Where to Point Fingers in Packers Loss to Bengals
I grow weary of Green Bay Packers losses. Not because they lose, but because I have to suffer the over-the-top reactions from fans every time. Okay, I guess it’s my choice to be involved in the Packers blogosphere and Twitterverse, but you get my point.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely no problem with being critical of your team after they lose a game like the Packers did to the Bengals. They should have won that game, and it was sloppy play that cost them. Regardless, it doesn’t mean that we need to start firing coaches or general managers. It doesn’t mean that our season is doomed.
But what really frustrates me is when fans automatically revert to grinding the axes they’ve been sharpening for years. When you mindlessly spout convenient excuses for a loss in anger and frustration, then your opinion lacks substance. Sure, there might be some valid points, but in many cases, it’s simply the failure of fans to objectively assess the game.
What do I mean? Let’s take this most recent loss. After thinking about the loss and reviewing some of the information, I’ve come away with some of the biggest reasons (and non-reasons) for the Packers’ loss. Below you’ll find three places where pointing your finger isn’t really a valid/honest assessment of the game, and then you’ll find three places where finger pointing is more than appropriate.
As always, feel free to agree/disagree in the comments section, but please keep it civil.
Where NOT to Point Your Finger:
1. Mike McCarthy’s Play Calling – Let’s get this out of the way first: that call on 4th-and-1 was horrible, no matter how much McCarthy wants to defend it. While I admire expecting your team to perform up to standard, I don’t understand why you try to use Franklin straight up the gut behind an average offensive line. Now, that aside, it’s complete bull manure to use that one example as an indicator of poor play-calling overall. I don’t have the analytical skills to judge McCarthy’s play-calling without going back to the tape, and I doubt a lot of you do, either. When the offense puts up 426 yards, how is that a failure? Not only that, but Starks ran for 55 yards on 14 carries (3.9 YPC), and Franklin ran for 103 yards on 13 carries (7.9 YPC). Even without the 51-yard run, Franklin still had 4.3 YPC. You can’t reduce unsuccessful downs simply to bad play calls, because you also have to consider the element of player execution. And until someone can provide some concrete analysis of the offensive tactics, then blaming McCarthy’s play-calling is just convenient belly-aching.
2. Dom Capers’ Soft Defense – This is going to be fairly brief. The Packers defense only gave up 20 points this game (not counting the fumble return or TD following the muffed punt). Yes, they could have made a stop against the second touchdown run, but that’s still at least 3 points due to Jeremy Ross, former Packer. What they did do, though, is get four sacks, limit the Bengals to 82 rushing yards, force and recover three fumbles, and snatch an interception. Not only that, they played most of the second half without their best defensive player. This defense did what it needed to win, it was the offense that let the team down.
3. Ted Thompson’s Draft and Develop Philosophy – Why I even have to mention this is ludicrous, but apparently people will cling to this until Thompson is long gone. Guess what? He’s not going anywhere. Yes, the offensive line needs some upgrades, but great linemen don’t just grow on trees. Injuries happen, and if Thompson didn’t put stock into developing young players, then you would see this Packers team in shambles already. Of the 53 players on the team, 24 were undrafted rookies coming into the league. While many of those players are back-ups, some of them have become bona fide starters: Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, and Tim Masthay, to name a few. Working within a salary cap system and balancing the needs of the team is no easy task, and every team will have their weaknesses. Had Thompson drafted differently in any respect, then it creates a domino effect. Personnel moves don’t happen in a vacuum. But if you think Green Bay could have stayed in the game with all the injuries they had without this development philosophy, then you might want to think some more about how the 21st-century NFL operates.
Where TO Point Your Finger:
1. Turnovers – I saw a commenter (who shall remain nameless) post something earlier this week about how badly the Packers would have lost had they not forced four turnovers in that game. The interception and three straight fumbles certainly helped them rack up 30 unanswered points; however, let’s not forget that the Bengals also forced four turnovers themselves. If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t cough up the ball on a poor sideline throw and Jonathan Franklin secures the ball on his fourth-down run, then they stand a much better shot of winning. Still, the biggest difference is that the Bengals were able to convert those turnovers into more points than the Packers. Off of their four turnovers, Cincinnati scored 21 points. Green Bay? Only 13.
2. Aaron Rodgers – You don’t get paid $20 million per year to play games this poorly. I don’t know what happened to him, but Rodgers was off the mark on Sunday. Yes, his one interception was James Jones’ fault, and Jeremy Ross kept him from getting into the game sooner, but his game was just off. Not even counting the forced throw for his second interception, Rodgers was making some poor throws. I saw balls sail far off target, and these were on passes he normally makes. Maybe his emotions got the better of him? While I liked the way Rodgers and McCarthy were able to handle the flare-up between them, it was clearly a dark spot on the day, and perhaps it was an indicator of Rodgers’ overall mindset.
3. Player Injuries – Let’s do a little critical thinking exercise here. I want you to picture the Cincinnati Bengals team. Now, take away the following players and replace them with back-ups: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB Giovani Bernard, TE Jermaine Gresham, FS Reggie Nelson, DE Michael Johnson, and CB Adam Jones. Have the new roster in place? Good. Now tell me if that team would have held up against the Packers on Sunday. Because that type of roster change is exactly what the Packers were dealing with by the second half of the game, and they were only a couple turnovers away from a victory. Blame whoever you want for the injuries–dirty players for nailing guys in the head or trainers for not preventing hamstring pulls–but the fact of the matter is that the Packers’ biggest weakness was their lack of starting players. After all, as Zach Kruse from CheeseheadTV noted, “168 of Andy Dalton’s 235 passing yards and both touchdowns came after Matthews left the contest.”——————Follow @ChadToporski