Can Santa Bring A Few Things For The Packers?
I don't know if the sleigh is big enough, or if Rudolph will need a hernia belt if Santa tries bringing all that the Packers need as the regular season comes to an end.
Good health? Anything better than what the team experienced the first 15 weeks of the season is an improvement.
A couple of wins over the Giants and Bears to help nail down a wild card berth? Somethings even elves can't do. That's up to the guys who strap it on, and them alone.
It's hard to summarize the Pack's 8-6 campaign, marked with injury and over accomplishment, by continued mistakes and superlative over achievement.
Whether he wants it or not, Coach Mike McCarthy is getting labeled as a guy who can't win the close ones down the stretch, a tag that gained national credence with Sunday night's meltdown in the final seconds of the loss to the Patriots. To watch the Green Bay offense wandering aimlessly in the New England night waiting for someone--anyone, preferably a guy in a headset--to take charge was painful for Packers fans and laughable for everyone else. There's no excuse for that sort of incompetence and McCarthy does himself no favors by claiming that he was hamstrung with a lack of down-and-distance knowledge. Ca Ca.
Some love to hang the late-game meltdowns on QB Aaron Rodgers but as the Journal Sentinel's Gary D'Amato points out, the reason for these coulda-shoulda flame-outs vary from situation to situation. Rodgers isn't blameless, but he's off the hook Sunday night since he was in street duds as replacement Matt Flynn was looking like he was trying to herd cats in the game's last 28 seconds. Rodgers could use a few last-second W's to earn him at least a shred of gunslinger cred, but the problem is team-wide and becoming a national perception: you can beat the Packers by staying with them until the closing minutes, and then let Green Bay hand you a victory.
A contributing factor is special teams. Some Packers fans think watching a 330 pound New England lineman amble 70 yards with a kick return is still funny, even though it proved to be a turning point in the loss.
These people are idiots.
There's nothing funny about seeing your team play embarrassing football, to the point where it costs them a shot at a divisional crown. Special teams flame-outs are nothing new in the McCarthy regime, although the excuse can be made that the withering roster depletes depth to the point where off-the-scrap-heap dregs are manning return units. This was a problem, though, even when the team was at it's physical peak with all hands on deck. It's execution that seems to be consistently lacking, including a maybe-someone-else-will-make-the-tackle attitude that seemed to run through the return team during Sunday night's fatal return. No one thought a meathead could amble that far, until no one bothered to put a hat on him.
Every team has to cope with injuries but few in recent memory have done as much as McCarthy has with what's left of his roster. To be 8-6 without the likes of Finley, Grant, Barnett and others is an amazing accomplishment.
That's the glass half-full version.
Then come the galling losses, especially against the lowly Lions, the inept Redskins, the playoff-challenged Dolphins and now a New England team that seemd ripe for an upset. What the Packers did was great, but what they allowed to slip away is maddening.
Special teams play and late-game ineptitude won't get it done Sunday against the Giants or the following weekend with the Bears. Is there reason to believe that these chronic, systemic flaws can be cured and a postseason berth assured?
You tell me.