After sleeping on the Packers' heartbreaking loss to the Colts I've come away with this question: Is this loss an anomaly or a harbinger of things to come?
On the surface, this game was very entertaining and was hard-fought, but as I peel away the layers this game also contained almost every issue that has faced in the past +10 years. There really isn't an easy synopsis on this game, so I decided to list off the top tier issues that have continued to plague this team against the upper echelon of the NFL:
- A defense that simply cannot get off the field without a sack or well-timed turnover.
- An offense, led by an MVP QB, that completely stalls for an extended period of time in-game.
- Worthless special teams play
Let's delve into the 3 main issues above in detail, starting with defense. Mike Pettine is just as bad, if not worse, than his predecessor Dom Capers when it comes to showing up against good/elite teams. More often than not, he not only loses, but is embarassed in the process. While the Packers may not have all the defensive talent, they do have some - especially in the secondary. Why Pettine continues to play incredibly soft zone coverage is beyond me. How often do we see the defense defending 3rd and short with corner backs and safeties 10-15 yards OFF the line of scrimmage?! It has been at least 10 years since a Packers defense actually imposed their will on an opposing offense...
Aaron Rodgers is playing at basically an MVP level this year, but his recurring trend of playing poorly against good/great teams is definitely a trend. Look, Rodgers is 36 not 26, and he doesn't have weapons everywhere, but he has what might be the best WR in the league (Davante Adams) and a borderline all-pro running back (Aaron Jones). That should be more than enough to move the ball consistently against teams. The entire offense, led by Aaron Rodgers, completely disappeared for the entire 3rd quarter and into the early 4th quarter of last nights game - this CANNOT happen when you have Aaron Rodgers as your QB.
Finally special teams - or in this case not so special. The Packers as an organization treats special teams like a red headed step child - basically a necessary evil. This attitude of completely eschewing special teams as a weapon is maddening, frustrating and completely unnecessary. Mason Crosby has been a consistent field goal kicker - but he is easily the lone bright spot over the past +10 years. The packers have not had a genuine kickoff returner of their own in almost 30 years. The also have a punter that they drafted in the 5TH ROUND a couple years ago that basically has regressed and can't even kick in a dome.
The Packers commited 3 turnovers in this game and still made it to overtime with a very real chance to win, only to commit their 4th turnover immediately which effectively gifted the game to the Colts. When it comes to overtime games, Packers beat reporter Rob Demovsky sums it up best: Aaron Rodgers is now 2-8-1 in OT games. He's attempted only 17 passes in OT in those games. He lost four times without touching the ball and three times on OT turnovers (two by him) with the winning points coming off the turnover. Enough said.
I dare say that this game was not an anomaly–it was a harbinger of things to come if/when the Packers get to the playoffs. This Colts game looked like a carbon copy of almost every play-off loss since the Superbowl season in 2010. The defense gave up a ton of yards and points, the offense disappeared for almost a quarter and a half and the special teams was a liability, not an asset.