Coming up Short… Again
The Green Bay Packers’ chances of repeating as North Division NFC champions took a large step backwards Sunday as the Packers lost yet another close game to the Carolina Panthers by a score of 35 – 31. The loss leaves the Packers two games behind division leader Minnesota with only four games left in the regular season. The Pack’s chances for post-season action now are not good… and the way they are playing lately, they don’t deserve to be there anyway.
The Panthers are a solid team and they started this contest strong behind three rushing touchdowns by DeAngelo Williams. Stopping the run has been, and continues to be, a problem that the 2008 Packer defense cannot solve. This issue must be addressed in the off season. By halftime the Packers were down 21 – 10 and, hobbled by a slew of injuries, things looked bleak.
To their credit, the Packers came out in the second half and lit up the scoreboard, putting 18 unanswered points on the board. Aaron Rodgers led the way with some awesome passes to Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. Rogers’ passing and the rushing of Brandon Jackson provided over 400 yards of offense on the day. Thirty-one points should be plenty enough to win most NFL games.
But is wasn’t, because the Packer defense could not make the key plays to stop the Panthers when they needed to, and the Packers’ special team coverage unit on kick-offs was atrocious. Sloppy kick off coverage allowed the Panthers to gain the edge of a short field advantage. When the Packers took a three point lead with just two minutes remaining, special teams coverage on the ensuing kick off failed again and a couple plays later the Panthers sealed their on-the-road victory with a touchdown.
Getting the special teams to perform has been a problem for assistant coach Mike Stock all year and now with the season winding down, the glaring deficiencies focus on him. Stock was the guy who pleaded with Ted Thompson to cut punter Jon Ryan and replace him with Derrick Frost. Frost has been absolutely horrible this year. Add the inability of the kick-off coverage team to maintain any sort of disciplined lane control this year, Stock’s employment at 1265 Lombardi Avenue next year should be in serious jeopardy.
With the Packers’ season seemingly spinning down the toilet, the schedule suggests that there just might be a ray of hope for salvation. Next week the Houston Texans come to Lambeau which should be a win. The Texans aren’t very good right now but neither are the Packers. Close losses this year seem to be their trademark. It isn’t quite time to start talking about next year, but that day seems to be getting closer. The 2008 Packers just don’t seem to have the swagger to finish off games that they should win this year and this one was a classic example.
Talk back! Tell us what you think of this year’s teams. What would you do if you were in charge?
Go to winonapost.com, click on Football Forum to discuss this year’s season.