Defense Rests; The Verdict: Guilty

This was a game that the Packers needed their defense to win for them. Down to their third string QB just one series into the game, the Packers and all of their fans knew points would be at a premium on this day. With Rodgers down, the defense needed to rise up. Instead, they fell down and failed miserably in their first test without their MVP quarterback, and Philly coasted to an easy victory.

Nick Foles finished with a near perfect passer rating and the Eagles churned up more than 200 yards on the ground. They had the Packers on their heels, with two huge TD passes and the ability to run the ball down the Packers' throats at the end.

This was a game the Pack desperately needed. You figure if they can go 2-2 while Rodgers recuperates they would enter December at 7-5 and in decent shape. With road games in New York and Detroit, the home games were must wins. Instead, the Pack saw their starting QB go down in the first series for the second time in six days at Lambeau, and with it went any chance for a victory. Now they'll need to steal one on the road. Or else Rodgers needs to heal quickly enough to get back on the field for the Lions game.

But make no mistake. This loss is not on Scott Tolzien. Outside of the hideous red zone pick late in the first half when the Pack was 12 yards from tying the game at seven, he performed really well--considering the circumstances. This is a guy who the Pack added to the practice squad just a few weeks back and was promoted to the active roster just this week. He had had virtually no reps with the offense and yet completed 24-39 for 280 yards. Immediately after the game, Mike McCarthy pronounced him the starter for the Giants game.

I think we're all supremely frustrated with the defense. A unit that's averaged 26 interceptions the last four seasons is on tap to get five this season. Five. They've mustered a grand total of three in nine games. And for the most part, the defense has been spared the ridiculous number of injuries the team has dealt with. Sure, the outside linebackers are banged up, but the secondary is finally healthy (though Hayward left again with yet another hamstring injury). They're just not making key plays when the team needs them most. In the past week, Josh McCown and Nick Foles have each authored near perfect passing days at Lambeau. That's not acceptable.

Speaking of injuries, the offense continues to get ravaged. We'll await the severity of Evan Dietrich Smith and Don Barclay's injuries, but it appears the line is in store for a shake up. Let's hope Derek Sherrod is ready to give right tackle a shot. I don't ever need to see Marshall Newhouse suit up again. He's a train wreck at right tackle and almost got Tolzien killed.

You know, it's funny. On my weekly appearance with Miller and Brinson on KXNO in Des Moines last Monday, I was asked if I thought the Pack could run the table. I thought about it and figured that although the Pack would likely be favored in each of its last nine games, they'd probably stumble a number of times. One week later, they're on the outside looking in at the playoffs and need to figure out a way to win a couple games in November or we'll be looking at a lost season. That's how quickly things can change.

Injuries have ravaged this team and this season, beginning with Bryan Bulaga, continuing with guys like Morgan Burnett, Casey Hayward, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb and now Rodgers. But great teams find a way to fight through it. The 2010 team did, catching a break in week 17 to sneak into the playoffs and then making their historic run. Of course, that team didn't lose Rodgers. Yes, it's a lot of talent to make up. But wouldn't it be nice to see the defense take charge and assume the identity of the team in his absence?

The Packers next head to New York to meet their playoff nemesis, the Giants, a team that has overcome an 0-6 start to win three straight and vault to within a game of the division lead in the loss column. They're not playing well, but they did just enough to beat the Raiders at home. The early line lists them as four point favorites over the Pack next Sunday.

It's hard to argue with that. The Packers deserve to be underdogs, befitting their underwhelming effort these last two weeks.


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