Amid stumbles and fumbles, a 15-1 season crumbles...
Takeaways. They're critical in football and possible life-changers in the real world.
Takeaways on the gridiron are the turnovers that so often separate winners from losers. The rest of the time, they're the lessons we learn from the good and the bad that define our days.
Takeaways paved the way to defeat for the Green Bay Packers--they committed four in Sunday's 37-20 loss to the Giants at Lambeau Field.
And, what did we in the seats or in our man caves at home learn from such an unwanted and untimely setback?
1) Unlike the 2008 loss to the Giants in Green Bay at Lambeau, you can't hang this one on Brett Favre. This was a team collapse, with a Packers defense that played down to expectations and an offense that wasn't in sync. Favre's final pass in green and gold--an overtime pick that set up New York's game-winning field goal--rightly or wrongly is the signature play of a dismal, frosty afternoon four years ago. We'll be hard pressed to come up with a similar play from the most recent loss. It's not for a lack of candidates. Fact is, there were so many bad efforts to chose from.
2) "Fart in the wind...chapter two" is what one of my former bosses Tweeted Sunday night, a reference to former GM Ron Wolf's indelicate quote about the Packers after they lost Super Bowl XXXII to the Broncos, an upset that ended all talk of a Green Bay football dynasty. It took 13 years for the Packers to make their way back to the big game, and it wasn't a gracious climb back to the top. There were gut-wrenching playoff losses, a coaching change, Wolf's retirement, Ted Thompson's ascension, and Favre's messy departure. Most football experts had the Pack heading back to XLVI but some of Thompson's gambles, especially on defense, didn't work out. Cullen Jenkins' departure hurt more than many thought it would (his potential replacement, Mike Neal, couldn't stay on the field) and no one could've foreseen Nick Collins' potential career-ending neck injury. No pass rush + a suspect secondary = a team watching the next Super Bowl at home, just like the rest of us.
3) Enough with the "Lambeau mystique": it went the way of players who negotiated their own contracts and coaches who wore fedoras instead of headsets. Green Bay is now 2-4 at home in it's last six playoff games. Lambeau has a great history and some wonderful traditions, but buildings don't win you games. It all depends on what happens between the lines. After Sunday night's loss, Lambeau is back to being the biggest tourist attraction in Green Bay and a spiffy place to hold a wedding reception. It won't be hosting an NFC Championship game, and the blame for that doesn't fall on the brick or the mortar. It's on the 52 guys who played the Giants and the staff that coached them up.
4) Bad as the loss was, it could've been worse: both Packers TD's came courtesy of blown calls. The first came after the Giants recovered an apparent Green Bay fumble, only to have the call reversed after a review. The second came after a questionable roughing the passer penalty called on the New York defense that kept a Packers drive alive. Otherwise, it's at least 37-6.
5) Tom Coughlin's face may look funny when he's standing in the Green Bay cold but there's a lot going on between the ears of New York's head football coach. He was there for the 2008 NFC title game upset and back at his post for a repeat performance Sunday night. Sure, the Giants dropped a couple of regular season games in between but, when all the marbles were in play, Coughlin had his team coached-up with a solid plan that forced the Packers out of the offensive comfort zone. A Giants defense that got gashed for 38 Green Bay points earlier this season was in shut-down mode at Lambeau this time around, proof that Coughlin made adjustments that put his team in position to win.
6) Somewhere amid the untimely drops and his always running mouth, Jermichael Finley has a lot of talent. If that's enough to make him worthy of a franchise tag as his deal comes to an end, well, I guess that's why Thompson makes the big money.
7) The Pack's unexpected run that ended with a Super Bowl XLV win a year ago was priceless and Sunday's loss shows us just how special the 2010 season truly was. Sneaking into the playoffs as the last seeded team, then winning three straight NFC playoff games on the road before snagging the Lombardi in Dallas was something that can never be taken away. The players got a well deserved victory lap, with some becoming national stars. Commercials were made. Radio and TV deals got cut. And, the team showed no apparent hangover, going 15-1. But now comes a time for recommitment. Tamp back the TV appearances and the time spent on talk show couches, fellas. Let's get back to winning things again. The Packers aren't that far away.
It just feels that way this Monday morning.