If there is a silver lining to this dumpster fire of a season, maybe we won’t see and hear any more State Farm commercials featuring Aaron Rodgers in 2019. Maybe they’ll find a new pitchman/woman. Maybe that’s wishful thinking.
Rodgers and the Packers saw their flickering playoff hopes officially snuffed out at Soldier Field in a game that was actually there for the taking. When Matt Nagy inexplicably tried a fake punt near midfield that backfired and the Pack went down the field to score and tie the game at 14, I allowed myself to hope, for just a moment, that Rodgers’ domination of the Bears would continue.
Then when Tarik Cohen fumbled near the red zone as the fourth quarter started and the Packers recovered, there was the opportunity to go down the field and take the lead. Instead, we got sack, incomplete, incomplete, punt. The third down play was an overthrow to Marquez Valdez-Scantling that Rodgers used to make in his sleep. The Bears took over, scored and that was that.
This game looked a lot like just about every road game this season. Opportunities to make big plays were there, but Rodgers was unable to convert. The offense’s inability on third downs this season has been as bad as I can remember in the Favre-Rodgers era. And now they are one game away from serving up the first winless road record in the 100 years the franchise has been playing football.
Any hopes Joe Philbin may have harbored of jump starting this offense and earning serious consideration for the head coaching job are out the window. The Packers need to identify someone who can light a fire under Rodgers and get him playing consistently like the QB we’ve watched the last ten years. Because the 2018 version has been inconsistent and downright average.
Defensively, there are signs of positivity, but we saw more missed tackles, untimely penalties and missed opportunities. Rookie Josh Jackson has regressed, while undrafted Tyler Lancaster looks like he can be a rotational player on the defensive line. Brian Gutekunst needs to seriously upgrade the linebacker and safety positions in the offseason to help Mike Pettine, or whoever is running the defense in 2019.
The Bears are legit, with a loaded defense and a young offense that will only get better. If the Packers are going to get back in the hunt in the North next season, they will need to hit a home run with their head coaching decision and hope that Gutey makes the most of the team’s cap space and extra draft picks. The Bears went from worst to first. Everything changes year to year. After the first back to back losing season since Favre was a Falcon, the Pack has plenty of work to do.
And what they will need most is for Aaron Rodgers to look like Aaron Rodgers again.