Well that was a rotten way to end the regular season, huh?
Playing for a first-round bye, the Green Bay Packers were just too sloppy and uneven to get the job done, falling 37-34 on the road to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. As a result of the loss, the Packers will be playing next weekend against these same Vikings, at Lambeau Field, at 7 p.m. Saturday night. Green Bay closes the regular season at 11-5.
Here are my takeaways from this disappointing contest:
- Slow starts. Slow @#&!ing starts. They’ve been an issue for most of the season with this team and that was the case yet again here. Green Bay came out flat, with no hustle or intensity, ultimately spotting the Vikings (10-6) a 13-point lead. Very disheartening to see. You’re playing for a week off – and playing to keep your second biggest rival OUT of the playoffs – and THAT’S the way you come out of the gate? Credit them for fighting back, sure, but this team makes things much too hard for themselves a lot of the time.
- I’ve written this before, but it’s worth noting again – do that in the playoffs and it could be over before you blink. Well, the playoffs are here. And they still haven’t solved it yet. Troubling sign.
- This defense, while it has made some strides this year, is still fairly soft. That became crystal clear Sunday. The tackling, spotty as of late, was atrocious today. I understand Adrian Peterson is maybe playing better than anyone else alive right now. But that does not excuse what we saw. It was maybe more understandable the first time around, as Green Bay was without C.J. Wilson and Clay Matthews. But they both were active today. And Peterson still gashed them repeatedly.
- In two games against the Pack, Peterson has 409 yards on 55 carries. That’s nearly 7.5 yards per carry. Green Bay has six days to figure out someway to at least slow him down a little. Doesn’t seem incredibly promising, does it?
- After really regaining his old form over the past month or so, Tramon Williams completely fell off the table Sunday. One of the worst games I’ve seen a corner turn in, in all facets. Bhawoh Jue-level bad. The Vikings were not afraid of him at all. And his boneheaded penalty in the redzone kept a drive alive, when the Vikings would’ve settled for three points.
- And the man running this defense does his players absolutely zero favors, too. Biggest play of the game and you go with the patented “rush three, drop eight” scheme that works almost never? No, Dom. No.
- Aaron Rodgers was very, very good after his rough start. Made some huge throws. Throws that only a few other guys on the planet could make. That’s all absolutely true. But his penchant for holding the ball too long really hurt him Sunday, as well. Of the five sacks he took, it sure seemed like they were mostly on him. He fumbled on one of those occasions, which led to six for Minnesota. With a defense that doesn’t create turnovers like it used to, Rodgers has to play mistake-free ball. Is that fair? Not really. But that’s the way it is.
- I’ve wanted to see more DuJuan Harris. Apparently Mike McCarthy did, too, as Harris picked up 70 yards on 14 carries. His future is bright. He’s shifty and unafraid of contact.
- Great effort from all the pass catchers today. In particular, Greg Jennings. That was the Greg Jennings this team has been missing. That was the Pro Bowler. And, I know I’ve written this a lot lately, but Jermichael Finley turned in another outstanding effort. Starting to wonder if Green Bay brings him back next year now. He’s really kicked it up a few notches.
- As for Jennings’ sister’s tweets? Well…I don’t even know where to begin there. Delusional, that one.
- Randall Cobb returning next week will only make the offense that much more explosive. But he doesn’t need to be on returns. I believe Jeremy Ross has that under control.
- Mason Crosby with a 51-yarder to end the first half? Are we sure the Mayans didn’t mean December 31st?
- B.J. Raji continues to play like a man possessed. Love everything about his play over the past month or so.
- As for next week, it’s hard to say much so soon as I’m still sort of processing everything from today. But I’ll offer a few thoughts:
- The Packers have to somehow force Christian Ponder into a mistake or two. They did it the first time around and it was ultimately the difference. They did not Sunday and you can argue that was the difference, also. Ponder’s confidence grew and grew as Sunday’s game went on. They need to hinder that.
- Come out better. They haven’t done that in either game with Minnesota this year. Again, a flat start could spell doom. But, a strong start lessens Peterson’s impact, potentially. That’s a must.
- Do what you do well, Mike. Getting Harris and the other backs involved is a key, yes. But you make your money passing the football. Play to that. Don’t be scared. Same for you, Dom. Attack Ponder repeatedly.
- Please, Lord, don’t lose to these guys at home in the playoffs again. This fanbase is going to be holding hands as they collectively jump off the ledge then.
- Lastly, for some of the Twitter people out there: These thoughts do not make people like me less of a fan than you, okay? Get that out of your heads now. Thinking critically does not – repeat: DOES NOT – make me less of a fan. Pointing out areas of weakness is not a sign of a “bandwagoner,” okay? Get over yourselves. We all root for the same team. Some of us take a different path to doing so. But we ALL want the Packers to do well and win. Let’s all accept fans for who they are, alright? Because I am not going anywhere. Ever.
- Happy New Year’s everyone!