Up until Monday night, it’d been quite a magic act pulled off by the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers, using something similar to sleight of hand, actually had us believing they had changed many of their famously - or is that infamously? - self-defeating ways from previous years. Also apparently gone were the poor special teams performances this team was known for, an especially impressive act of trickery as this team gave no indication it was capable of such change until about two weeks ago.
Of course, even the best magicians can’t make things vanish forever. At some point, the re-appearance always takes place. For Green Bay, that happened Monday night.
The dark side of the Packers reared its ugly head in full force in an embarassing 20-17 road loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, Green Bay showing few characteristics of this so-called “championship-caliber” team we’ve spent too much time making it out to be.
If the Packers (2-1 overall) were a championship-level squad, they would not have spent the entire evening killing themselves over…and over…and over with penalties. At no point did the time-tested principles of discipline or self-restraint enter into Green Bay’s thinking in this one, the Packers racking up a team-record 18 penalties for 152 yards with seemingly every position getting into the act at one point or another. At least it was everybody, right?
And, of course, you can’t rack up that many penalty yards without a few personal foul calls, the ultimate indicator of a sloppy, undisciplined team. Let’s see – there was an unneccessary roughness call, a roughing the passer call, a facemasking call…yeah, I think it’s safe to put Green Bay in that category, don’t you?
If the penalties weren’t enough to remind you all too well of the 2009 Packers’ evil twin, Shawn Slocum and his special teams’ whiz kids were there to seal the deal.
To punt to Devin Hester once, only to have Hester almost house it, is a bad – but ultimately forgiveable – mistake. After all, it’d been awhile since Hester was that Hester. But deciding to kick it to him again is an act of reckless idiocy that simply can not be overlooked. Hester got his mojo back on the first big return; you knew he’d cash in if he got another chance, no matter how good your still-suspect coverage units looked over the first two weeks.
Well, you knew unless you were Slocum, anyways.
None of this is to suggest the Packers didn’t outplay the Bears (3-0), because they clearly did. But you can find drawbacks in that fact, as well.
Yes, Green Bay looks fantastic offensively between the 20s. That’s nice, really. But if this team is the offensive juggernault we all think it is, why is scoring within the red zone slightly harder than finding an intelligent Bears fan? With all these weapons at their disposal, why can’t Aaron Rodgers find any of them often enough when it matters most? Last time I checked, championship teams aren’t settling for field goals – or worse, blocked field goals – at the end of eight-plus minute drives all that often.
Similar story with the defense. After all the pressure and heat that group put on Jay Cutler in the first half, why was Dom Capers going with the dreaded “sweep three, drop eight” sets time and time again towards the end of the game? Where was the Cutler-throat mentality this defense sells us on? Perhaps it was – oops, sorry, got cut off.
Green Bay just committed another defensive penalty.
If all of these things weren’t enough – they’re not? – the most damning aspect to emerge from the game is this: A championship team would’ve crushed Chicago, a truly underwhelming bunch if there ever was one.
Remember, the Bears were desperate to serve notice that they were for real. Brian Urlacher said the game would be the team’s biggest since its Super Bowl loss in 2007. The Packers had to know the Bears were going to fight them wire-to-wire, if for no other reason than, well, they always have under Lovie Smith.
Of course, none of this would’ve mattered to a championship team. Expecting a battle, you simply walk into their building and break their will. After all, you’re the better team and they are in your way. Simple as that. What you don’t do is beat them up-and-down the field for 60 minutes, only to repeatedly get in your own way at every single crucial turn.
The Packers gave us some indications they are – and will continue to be – a very good team in this loss.
But until they toss their evil twin off the cliff once and for all, it’s hard to see a championship in this team’s future. After this one, it seems like that’ll take an awful lot of sorcery.