by Mark Metzler
The Packers’ 26-11 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers was a dismal and disappointing affair. It shows what happens when one team has its back against the wall and is ready to play, and the other team might be basking a little in its own success, and maybe enjoying the environment too much.
Think of it, if you’re a young athlete and most of the year you are in Green Bay, Wis., it’s got to be pretty boring. Even for old Packers fans, Green Bay gets pretty slow after a day or two of visiting the Packers Hall of Fame and taking in a game at Lambeau Field. Not mush else to do. Then, you get Southern California. Well, there’s no comparison. After the game Aaron Rodgers alluded to the idea that some of his teammates may have enjoyed themselves more than they should have during the trip. He also said he and his teammates had been given a taste of “humble pie.”
Whatever it was, the team was out of sync from the start, with a number of false start penalties. After all, the team only had 50 yards of total offense in the first half. The team lacked life.
The Chargers, on the other hand, had everything on the line and played like that. The team was 3-5 going into the game, and another loss would have dropped it out the playoff picture.
One of the things the Chargers showed to other NFL teams was a game plan for beating the Packers, if the other team has the personnel. With Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers used two strong, fast and physical pass rushers to disrupt the Packers’ rhythm. Often, the Chargers would put the two on the same side of the ball and overwhelm the Packers’ protection on that side. Bosa and Ingram were devastating against what has been a very good Packers’ offensive line. It is a scheme that can be duplicated, but you need players as talented as Bosa and Ingram.
Offensively, the Chargers used a balanced running attack, featuring former Badger Melvin Gordon, and quick, controlled passing from quarterback Philip Rivers to slice the Packers’ defense up and keep control of the ball. To simplify, other teams will have a much better chance to win if they keep the ball out of Rodgers’ hands and pressure him when the Packers’ do have the ball.
My guess is that if I can see that, the Packers’ coaching staff is all over it and will adjust.
The good news of the week was that the Vikings, Bears and Lions all lost over the weekend, so the Packers’ lead in the division stayed the same.
Still, the game was an opportunity to open a significant lead in the NFC North. Given division play and head-to-head records, the Packers could have essentially taken a three-game lead over the Vikings. I expect that the Vikings will continue to play well during the year. The Chiefs are a very good team. As far as the Lions, they are a good team and will continue to win games. The Bears still have one of the best defenses in the league. It’s hard to think that the Bears’ last year was a blip. Maybe it was.
With a good Panthers team next week (it should be fun watching Christian McCaffery), the 49ers after the bye, and the three division rivals down the stretch, it would be good to win at least three of those games. The other two games – the Giants and Redskins – should be wins. That would leave the Packers at 12-4 for the year, good enough for the Central Division, but the team won’t get one of the top-two seeds and a first-round bye. That’s disappointing, but if you would have told me at the start of the year the Packers would be 7-2 at this point, I would be happy.