For the second time in the past three weeks the Green Bay Packers showed up flat and unprepared to play winning professional football this past Sunday in the heat of the Arizona desert. The result was a 20 - 13 loss to the previously winless and hapless Arizona Cardinals.
Game temperature was an all-time high for a Packer football game"¦ 106 degrees F. Unfortunately, the temperature didn't warm up the Packer offensive attack which has mysteriously all but disappeared thus far this year. At least the big plays have virtually dried up. Granted the Packer wide receiver corps has been smitten with the injury bug lately, but the fact remains that big plays on offense simply aren't happening this year and they sure didn't happen Sunday. The Pack's leading receiver on Sunday was fullback William Henderson"¦ a sure sign that something is amiss.
Since the days of Mike Holmgren, the Packer offense has been a derivative of the so-called west coast offense developed by Bill Walsh back in the 1980s. It is a good and proven strategy which has served the Packers well and taken them to 2 Super Bowls in the 1990s. It basically relies on a misdirection run attack combined with short passes. The plan requires flawless execution to keep the chains moving. On Sunday at Sun Devil Stadium the Packers were unable to execute an effective and consistent west coast (or any other type) of offensive attack. The result enabled the Cardinals to keep the ball in their possession far longer than desired in a game where the heat took its toll on the Packer defense.
It gets worse. The Packer defense made the Cardinals look like a good football team"¦ which they are not. Nick Barnett continued to impress but he was about the only defensive player that looked up to the task on Sunday. The defensive line did not provide the pass rush to generate pressure on the Cardinal's very marginal QB that allowed the Cardinals to connect on too many 3rd down and long situations. For all the money GB management paid out for the services of the defensive line, Cheeseheads expect far more than the group is currently contributing.
The lack of a pass rush no doubt contributed to some problems in the defensive backfield. I suspect Darren Sharper is still hurting as his play was sub-par Sunday. There was blown coverage and tackling issues that need immediate attention. The Cardinals have a journeyman QB and 2 rookie wide receivers. That trio burned the Packer's defensive backfield in the hot sun. It was ugly. The 30,000 - 40,000 cheeseheads who showed up in Tempe to cheer their team on got a major disappointment.
The 2003 Packers appear at this point to be a team lacking a soul. Losing to teams with superior talent is understandable, but losing to lousy teams is unacceptable. Cheeseheads expect more from their boys. Which brings us to our conflict next week"¦ the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. I cannot conceive of the Pack losing a third game to another franchise without a lot of talent"¦ but I have already been wrong twice so far in this young season. It will be interesting to see what moves Mike Sherman might take this week to get the team to play up to their abilities. I expect Green Bay will come back to win this game. However, finding the team's real character though might take a bit more time. Unfortunately, time is fleeting on the 2003 season and the schedule will get much tougher shortly. We shall soon see what kind of soul this Packer team really has.