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Another Close Loss and the Season Slips Away (12/10/2008)
By Dave DeLano

The Green Bay Packers’ third loss in a row Sunday typified the Packers’ 2008 season. A forty-yard field goal by the Houston Texans’ kicker on the last play of the game gave the Texans a 24 – 21 victory and the Packers yet another close loss. The struggling Packers now have a record of 5 - 8. By comparison, at this time last year the Packers were clinching the NFC North title with an 11 – 2 record.

When the NFL schedule makers planned the Packers-Texans meeting on the frozen tundra in December, few figured this would be a fair matchup for a warm-weather team. The bookmakers thought so too as they favored the Pack by 7.5 points. Add the urgency-to-win factor and most Cheeseheads probably figured this one ought to be in the win column.

But to the Texans’ credit, they won the coin toss and a minute and a half into the game scored a touchdown which was a harbinger of what was to come. On this day the Packers’ defense… particularly the pass defense… proved they were not up to the task. Thanks to several Texan turnovers, the Packers were fortunate to only be down by a score of 10 -7 at halftime.

But the second half unfortunately brought more of the same shoddy Packer defense. On the afternoon, the Texans racked up a whopping total of 549 yards. Time and again the defense could not come out and stop the Texans, surrendering way too many explosive plays, often on third down and long distance. No less than six different Texas receivers caught passes of 20 yards or more. Even more disturbing was the fact that the Packers never figured out a remedy to stop the onslaught.

Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Grant had some good plays and nice stats but the offense sputtered badly on third downs (converting only 1 in 10 attempts) and was generally lackluster. With six minutes remaining, Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson with a touchdown pass to tie the game at 21. After exchanging possessions, the Packers’ new punter backed up the Texans to their own three-yard line with just 2 minutes remaining. But with the game on the line the Packer defense once again failed, allowing the Texans to charge right down the field to set up the game-winning field goal.

It is hard to pinpoint the problem with the defense because there are so many leaks in the bucket. Clearly the Packers need more defensive talent. The season-ending injuries to Nick Barnett and Cullen Jenkins hurt for sure, but others have not stepped it up and thus the Packers are not able to make critical stops to win close games. Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders has to be wondering if he will be given the pink slip at the end of the year as the job is currently not getting done under his watch.

The good news is that the Packers have now hired a somewhat competent punter and there are only three more games this year. Next week the Pack travels to Jacksonville, Florida, for a date with the Jaguars. The Jags are a terrible team; they packed in their season several weeks ago. It will be interesting to see if the Packers follow suit.

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. 


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