Throughout the Packer game on Sunday I found myself constantly flipping back and forth to the 49ers-Saints game, to watch what I considered to be the top two NFC teams battle it out. And after the Pack dispatched with Washington, thanks mainly to Aaron Jones and a gimpy Dwayne Haskins, I watched the two heavyweights punch and counterpunch their way to a 48-46 instant classic.
It left me wondering how on Earth we can expect the Packers to compete with either of those teams next month. The answer is, they can’t–unless Aaron Rodgers and the passing game discover some kind of magic potion. Once again, there was no rhythm–for most of the afternoon Rodgers had plenty of time in the pocket but could find nobody open–and the Washington secondary is nothing special.
The offense was bailed out once again by the electric Jones, whose 134 rushing yards on 16 carries came against a Redskins defensive plan that was designed to take him out of the game. He added 58 receiving yards, half of them coming on the biggest play of the game, on third and long with the Pack backed up near their goal line–extending a long fourth quarter drive that ended in a field goal and basically put the game away.
But their has to be major concern about the passing game, which seemed to flourish in October when Davante Adams was sidelined, but now looks more and more like the 2018 version, with throw aways, coverage sacks and a dismal performance on third down (just 5-13 on Sunday).
The Packers could get away with it against the likes of the Giants and Skins, but says of frolicking in the bunny patch are over. The Bears will come to Lambeau on Sunday treating the game like a playoff matchup, because they’ll be knocked out of the post season with a loss. Not to mention, their passing game has suddenly found life and they will come in confident and poised to spoil the Lambeau party. Then come the Vikings on Monday night and we all know what we’re in for in that one.
It’s hard to know what to make of the defensive effort, facing a bottom-feeding offense like Washington. Losing Derrius Guice to injury in the first half (after a long run) took away their nice 1-2 punch out of the backfield and forced Adrian Peterson to handle the load. Time and time again, Washington ran the ball on first and second down and then tried to convert via the air. They just don’t have the horses to be productive that way. If the Packers are going to be down two CBs (King and Brown), this was the week for it. Hopefully they’ll be available against the Bears.
The brightest spot of the game was new punt returner Tyler Ervin, who showed us that it is possible to gain positive yards when you return punts. His four returns netted 51 yards, this for a team that had -8 for the season coming into the game. What a breath of fresh air and terrific mid-week pickup by Brian Gutekunst and his staff.
Big picture, the Pack is 10-3 and currently the #2 seed in the NFC. Win out and they will have a bye on wildcard weekend and host a game in the divisional round. If they beat the Bears and Lions they will be NFC North champs and likely own the #3 seed and face the Vikings on wildcard weekend.
But if they can’t raise their level of play beginning Sunday, their playoff seeding will change drastically. Matt LaFleur needs to find a way to get the offense in some kind of rhythm and Mike Pettine’s unit will need to limit big plays and continue to perform in the red zone and take the ball away.
Otherwise, this feel good 10-3 record won’t feel so good come Christmas.