A Miserable November Is Finally Over For The Packers
Well, that was rock bottom if ever I’ve seen it.
The Green Bay Packers’ 40-10 loss to the Detroit Lions was by far their worst of the 2013 season, and it came at what seemed like the most appropriate time, capping off an absolutely miserable five-game span beginning and ending in November.
Coming into the month, it was difficult to find any big faults with the Packers. The passing game was its usual dominant self. The running game was actually outperforming the passing attack at times. The offensive line was vastly improved from 2012. The defense – against the run especially – looked like a legitimate top-10 unit.
Trying to find a weakness required some fine nitpicking – my biggest complaint was that although the defense had been dominant for three-and-a-half quarters for pretty much every game, it seemed to ease up in garbage time to give up some unnecessary points and yards. You could also argue the return-man situation was far from promising. After those two blemishes, you’d really be reaching just to complain.
At 5-2, a playoff spot wasn’t just a possibility; it was inevitable. The only question was whether this team could get a first-round bye or maybe even home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
But now, following a fractured Aaron Rodgers collarbone and the 0-4-1 ensuing record for November, this team looks nothing like what we saw in September and October. It was a slow, yet obvious deterioration.
Against the Bears, when Rodgers left after only one series, the Packers still led twice and nearly won.
"Ok, Rodgers being out obviously is a killer, but the running game and defense are good enough to get us a couple wins while he’s out," was the prevailing thought from Packers fans following the game.
Then came a 27-13 loss to the Eagles that was actually closer than the final score indicated.
"Well, it makes sense that we’d lose in our first game without Rodgers starting, but Scott Tolzien showed some promise. Get him some reps, and he’ll move our offense just fine."
Then a not-so-close 27-13 loss to the Giants.
"What has happened to our defense and running game?"
Next came a 26-all tie at home to the 2-8 Vikings.
"We didn’t win, but at least we picked up half a game in the standings...wait, am I really putting a positive spin on tying this awful team?!"
And finally, we have the embarrassment that was Thanksgiving day.
"Is it time for the 2014 NFL Draft yet?"
Along the way, strengths turned into weaknesses. The once mighty running game still looked impressive at times, but overall was too inconsistent. It only topped 100 yards once in the four games when defenses knew going in there would be no Aaron Rodgers.
The offensive line was forced to reshuffle a couple times due to injuries and suffered mightily from them.
The defense? I’m not really sure what happened there. The secondary’s performance dipped a tad once it started facing some quality quarterbacks, but its regression against the run was most troubling. The unit that was once ranked No. 4 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game now sits at 27th in the same statistic. A trickle-down effect from Rodgers’ injury on the entire team I guess is a little understandable, but the drop off in production from the defense was more like a waterfall.
As only a 23-year-old, I admittedly haven’t seen nearly as much Packers football as many seasoned fans out there. But just going by results compared to expectations going in, I’ve never seen a more disappointing month for the Packers, and it’s hard to imagine there are more than a handful of worse months in the team’s storied history.
But luckily for Green Bay, November is now over. There’s still no word on whether Rodgers will be able to return Dec. 8 against the Falcons, but the fact that he was throwing 50-yard passes without pain before Thursday’s game sure bodes well.
And as bad as the playoff picture looks now, the Packers still haven’t been eliminated. If Rodgers can return and lead his team to a 4-0 finish, they would need the Lions to finish 2-2 or worse and the Bears to finish 3-2 or worse. It’s certainly not favorable, but it’s not impossible either.
November is ending and December beginning. Could the new month bring with it new hope for the Packers? Hey, there’s nowhere to go but up.