How Did We Get Here? 5 Plays Responsible for the Green Bay Packers’ 2010 Playoffs Predicament

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Having now lost five games this season (all by four points or fewer), the Green Bay Packers  now find themselves in serious danger of missing the playoffs.

How did it come to this for the Packers? Of course we all know about the injuries, but that’s not an excuse. Plenty of playoff-bound teams, like the Patriots for example,  have their share of players on IR.

When you lose close games, you can often target a few key plays or decisions throughout the season that highlight why you are in the position you are in.

1. James Jones’ fumble against the Bears
Even though the Packers were racking up a record number of penalty yards and finding new ways to shoot themselves in the foot, Aaron Rodgers appeared poised to lead a fourth-quarter comeback victory against a hated division rival.

Then James Jones reminded us that he’s, well, still James Jones.

You can’t fault Jones for trying to make a play, but where would this season be if he just went out of bounds?

2. Rodgers chooses not to slide and gets a concussion
Some people pin last week’s loss to the Lions on Aaron Rodgers. They say his decision to not slide was selfish and he is now a “concussion prone player.”

Rodgers should have slid, no doubt. But his ill-advised decision does not mean he’s selfish and does not make him more concussion prone than any other player.

Rodgers is playing without arguably his top receiving target, his 1,200-yard rusher and his veteran right tackle. He also lost his starting guard early against the Lions. In order for the Packers to score points, Rodgers has to make plays.

Rodgers chose not to slide because he was trying to make a play. It was not a good decision, but it had nothing to do with acting like a tough guy, proving a point or being selfish.

3. Going for it on 4th and goal against the Redskins
If I was an NFL coach, I would probably be much more conservative than most fans could handle. However, if I coached the Packers, my conservatism would have resulted in an extra win this season.

Thanks to the benefit of hindsight, we realize that Mike McCarthy should have kicked the field goal when faced with a 4th and goal from the Redskins 1-yard line early in the second quarter. Those extra three points likely would have changed the game’s outcome and given the Packers another conference win over an opponent that ended up beating the Bears a few weeks later.

Honorable mention for the No. 3 slot goes to Donald Lee’s fumble on the opening drive. Jermichael Finley was lost for the season on the ensuing return.

4. Greg Jennings drops a 73-yard TD pass against the Lions
We probably could populate this entire list with plays from the Lions game, but this specific play forced me to unleash a string of profanities and expletives that caused my dog to hide under the couch the rest of the game.

Doesn’t this play highlight the Mike McCarthy era in a nutshell? You’ve got a talented player with a history of making big plays royally screwing up and altering the course of the entire season.

If Jennings catches this pass, the Packers probably beat the Lions and maybe Rodgers doesn’t even have to try and scramble on the play where he gets concussed.

5. Failing to challenge Gonzalez’s 4th-down catch against the Falcons
The issue with this decision wasn’t the apparent lack of clarity on replays, it was Mike McCarthy’s refusal to challenge despite having all of his timeouts left.

It’s late in the half and it’s a turning point in the game. Throw the red flag! You can’t carry those timeouts over into the second half, anyway.

Doh!

Packers fans have had plenty to cheer about this season. Unfortunately, they have also had to suffer through too many Homer Simpson moments — moments where they slap their foreheads and yell “Doh!” as their favorite football team bumbles away another winable game.

I listed the top five “Doh!” moments of 2010. What say you? What other blunders or screw-ups am I missing?

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam\\\'s writing on the Packers here.

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  • http://none Hot Rod

    I couldn’t agree more! That Fish game at Lambeau was another WTF are they doing kind of game!! Go Pack Go!!

  • Ian

    You could also add, McCarthy’s decision to throw a deep ball on 4th and 1 last week, Matthews hamstring injury at Washington which cost them the Redskins game and the Dolphins game, Crosby’s inability to make a clutch kick against the Redskins and Rodgers fumble at the goal line in Atlanta.

    • Adam Czech

      All true, but I especially agree w/ the CM3 injury. Thought about putting that one at No. 5.

  • http://greenbaypackernation.com John Rehor

    It can be too easy to pin one play on a single game, but in the case of the Packers season it is an easy task to see what seperates them from minimun 11-2 and in control of their destiny to the curent 8-5 and in trouble.

    Nice read Adam.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Agree. I usually disagree with the concept of picking out individual plays, but in this case, besides being accurate the plays Adam highlights are, in fact, quite emblematic of the Packers’ season.

  • http://www.wcoffensive.blogspot.com/ Tom Freeman

    My blood pressure was rising just reading this article.

