Sunday, January 15, 2012

Packers Lose A Heartbreaker

Needless to say, the season ended quite abruptly. The Packers were coming off a bye week. Everyone was well rested, healthy, and ready to play at home against the New York Giants. Everyone, too, was playing with a heavy heart after Coach Joe Philbin's son passed away last week after drowning and later found in the Fox River. The stage was set. Lambeau Field. The Frozen Tundra in January. The once invincible Packers (13-0 at Lambeau until 2002) had begun to lose its dominance at home went into this game 2-3 at Lambeau in playoff games since 2002.

It is now 2-4 since 2002. So where do we start at what went wrong? Lets first look at the good that came out of this game. First off, our defense showed up at some critical time, even though the score says otherwise. We had a huge stop on the goal line and held the Giants to 3 field goals that on drives where they were hot enough to have easily scored 3 touchdown. When they rushed Eli Manning, we made him scramble to which he made some bad throws, including an interception. The loss of Nick Collins was evident all year long, but especially in cases today where we needed big 3rd down stops to get the ball back.

Donald Driver, our #3 wide receiver, hands down had the best game of all the Packers wide receivers and arguably of the entire team. Donald Driver only had 3 catches for 45 yards and a touchdown, but all of his catches came at times where the Packers offense was all but deflated, and no bigger then his touchdown catch in the 4th quarter. Driver, who turns 37 next month, proved that he still has what it takes to be a leader and a top wide receiver on the Packers. He shined when top receivers Jennings, Nelson, and Finley had off games. I would say Driver is a Packer next year.

Finally, our coaching was very good this game. McCarthy mixed it up really well all game (all year, really), but because of the team we had for an offense, there wasn't much he had to but sit back and watch the magic happen. We did run a lot on first down, like always. But, at times we did catch New York off guard with passes on 1st down. There's not much more you can ask for from McCarthy after going 10-6 last year in the regular season in 2010/2011 to 15-1 in 2011/2012 regular season. Definitely shouldn't get the finger pointed at him. He keeps his job.

Rodgers did all he could in this game to keep Green Bay in it. Frustration rolled in quick, and it showed. On one particular play it shined. Jennings had his man beat and would have had an easy touchdown, but because the offensive line collapsed, Rodgers was hit and lost the football, losing his first fumble of the season. Turnovers as a whole where the main cause of what brought the Packers down. Grant, Rodgers, Kuhn, and Jennings (although, later overruled) all lost fumbles this game. Rodgers also had an interception, tallying up a total of 4 turnovers. Surprisingly, the Packers only gave up 10 points on turnovers (13 if you count the turnover on downs. The ugliest part of this game was obviously the dropped passes. The dropped passes were the same thing that plagued us in our first loss to the Chiefs in Week 15. A lot of people point the finger right away at Jermichael Finley for his drops. Some criticism is deserved, but not full blame. Like I said before, everyone had at least one key drop. Finley, Nelson, Jennings, Grant, Starks, and Crabtree all contributed to that statistic.

After the game, Coach Mike McCarthy said this: "We did not play very well today. I think I'm stating the obvious. Research tells you 3 most critical areas: Taking care of football/taking it away, 3rd down, red-zone efficiency. It's about making plays. It's about big play opportunities in big game. Hail Mary was big momentum play, but we were not deflated. I thought Rodgers played like he normally does. Made some plays with his feet. I thought Aaron made a lot of plays. Any time you make a decision that has a higher risk than normal, you go back and look at it (onside kick, going for it on 4th). Doesn't feel good. It's very disappointing. It's a locker room that expected a lot more, rightfully so. Disappointed as a football team, disappointed for our fans. We had a heck of a run in the regular season. It was great that Joe Philbin was back to work. Called me yesterday morning about coming back. Had chance to talk to team." (Courtesy of @Packers Twitter Feed)

Aaron Rodgers said this: "We just turned ball over too many times to win. Give them credit on D. Had a lot of chances to execute. That's why season's over. This team, organization, fan base expects championships. We had a championship-caliber regular season. We didn't play well today. We got beat by a team better tonight. That's the reality of this league. It's tough. Didn't think it was going to end tonight. It's going to be a new team next year. Disappointing knowing that this is last time this group will be together. Meant a lot (that coach Philbin was there). Spoke to us Saturday morning. Everybody was surprised to see him there." (Courtesy of @Packers Twitter Feed)

So where does Green Bay go from here? I think that all remains to be seen. It's a situation where you wait for the dust to settle, so to say. Who do we look for in the draft? What do we do with Finley and Flynn? Does Rodgers' MVP campaign lose steam? Will Nick Collins return or is his career done? All these question will be answered in due time. For now, reflect on the outstanding season Green Bay just had. Yes, it should still be continuing next week. But, it's already in the past. Focus on next year on how much better we will be with a proper time frame of an off season with no lock out, full training camps, and longer time for the team to bond and form into a powerhouse unit.

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

-Andrew Vrchota (@WSB_Andrew)

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