Saturday, November 21, 2015

How Long Will the Losing Streak Last?

Press-Gazette Cover, 11-16-15
The 24 year streak is over, as the Lions beat the Packers last Sunday, at Lambeau Field, by the score of 18-16.  I subscribe to a bunch of Packers' podcasts, and sometimes I get behind in listening to them, as happened this week.  It is strange to listen to the pre-game podcasts after the game, because almost everyone thought the Lions' game was a mere technicality on the way to the tougher match-up at the Vikings this weekend.  There was generally some recognition that the streak can't last forever, and that, obviously, someday, the Lions would win again in Wisconsin, but most (including me) were pretty sure that last Sunday was not about to be the time.

The most prescient comment, in hindsight, was almost a throwaway line from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter Bob McGinn, on his Packers Podcast.  He first quoted Ron Wolf on the streak, who said some years ago, "How can that happen?  The ball has to bounce your way so many times for that to happen."  McGinn then quoted a retired Detroit writer who had said, again a few years ago, "It probably will end some time when people least expect it to end," and McGinn added, "like this weekend."

It is hard to believe, even after re-watching the game, that the Packers let this one get away from them.  There was a time in the second quarter when my wife Judy and I discussed the fact that the Packers, as mediocre as they looked, were still outplaying the Lions by far.  But they were one missed tackle away from being behind, since the score was 3-0 Packers at the time.

That is close to what happened, too.  The Lions tied up the game at the end of the half, and then ran the second half kickoff back to the Packers' one yard line, and never looked back or trailed after scoring the touchdown on that one-yard drive.

Right before the start of the second half, Aikman and Buck were discussing whether Mike McCarthy might take back the play-calling duties, given that they were not able to get much going in the first half.  Aikman said: "There's part of me that thinks he won't, because he's not one who reacts quickly."  Isn't that the truth?  You could say the same about in-game adjustments.

My Lions' fan friend Al, who wasn't able to watch the game until the middle of this week, passed on a few comments:
"My team tried mightily to give the game away, as is their pedigree.  Two botched extra points and only 10 men on the field for the failed field goal attempt.  The Lions got away with some questionable non-calls on pass interference.  But I have to give the defense credit otherwise.  They were hitting hard and putting a lot of pressure on Aaron."
Indeed they did.  You would have thought that the 2015 Lions, missing Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, and DeAndre Levy, might not put so much pressure on Rodgers, but they did.  Rodgers got hit way too many times.  It's not because of the Mike Ditka Packers sweater curse, either.  Part of it is due to indecision on Rodgers' part, part of it is due to receivers not getting open, and part of it (I know I have been harping on this for weeks) is due to Tom Clements not calling enough quick release and misdirection plays.  Plus the Lions played very well on defense.  But whatever the reason, Rodgers is getting beat up.

The suspicion that many of us had that there is something wrong with Rodgers seems now to have been confirmed, as Mike McCarthy admitted this week that he is "banged up."  He apparently has both a shoulder injury and a leg injury, but Rodgers won't say how long the shoulder has been bothering him.  Which of course just feeds my conspiracy theory that he has been hurt for some time.

The 2015 season is rapidly starting to look like a lost season.  A little hard to believe after a 6-0 start.  But I can't see a realistic scenario where the Packers end up with home field advantage in the playoffs, since the Panthers are still cruising along at 9-0.  If the Packers lose to the Vikings on Sunday, winning the division looks unlikely, too.  So then you are looking at a possible Wild Card slot, and (even though the Packers won the Super Bowl as a Wild Card 5 years ago), that is not a formula likely to take the Packers far into the playoffs.

I have no remaining confidence in the Packers' ability to win a game, much less a game on the road.  So let them prove me wrong on Sunday in Minnesota.  I hope they do.  But until they do, I am picking the Vikings.

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