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What a Difference One Play Makes

The Packers entered Monday night’s game as one of the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLVIII. A win would give them a stranglehold on the NFC North with a one game lead and wins over both of their closest chasers. It would tie them with New Orleans for the second best record among division leaders and put them in serious contention for a first round bye. One play erased all those thoughts. Rodgers left with in an injury, the Packers lost, and now they are tied for 1st with two other teams. The Packers are now faced with a 3-4 game stretch of division and conference games without Aaron Rodgers. If they lose any or all of these games, it will be a playoff tiebreaker nightmare for them at the end of the season. They will almost have to win a playoff spot outright to get it, and with 7 other NFC teams over .500 (and the Eagles a win away from .500) that will be incredibly difficult. From the penthouse to the outhouse in one play. Unbelievable.


No Silver Lining

There is no way to sugarcoat last night’s loss. Sure the injury to Rodgers can justifiably be blamed in part for the loss, but there is plenty of other blame to go around. The Packers risky gamble at backup quarterback came back to haunt them. Seneca Wallace produced a 58 quarterback rating and Mike McCarthy’s play calling suggested he had no confidence in his backup signal caller. The defense was shredded by 34 year old backup Josh McCown; a career 72.0 passer starting his 3rd game in 6 years. Dom Capers defense once again looked completely confused in passing situations, particularly on 3rd down. The secondary left receivers wide open over the middle. The front seven provided virtually no pass rush. When they did, they couldn't wrap up. Aaron Rodgers’ injury is the biggest long term concern after this game, and it should be, but the defense also looks like it might once again be a huge Achilles heel. It turns out even a suspect defense can look awfully good against the likes of Christian Ponder and Brandon Weeden.


The Flaws of McCarthy and Thompson Lead to Devastation on One Play

Rodgers suffered a collarbone injury on 3rd & 8 from the 9 yard line. They took the snap out of the shotgun formation with 4 receivers wide. Rodgers took a quick look to his right, half pumped, but was forced to step up and scrabble to his right when Julius Peppers bullrushed David Bakhtiari into the pocket. As Rodgers continued to look downfield, Shea McClellin got free of Don Barclay and wrapped up Rodgers. As Rodgers struggled to get free, McClellin forced Rodgers down hard on his non-throwing shoulder, injuring the QB and knocking him from the game.

How could Thompson possibly be blamed for this?: The weakness of relying on young and cheap players was very apparent on this play. David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay look like they have the potential to be very good players, but both are saddled with the responsibility of protecting the entire franchise. They have done pretty well for most of the season, but yesterday they were faced with the scenario that I always bring up when discussing using young and cheap players: what happens when they have to face elite level talent? Even if they hold their own, they are undoubtedly going to get catastrophically beaten on a few plays. That is all it takes to end a drive, cost you a game, or potentially destroy what was looking to be a very promising season.


How could McCarthy possibly be blamed for this? The Packers rushing attack has the league’s best yards per carry average with 2 effective backs. Yet in goal to go situations, the Packers pass 60% of the time. You might argue that they have Aaron Rodgers and should go with their strengths, but it turns out, they aren't very good at passing in goal to go situations. Of the 27 pass plays they've called in goal to go situations, only 6 have resulted in touchdowns. That’s 10th worst in the NFL and 8% below the league average. They've also surrendered a league-worst 4 sacks in these situations. Part of me can understand their insistence to play this way around the goal line. In 2012, 68% of their pass attempts in goal-to-go situations resulted in touchdowns; far and away the best in the NFL. But this is a depleted version of the Packers. No matter how hard Mike McCarthy wants to believe otherwise, Andrew Quarless is not Jermichal Finley and Jarrett Boykin and Miles White are not Randall Cobb. You don’t have many X factors in the passing game right now. What you do have are two running backs that are running over everyone. Why not give them a chance? And maybe, just maybe, from an actual power rushing formation?


ESPN – Get a New Preferred Rivalry Game

The Packers have defeated the Bears 9 of the last 12 times they have played. All three losses have come on Monday Night Football. Clearly the Packers would've won quite easily this week under the exact same circumstances had the game been played at noon on Fox. Clearly.

We will elaborate on these and other topics tonight on Green and Gold Forever. Check back between 8pm-10pm and it will be posted!

-Eric 

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