Needless to say, I should have listened to Devil Siny.
I turned off the TV at halftime and mostly did not watch the second half. That was by design: my 10 year old Dylan had a basketball championship game to play in Chaska. But I probably would’ve been tempted to do the same thing even if I wasn’t going anywhere.
That was about as disappointing a first half of football I can remember watching in years. Let’s face it: we all know we’ve been spoiled for the better part of a quarter century. I mean, it had been more than five years since the Pack has lost back to back games with Rodgers in there. There’s no shame in losing back to back road games to unbeaten teams.
But there is shame in the way they got there. Let’s start with the defense, which showed more fight amongst themselves than they showed on the field. Say one thing about the late game altercation between Clinton-Dix, Peppers and Raji: at least it appears they care. It would be nice to see that same fire between the white lines.
For a third consecutive week, the defense has generated zero pass rush. Granted, Cam Newton is a difficult guy to sack, but the same can’t be said about the two previous opponents, Manning and Rivers. After a quick start to the season, the pass rush has evaporated. To make matters worse, the cover guys have also stopped covering. Seeing Newton complete two passes of over 50 yards in the first half is ridiculous, with the pedestrian receivers the Panthers trot out. The first one, on third and 16, gave us an early glimpse as to what we were in store for on this day.
Meanwhile the offense continues to struggle mightily. Before the fourth quarter comeback, we saw way too many three and outs. Way too many instances where Rodgers was on the run. And once again we saw a below average outing from #12; a surprising amount of inaccurate throws, poor decisions and holding onto the ball too long. Still, the offense showed glimmers late–let’s hope the combination of a desperation fourth quarter and next week’s opponent, the Lions, will bring that unit back to life.
With four straight division games looming (two against the Lions), the Packers have a chance to pick up the pieces. We’ve seen this defense look dominant and we’ve seen it look dormant. There’s a serious issue at inside linebacker, where Nate Palmer’s play has dropped off and Jake Ryan looks like he’s playing catch up when he’s out there. The pass rush needs to re-appear, the run defense needs to tighten up and the corners need to play better.
So, we’re at the halfway point of the season and the Packers have allowed the Vikings to enter the NFC North party. Their fans will have some fun at our expense this week as they find themselves in a tie for the division lead. The division will sort itself out over the next eight weeks. Despite what I’ve seen the last two weeks, I still believe the division will be wrapped up by the Pack before the week 17 finale at Lambeau, in large part because the Packers face one of the five easiest schedules in the league the rest of the way, while the Vikings face the toughest.
I’m putting my faith in a regime that has earned my trust with their overall play over the last ten years. Most teams go through peaks and valleys–we just haven’t gone this deep down into the valley lately. I’d like to believe the leaders on defense: Peppers, Matthews, Daniels, Raji and Burnett will have a come to Jesus meeting and get back on the same page. I’d like to believe Rodgers will rise up after two clunkers and put this offense back on his back.
Any thought of securing the top seed in the NFC is gone for now. They need to get back to basics. Do what they do best: win division games and concentrate on capturing the North like they always do. The Pack has shown they can withstand in-season adversity and peak at the right time.
But after watching their last three performances, they have a long way to go before they begin to resemble the Super Bowl contenders we thought they were.