Pack is Outcoached, Outplayed and Nearly Out of Time.Posted:Nov 5th, 2018 2:55 pm
We should've seen it coming when Josh Jones was flagged for being offsides on the opening kickoff. This Packers' road performance looked much like the first two (at Detroit and Washington), rather than last week's effort in LA that gave us hope that they had turned the corner.
On this night in Foxborough we were back to the team that got flagged at inopportune times, hurt themselves with poor offensive execution and then turned the ball over at the worst possible time (OK, that last one happened in LA too, but you get my point).
It's hard not to look at this game and realize that the Packers were outcoached--not a sin against Bill Belichick, But Josh McDaniels also outdueled Mike Pettine as the Pack had no answers for the array of trick plays that the Patriots OC unleashed. Foolish penalties (i.e. the roughing the kicker call on Tonyan, delay of game in the red zone), ejections (Jermaine Whitehead's boneheaded helmet slap): these are not what well-coached teams do on a big stage when your season may be hanging in the balance.
This game was all set up for the Packers to make a statement. They were catching the Patriots on a short week, coming off a ho-hum performance in Buffalo. When the inactives were announced 90 minutes before kickoff, and the Patriots' best receiver and ball carrier were on it, the Pack should have been galvanized that maybe this would be their night to erase the bad taste in their mouths from LA and put themselves solidly in the NFC North race by winning in the toughest NFL road environment over the past 15 years.
And despite all the issues, things started to go the Pack's way in the the third quarter. Suddenly the defense stiffened and Tom Brady threw seven straight incomplete passes and suddenly the offense began to find a rhythm, as Rodgers and MVS hooked up on a pair of big plays. But as they approached the red zone, poised to take their first lead of the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Aaron Jones fumbled for the first time as a pro. Brady and McDaniels seized on the opening with another big gadget play and the Patriots were back in control. A meager three and out by the Pack's offense later and New England scored again to take a two touchdown lead. Ballgame.
What's most concerning to me is how difficult everything is for the offense right now. In a game that was billed as the second and perhaps final matchup of two of the greatest QBs ever, Rodgers never looked comfortable and confident. McCarthy called twice as many pass plays as run plays and the pass plays always take so long to develop. Where are the quick slants and screens, something to keep the defense off balance--and this was a defense that lacks premier pass rushing talent.
We'll wait to hear how costly the game was from an injury standpoint, as Bryan Bulaga, Kevin King and Kentrell Brice were knocked out early. Blake Martinez returned after being carted off with an ankle injury, so hopefully the defense escaped losing its captain for an extended period.
So the Packers are now 0-4 on the road this season, and while they have yet to lose a home game, they have whittled down their margin of error to just about nothing. Heading into this brutal five game stretch, I felt like they had to go no worse than 2-3 to keep their postseason hopes alive. It's not a sin to lose to the Rams and Patriots on the road, but they absolutely must win two of these next three, which means they have to win a road game. A novel concept.
It will likely take at least a 6-2 second half for the Packers to sniff January. For a unit that has yet to string back to back wins together, this seems like a long shot. But we've been down this road before. A 4-6 start two years ago turned into running the table into the postseason. But this team has yet to show that it can play consistent, fundamental football over 60 minutes week in and week out.
If they don't figure things out soon, the clock will start ticking on Mike McCarthy's future in Titletown.