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      We should probably have a health advisory or disclaimer…

    • Adam Czech

      Well, don’t get too worked up!

  • greentiger74

    Good points, but this rings of the laments of a team not ready to be in the playoffs. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Every year, I hear excuses of why we didn’t do this or that and its becoming a broken record.

    Great work though Al and I have a couple of comments on it:

    2. Rodgers and sliding – Sure he might have been trying to make a play, but let’s look at it. It was 2nd down and 5 if I recall correctly. Rodgers ran for 18 yards! He already made the play, 13 yards ago! I’m beginning to feel that Rodgers doesn’t have very good awareness of himself on the field. Some have said Rodgers doesn’t have a reliable running game and needed to go head 1st. Having no running game was true, but by not sliding he knocked out the top passer and rusher from the game.

    5. McCarthy and challenges – Could someone refresh me on the circumstances on this? Did McCarthy even need to throw the flag yet? Couldn’t MM taken a TO just to get some more camera angles and not “potentially” waste a challenge? Or did we expend one after that play already?

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      First, let me say that this was written by Adam Czech (remember to check the bylines).

      I think a big reason Rodgers is running so much is that the Packers do not really use the concept of safety valve receivers and receivers running too many downfield routes. Too many times, when Rodgers is under quick pressure, he doesn’t have receivers even looking for the ball, so he runs. It’s not the receivers’ fault, though. They’re just doing what the play design calls for.

      On the Gonzalez non-challenge, that was the one where the feed in the Atlanta stadium was a play or two behind the live action. So by the time the play was seen by the coaches upstairs, it was too late. But Adam’s point is a good one. What do you have to lose, there? If you don’t want to use a challenge unnecessarily, take a first-half timeout and see what the replays show you.

      • Greentiger74

        lol, my apologies to Adam for not giving him credit! It’s unfortunate they are not using BJax as that safety valve receiver. Isn’t that an area where BJax thrives?

        • Adam Czech

          No apology necessary! BJax does appear to be a solid outlet receiver when everything breaks down. But let me play devil’s advocate for a second.

          As fans, I think we sometimes think having a RB catch passes out of the backfield is easy. We think every RB should be able to catch passes like Brian Westbrook used to. Truth is, it’s difficult. It’s much harder than it looks.

          BJax is showing that he’s capable of being a good receiver, but maybed Rodgers doesn’t completely trust him yet. (or as Al pointed out, the playcalling just doesn’t allow for a dumpoff receiver/RB).

  • JimR_in_DC

    We need a top ten (or twenty) McCarthy gaffes list. That, combined with Adam’s list and plenty of alcoholic beverages and we can start getting a head start on a post-season with the Packers sitting at home. Bah humbug!

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      I’m not giving up yet…

    • Adam Czech

      We control our own destiny again. Be positive and save the booze for celebrating instead of crying:)

      • JimR_in_DC

        Can I start drinking now? ;)

  • Ron LC

    After a half way descent start, the Oline has collapsed into a pile of crap. As Tauscher and Cilfton deteriorated, so did the Oline’s performance. No running game is as much due to poor run blocking as mediocre RB’s. Will they ever fix that problem?

    • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

      Wish I knew the answer, Ron. Maybe next season the Packers move Campen out?

      • Adam Czech

        Part of it comes down to the type of linemen you have on your team. Clifton/Tauscher/Wells are not guys that will beat up opponents. They are there to pass block. If they’re struggling pass blocking, then the entire offense collapses because they can’t just start beating the other team up through the run game.

        If Thompson starts targeting more physical OL instead of pure pass blockers, that should help.

        • JimR_in_DC

          Doesn’t the choice of what type (ZBS?) of linemen to draft heavily factor in MM’s wishes?

  • MikeK

    How about special teams? Big kick returns against the Bears and the Pats cost them crucial points! You can’t make those kind of fundamental mistakes against hot teams.

  • Packerwest

    How about McCarthy not challenging Jordy Nelson TD against the Redskins where he tiptoes into the endzone and clearly stayed inbounds! He throws the red flag there and they wouldn’t have had that 4th down goal line decision to kick the field goal.I have never seen a team with such bad luck in close ball games. Better coaching and playcalling can change some outcomes this year but we just can’t seem to catch the interception when we need it,kick the gamewinning goal,get calls from officials(head to head on Rogers in Skins game) or learn how to score from the one yard line! Pack are due for some good luck so hopefully wii happen in next 2 games!!

    • Adam Czech

      Packers need to make their own luck.

  • bruno hanson

    I think the Packers should be nickmaned the Pearls: As in a long string of pearls named by fashion experts as a _ _ _ _ _ _ _!