Good morning, OBOD readers — Gene here. Chris is off fuming somewhere, so I thought I’d weigh in with a few, shall we say, more measured thoughts about last night’s loss to the Bears. Chris’s recap is coming, and I can tell you after talking to him last night, it will be colorful.
In the meantime, here are a few thoughts from my corner of the world on the game:
–The most galling part of it is not that the Packers lost. It’s the way they did it. We’ve obviously been over the penalties a dozen times, so I won’t belabor the point here, but this has been an issue all the way through Mike McCarthy’s tenure as head coach. And it took points off the board last night; without the holding call on Jermichael Finley’s touchdown, the Packers win that game. Every team in the NFL has hiccups these days; nobody is complete enough to play 16 games without slipping. But I walked away thinking the Packers were two touchdowns better than the Bears, if only they’d played a clean game.
–I know McCarthy isn’t going to run the ball much, and that’s fine, but if the Packers don’t at least give some thought to running, you’re going to see teams do exactly what the Bears did last night: drop into a deep zone, make the Packers play underneath and put the clamps down in the red zone. And teams like the Bears, who can pressure the quarterback with their front four, will be especially successful at it (hello, Jared Allen). Mark Tauscher looked jumpy, like he needed an extra half-second to prepare himself for Julius Peppers. That would explain some of the false starts, and the holding penalties came when Tauscher had no other recourse. Is this offensive line good enough to get the Packers deep into the playoffs? I don’t know, but it’s another recurring issue of the McCarthy/Thompson era.
–Here’s the thing that bugs me most: In yet another prime-time opportunity to make a statement, the Packers were ragged. This has been a theme in almost every prime-time game they’ve played under McCarthy, when emotions run a little higher and strange things tend to happen. Let’s look at the list:
2006: Lost to Philadelphia 31-9 on Monday night, got shredded by Shaun Alexander in Seattle on Monday night in a crushing loss to their playoff hopes, got a sloppy Thursday night win against the Vikings and beat a Bears team that didn’t care about the final Sunday night game of the season.
2007: Got beat at Lambeau by the Bears on Sunday night, in a game much like last night’s, slipped by the Broncos in a closer-than-it-should-have-been game on Monday night (against Jay Cutler, with Brett Favre hitting Greg Jennings for the sudden-death score), got embarrassed in the first half of a Thursday night game against Dallas before Aaron Rodgers filled in for an injured Brett Favre and nearly brought the Packers back.
2008: Beat the Vikings on Monday night in probably the best prime-time game of the McCarthy era, got undressed by Dallas on Sunday night, watched Drew Brees completely torch them on Monday night, lost to the Bears after getting a field goal blocked on Monday night (sound familiar?)
2009: Won the Sunday night opener against the Bears after falling flat in the second half and needing Rodgers-to-Jennings to bail them out in the final minute, got torched by Favre on Monday night in the Metrodome (a game McCarthy has admitted he had the Packers too jacked up for), won a sloppy Monday night game over the Ravens, during which both teams nearly set NFL records for penalties.
2010: Lost to the Bears last night.
That’s a 6-9 prime-time record under McCarthy, and I’d say exactly one of those wins (the Vikings game in 2008) was one you could feel good about afterward. And then we’ve got a 1-2 playoff record, with the Packers making crucial late-game mistakes (and I’m not just talking about the Favre pick against the Giants and the Rodgers fumble against the Cardinals) in both of them.
For a guy who prides himself on having the finger on the pulse of his team, wouldn’t you expect a few more complete performances when emotions are running highest?
If the NFC is as flawed as it appears to be – and an NFC with that team as its only unbeaten is definitely flawed – the Packers’ opportunity is still there. But it’s going to take cleaner performances than we saw last night, and it’s going to take composed efforts in big situations.
So far, we have seen the Packers deliver neither of these things. That’s why I picked them to fall short of the Super Bowl, and until they do something to change my mind, I’m sticking with that prediction.
Favre comes in on Sunday night in three weeks. The Packers travel to New York after that to face the Jets (in a game I want them to steal in a make-up for last night), and they have the Cowboys on Sunday night the week after that.
The statement games will keep coming. Let’s see it, guys.