% chance of losing a timeout in the process. I was prepared to cut him a little slack until I heard him say, in the post-game press conference, that he was right there near where the ball was recovered. If that is the case, he knew to a virtual certainty that the call would not be overturned, and his challenge amounted to a futile wish and a prayer.

Having blown the first timeout, anyone could see, once the Bears got inside the Packers’ 10 yard line, that the Bears would have a chip-shot field goal opportunity. What are the chances that Robbie Gould will miss a field goal when the line of scrimmage is inside the 5? Maybe 2% or so? If he makes it, and almost all the time is gone, the Bears win. What if the Bears score right away, on a touchdown? Well, the bad news is that the Packers now have to score a touchdown to tie the game, but the good news is that they have close to 2 minutes to do it. Anybody who figures out the odds will realize that the Packers had a better chance to win by letting the Bears score. But instead, McCarthy opted for the heroic goal-line stand and the loss of the game.

Sunday's Lions Game

I went to this game, with my wife, my daughter, and cousin Rob. For most of the first half, the Packers seemed in control of the game, even if they weren't playing particularly well. But during the last 36 game minutes, things spun almost completely out of control. For starters, the Packers gave up an 80 yard drive for a touchdown to make the score 21-14 at halftime. But take a look at the Packers' possessions and highlights for the rest of the game.
  1. Jordy Nelson fumbled the kickoff after the 80 yard drive, and the Lions recovered.
  2. Charles Woodson single-handedly saved the win with his interception for a touchdown. When I first saw it live in the stadium, I had a bad angle on the play and I was not sure he caught the ball. Luckily, he did.
  3. The Packers had a nice drive going, but after gaining 49 yards, to the Detroit 23, the drive ended with an interception.
  4. Three and out, punt.
  5. Fumbled kickoff, recovered by Detroit.
  6. Long pass on the first play of the drive is intercepted.
  7. The last drive, really the only good news on offense in the last 36 minutes of the game, found the Packers grinding out the last 6:32 of the game, getting 6 first downs in the process.
So what happened? Did the Packers, when the score was 21-7 against the winless Lions, figure the game was in the bag, and switch on the auto-pilot? I don't know, but as unacceptable as that would be, it is actually the better possible reason for how the game went. Because if that wasn't it, then I don't see how it can be argued that this team is as good as we thought it was.

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