Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Ultimate Preventable Loss

Photo by PackersWire.USAToday.com
Today's blog post will be short, and necessarily so.  I am travelling out of the country, and only saw about 60% of the game live, and have no ability to re-watch it since NFL Game Pass (US) doesn't work outside the US.

Most of the focus post-game has been on Ty Montgomery's regrettable decision to try to return the Rams' kickoff after they went ahead, 29-27.  His fumble handed the ball right back to the Rams, and sealed the win for them.  There has been speculation that Montgomery returned the ball out of frustration or spite for having been benched in a prior series ("I'll show them!" - style).  But Montgomery says that is not what happened, rather he thought the ball was going to land close to the goal line, where he can't let a live ball bounce, or take a chance on an official's ruling as to whether he was in or out of the end zone when he caught the ball.  So he made a disastrous, split-second decision to return the ball.

Let me say that I don't really care that much which version is correct.  If the Packers think Montgomery deliberately disobeyed the order to down the ball, they should have cut or traded him on Monday.  If they believe his version, then it is appropriate that he is still on the team as of now (although today is the trade deadline, so we will see).

My bigger concern is that 5 of the Packers' first 7 games have either been decided in the closing seconds, or have been decided by dumb and inexplicable errors.  The Packers pulled off a miraculous comeback against the Bears to win.  They had numerous opportunities to either win or lose the Vikings game, so it was almost fitting that it ended in a tie.  A Mason Crosby flame-out of epic proportions cost them the Lions game.  Another miracle comeback against the 49ers.  And now a boneheaded mistake by our number 3 running back costs Aaron Rodgers the opportunity to pull off a significant upset win.  In these 5 games, the Packers are 2-2-1, so it obviously could be worse.  But a championship team finds a way to win all, or at least most, of those winnable games.  And they typically don't make them close; they put them away early on.

By that measure, the Packers don't look like a championship team right now.  They may not even make the playoffs absent a significant improvement.  An optimist would say that there were signs of improvement in the Rams' loss.  The Packers finally seem to have realized that Aaron Jones is their feature back.  And Jaire Alexander was making the kind of plays that justify the Packers' use of a high draft choice on him.  But "signs of improvement" just won't cut it anymore.  If the Packers are going to make anything out of this season, they are going to have to start winning the close ones, and putting away the easy ones.  Beating the Patriots would not seem like such a "must-win" game if the Packers had pulled off the comeback against the Rams.  But they didn't.  And now they need a win to avoid falling below .500 at the halfway point of their season.  In the immortal Super Bowl XLV words of Kevin Greene, "it is time" to go out and get it done.

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