Monday, December 13, 2010

A Perfect Opportunity. Squandered.

I started writing this while watching the Patriots administering a real beat-down to the Bears. Right. The same beat-down that, when paired with a Packer victory, would pull the Packers back into a tie with the Bears. Whoops!

How many times have we seen something like this? Last year it was the loss to the previously-winless Buccaneers. I wrote about it here. I am aware that almost every team, some time during the year, loses a game that they should win. The Packers are not unique in their vulnerability to bad teams. Heck, the Patriots lost to the Browns this year. But in fairness, the Browns are an up and coming team, now struggling at 5-8. The 3-10 Lions, with more players on Injured Reserve than the Packers, and playing their third-string quarterback yesterday, are not in the same category. Nor were the 0-7 Buccaneers last year when the Packers lost to them.

So, even if the Packers are not uniquely vulnerable, it seems more predictable than with other good teams that they will screw up a game like this at least once every year. I just can't let Mike McCarthy off the hook anymore. Periodically, I feel that he is finally starting to get it in his play calling. Yesterday was not one of those days. From too much emphasis on the non-existent running game, to too much emphasis on long passes when underneath passes were available, to the idiotic play calls on the final drive (running plays on a final, must-score-a-TD drive; long pass on 4th and 1), this was not an impressive effort. I am losing confidence in McCarthy's ability to learn from past mistakes.

Another way to look at this is that, this year at least, the Packers have lost three games to teams with worse records when either Rodgers or Matthews did not play or did not finish the game. Baranczyk and Christl make this point in the Press-Gazette today. This is, perhaps, the flip side of the positive notion that the Packers have done a great job of winning a lot of games despite the devastating impact of all the injuries. That is true in general, but they seem to have a hard time dealing with the absence of their biggest stars. You could point to any number of teams who have not fallen victim to this problem - from the Vikings winning last week behind Tarvaris Jackson, to the Lions beating the Packers yesterday with their third-string quarterback.

Amazingly, the Packers could still win the NFC North, but now it will take some help from our old friends, the Chicago Bears. They looked pretty bad yesterday, but I think that was more about the New England Patriots than it was about the Chicago Bears. As Packer Blogger Jersey Al put it, the Patriots are "executing teams like cold-blooded killers." Oh, great, the Packers face New England next week.

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