The Green Bay Packers got beaten and humbled by the Buffalo Bills today. Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have already opted not to read this piece. Others may be rolling their eyes. But hear me out. While I prefer to “keep it real” and don’t pull any punches when the Packers play badly, I’m aware of the reality of what lies ahead the next two weeks.
Here are some thoughts following today’s trouncing in Orchard Park. Comment away down below, as I know many need to vent and burn off some steam.
This game wasn’t lost on defense – This is just common sense if you watched the game, yet there is a contingent out there who still want Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers fired after today. Yes, the Packers fell apart a bit at the end and gave up chunks of yardage to allow Buffalo to waste clock. But they gave up 21 points. Even on the road, that should be enough for the Packers to get a win. Green Bay is averaging just shy of 22 points on the road, which is vastly different from the output we’re used to seeing this season at home, but 21 points surrendered is nothing to scoff at. The defense stepped up and improved after last week’s near total meltdown in the second half against Atlanta. Some positives on the defensive side of the ball today include Sam Barrington in the middle, despite some coverage mistakes. His motor and ability to clog the hole on run defense has been sorely missed on this team for the past few seasons. Tramon with another pick on a closely contested ball. This may be his last season in Green Bay and while it may be an appropriate time, he will be missed if that is, in fact, true. Clay Matthews got a good push up front. A.J. Hawk reappeared and caused a fumble at the end of the game. Not all is lost on D.
Special Teams continue to be anything but – I’m really curious to see what the dynamic is in the room with both Shawn Slocum and Ron Zook running this unit. Six blocked kicks this season, a punt return for a score today and even Tim Masthay isn’t a sure thing anymore. I watch teams with good special teams coverage units and it seems that a big ingredient of that success is desire. The Packers have turned to several of their starters on special teams so maybe it’s a matter of wanting to save some for the offensive or defensive snaps? Packers head coach Mike McCarthy talks about ideal body types for special teams and harps on how young players have to contribute on special teams if they’re going to be on the roster. What’s up with this mantra this season? This is an area that is going to cost the Packers dearly against really good teams. Give any playoff team a short field and chances are they’re coming out of it with at least three points. Points are what matter most in the end. All of these little deficiencies add up. Green Bay lost by eight today. They gave up 10 points on special teams. On the touchdown return, they looked like a bunch of guys who were playing football for the first time and didn’t know that the return guy could actually advance the ball. I have said time and time again, past history tends to repeat. Will a special teams gaffe potentially undo this team in the postseason? Those are typically close games and a field goal is often times the difference.
Aaron Rodgers had a bad day – His worst, actually. He looked like a completely different guy out there. It wasn’t that surprising to me, as I knew Buffalo would be sneaky good on defense, but today’s quarterback play reminded me how life used to be in the mid-to-late 80’s. His first interception wasn’t a tipped ball. He’s human and he made a mistake. Still, he’s Aaron Rodgers and I wouldn’t count on him having another utterly disappointing showing two weeks in a row. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and he surely will hear the criticism this week. He’ll use it as motivation and be ready for Tampa. This is a bad time, unfortunately, for Rodgers to play this badly, as the Packers fell behind a bit with all other NFC foes in playoff contention were winners today.
The offense wasn’t much better – Eddie Lacy was the only targeted receiver who didn’t have a drop today. Jordy Nelson had the “drop heard ’round the world” and rookie Davante Adams wasn’t even in the same church as Rodgers, let alone the same pew. Despite only being sacked once, Rodgers was constantly hurrying his throws and many sailed high, but the receivers did little to help out the struggling quarterback. Sloppy football happens every now and then but we’re at the point in the season where they should be clicking on most cylinders. When they’re not, perhaps McCarthy can help out and stick with the run if it’s working. Unless I’m unaware of some clause in Rodgers’ contract that says he has to throw every so many snaps, it’s OK to run, run, run with Lacy. There’s no single player in the NFL more worthy of the ball in his hands at a critical point than Rodgers, but the way today was going, McCarthy (and Rodgers with his pre-snap checks) needed to concede that someone else was going to have to beat Buffalo.
The Packers did themselves no favors in trying to secure home-field advantage in the postseason – Arizona, Detroit and Seattle all were winners, meaning the Packers are a full game behind the Cardinals and have the same record as the Seahawks and Lions. Problem is, they lost to both of those teams so they hold no tiebreaker. I reiterate, today’s loss didn’t knock the Packers out of playoff contention and in fact, they’ll emerge from this weekend as one of the six NFC teams that would be in if the season ended today. But they have lost some control of their own destiny. The Packers have to beat the Lions in week 17 in order to secure the NFC North and they now need some help with Arizona and Seattle. Those two teams face each other next week. A Seahawks win puts Seattle firmly in the driver’s seat for home field if they simply win out. A Cardinals win would secure them a playoff spot and inch them closer to home field, all while keeping Seattle a game behind the Packers, assuming Green Bay can beat Tampa Bay. It’s all about matchups and the Packers don’t match up well with Seattle. To not only have to face them in the postseason, but travel to Seattle doesn’t bode well for the Packers at all. I used the hashtag #nohelp several times today, meaning the Packers shouldn’t expect any help from anyone else to further their cause of getting into the postseason and with a top seed. Green Bay just needs to win these next two games and hope some chips fall their way. The Lions have the Bears next week and it’s not likely they’re going to drop that one. Seattle faces the Cardinals next week and then finishes up at home against the Rams. The Rams did little at home against Arizona to give any confidence they can hang with the Seahawks on the road.
Good teams lose games – In fact, only one of the 32 teams in the league will advance to the playoffs and not lose. Every team has their playmakers and sometimes, those guys don’t get the job done. Today, most of the Packers’ steadies were nowhere to be found. While some losses can serve as a lesson to teams and catapult them to great things afterwards, this doesn’t have the feel of being one of those games. They were a hot mess all day long. It’s not like they ever really seemed to have a chance to take control against the Bills. It was one miscue and mishap after another. It’s how the Packers bounce back next week that will determine what this team is headed for. They don’t play well in Tampa. Rodgers is 0-2 there as a starter and the Packers lost to an 0-7 Bucs team in 2009. Bucs head coach Lovie Smith remembers and knows Rodgers. Former Lions head coach and Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz certainly did. Familiarity could neutralize this game more than one thinks. Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans will also have something to say about whether the Packers leave Tampa with a win. Tampa may only have two wins, but they’re at home and looking to build some momentum for next season. 60 minutes of important football await the Packers next week. They need to get back to good.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: