Hello Packer Nation!
I don't think many of us anticipated yesterday's loss at Lambeau to the reeling Vikings. It wasn't asking too much for the Pack to beat a 1-5 team that is a shell of their 2019 team that made it to the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs. But, as they always say..."that is why they play the game."
I mentioned this on our #68 "Packers get COOKED" podcast, and the name of that podcast tells the whole story. But, there are some very concerning story lines behind this Packer team. The blueprint to beat the Packers is well documented after their losses to Tampa Bay and Minnesota. It will be telling how this team responds to the mess left out on the field yesterday. Let's go through some concerning trends.
1. I will use an old boxing analogy. When the Packers take a punch from opposing teams, they respond by falling to the ground. This Packer team is SOFT. This team relies too heavily on following their own script. When the script gets flipped by our opponent, they have not shown they can execute any other game plan, especially when trailing. This Packer team is too dependent on the rushing attack excelling and setting up play action. If they cannot "scheme" receivers open, there is no one outside of Adams who can get open consistently. They need better execution sustaining blocks and receivers need to work to get open if the play breaks down.
2. The Packers "front seven" is not good enough to win big games or stop an opposing teams rushing attack. The Packers did nothing this offseason to improve this facet of the team. A Christian Kirksey for Blake Martinez swap was not going to be enough. They needed an overhaul. The current defensive line continues the somber trend of not holding the point of attack and pushed back. ILB's are not consistent and are missing way too many tackles and not filling gaping holes in rushing lanes. ILB's are attracting to OL like glue and cannot avoid or disengage from blockers getting to the second level. Our ILB's would be much better if the Packers had defensive lineman who can hold the point of attack and scare opposing offenses. Until they get reinforcements here, expect the same thing to continue. The definition of insanity applies here.
3. I know the team cannot fire Pettine mid season, but he is way too comfortable in his role leading the defense. They continue to flank defensive backs off receivers and not challenge them. It is way too easy to run and pass against this zone dependent defense. Pettine makes no in game adjustments of substance to change the tide. He is a one trick pony and places all his marbles on The Smith Brothers disrupting opposing offenses in obvious passing downs, and their pass rush is one of the worst in the league this year in getting to the QB. They have shown no ability to take the game to the opponent and are always on their heels trying to stop the bleeding. Pettine has some tools to work with personnel wise. It is not like the cupboard is bare. They have invested heavily on the defense in the draft and through free agency. They have ballhawks who aren't allowed to ballhawk. This defense is listless and it will continue to kill the Packers chances of making a deep run in the playoffs. This is the Achilles Heel of the team. I am shocked Gute cannot see this or isn't willing to improve here.
4. The offense doesn't have enough fire power to come from behind. Missing Aaron Jones has proven to hurt the offense more than missing Davante Adams. Outside of Adams in the passing game they have no other reliable options. Marquez Valdez-Scantling has disappeared again. Equanimeous St. Brown is still adjusting to game speed after missing training camp and the first five games. Allen Lazard has been sorely missed recovering from core surgery. The tight end position has been receiving decent contributions from Robert Tonyan, but expecting him to be your #1 is above his pay grade.
5. This Viking game was exemplified by the last play of the game. Minnesota rushed three against the Packers five man front and all three Vikings got pressure on Rodgers and forced him out of the pocket. When Rodgers escaped, he was taken down from behind by DJ Wonnum who wanted the play more than the five Packer offensive lineman who stood behind and watched. It is inexcusable to allow that pressure to get to Rodgers. A hope and a prayer is a losers mentality. Knock some guys to the ground, jump on them and never let them up. Why be so soft? The Vikings wanted this game more, and that is a concern. You NEVER take any team lightly and if you do, this is the end result.
I am not a proponent of mortgaging the future to improve any team, but if there ever was a season where they needed to take some chances, this is it. Continuing to "stay the course" will only lead us down a familiar path if we get to the playoffs. Make a trade for a defensive lineman, scour the available free agents. This is their first concern. It would be nice to get another pass catcher who can complement Adams. A receiving group of Adams, Lazard and Will Fuller would look much better than Adams, MVS, ESB, Taylor and Shepherd. Defenses are finding ways to stop them even when blanketing Adams. If these current receivers cannot get open when defenses are only worrying about Adams, that is a concern.
We do not know what 2021 has in store for the rest of the NFL. Due to the pandemic and loss of fans, the league will take a financial hit. It is rumored the 2021 salary cap will decrease by $20-$30 million. If that happens, it will be difficult for the Packers to resign upcoming free agents like David Bakhtiari, Aaron Jones, Corey Linsley, Kevin King, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin and Lane Taylor without releasing some players who have large cap hits like Dean Lowry. They are up against the 2020 cap and will be challenged if the cap decreases in 2021. Who is available to replace ALL these important players internally? The alternatives are not promising.
With that in mind, the window for this team is now. They can and should make a few moves before the trade line that expires in 24 hours. If they do not expect another sad ending to another promising season. I am tired of the bullies pushing us down and stealing our Halloween candy!
Go Pack Go!