Well, that didn’t go as planned.
My first bit of indigestion bubbled up when Mike McCarthy deferred, as always. Generally, I like this tactic, but not against a historically great offense in their house. You knew the Pack would be in an instant 7-0 hole.
It snowballed from there. The missed field goal. The Rip fumble. The completely overmatched defense. It was a day when you knew the offense had to be perfect–and it was far from it. When news broke that Jordy Nelson would play, along with Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison, it provided some hope that the Pack’s offense might be potent enough to keep up in a track meet. It wasn’t.
There’s no question this performance was a disaster of epic proportions, but let’s put our frustration aside for a moment and look at the big picture. Eight of the ten playoff games this year have been blowouts. The Pack administered one and were victimized by one. As painful as it was to watch, for me it was much easier than dealing with the way the team exited the post-season the last two years. Yes the team played infinitely better in both of those losses, but they were gut-wrenching, especially the title game two years ago.
The Falcons demonstrated that a world class offense, when firing on all cylinders, is no match for the Packers defense as it’s presently constructed. The crater-sized hole at cornerback was clearly the biggest issue this season. Losing Sam Shields in week one was the one thing the roster couldn’t withstand and that’s on Ted Thompson. His two second year corners regressed and his decision to let Casey Hayward walk in free agency turned out to be a monumental blunder. Asking LaDarius Gunter to handle, in consecutive weeks, OBJ, Dez and Julio is unfair.
When Aaron Rodgers cryptically said following the game that the team needs to go all-in next season, he was speaking to the front office. The time is gone to depend on undrafted free agents. It’s time to bring in a few veteran re-enforcements on defense through free agency. The Jared Cook moved worked out well. This team needs upgrades at corner and outside linebacker, maybe even at inside linebacker.
Clearly the last five #1 picks, all defensive players, have not provided enough difference makers. For that reason, the Pack may decide to kick Thompson to some kind of emeritus scouting role and hand the job to either Eliot Wolf or Brian Gutekunst (I’m not buying the John Dorsey steam).
I saw a stat that the Packers have given up 44+ points in three playoff games with Rodgers as a starter. Tom Brady has never had a defense surrender 44, regular season or playoffs. It’s time to fix that unit and give Rodgers and the offense a chance. Obviously, that side of the ball will need some tweaks. They have to figure out the running back position, maybe add a receiver, sign Cook and decided what to do with TJ Lang (let’s hope his injury isn’t as bad as it looked).
The title game was a disaster. But the last eight or nine weeks were both unexpected and enthralling. Watching Rodgers do his thing week in and week out has spoiled us. He still has six or seven good years in him and this team will be favored along with Atlanta and Dallas in the NFC next year. Let’s see what the organization does to bolster their weak spots. And let’s see if we can take it a step further and spoil the purple party at US Bank Stadium next February.