Led by backup quarterback Matt Flynn, the Green Bay Packers lost a heartbreaker Sunday night to the heavily favored New England Patriots by a score of 31 – 27. The loss was the second in the row for the Pack and their record now slips to 8 – 6, but ironically the Packers’ playoff fate still lies in their hands as the season winds down.
The Packers set the tone for a surprisingly competitive game at the onset when they turned a surprise onside kick into a possession conversion. Flynn, starting his first NFL game, played very competitively. It looks like he has a nice future in the NFL. Nearing halftime he had thrown for two touchdown passes and the Packers had a 17 – 7 lead. Just as Packer confidence was peaking, the special teams screwed up once again when they allowed a lead-footed guard to return a short kickoff 71 yards (an all-time NFL record for an offensive lineman) which led to an easy Patriot touchdown.
Taking a 17 – 14 lead into the second half, the Packers used a very nice run/pass offensive combination to remain competitive with the Patriots. A Flynn pass was intercepted (not his fault) in the third quarter and returned for a touchdown, but for the most part the Packer offense mixed up their attack nicely. The Packers’ offensive line, which played so lousy last week, rebounded nicely and provided holes for Brandon Jackson and John Kuhn to rack up decent ground yardage. Flynn ended up with three touchdown passes and a high quarterback rating.
The Packer defense was stout throughout most of the night. Desmond Bishop was very active once again and B. J. Raji contributed his best performance as a pro. Dom Capers is a genius. Plugging in players for wounded warriors is the theme for 2010. With all the injuries, without doubt the Packer organization has shown depth in their player talent pool and that will bode well for the future.
Sadly, the Pack came up short of winning a big game once again. With advantages in yardage, time of possession, third down conversions and lack of penalties, Cheeseheads hoped for an upset win. That didn’t happen Sunday. Poor clock management in the waning seconds sealed the outcome.
Nonetheless, the Packers proved themselves competitive against arguably the best team in the league on their home turf, so here we go into the final two games of the regular season. The New York Giants invade Lambeau next week and the Chicago Bears after that. If the Packers can win those two games they will be in the playoff chase. If they fail to run the table they are done for the year.
The Giants are the first hurdle and the biggest challenge. They have a good defense and an awesome running game. Their quarterback is inconsistent and turns over the ball a lot. The Giants come off a humiliating loss to the Philadelphia Eagles where they blew a big lead. The Packers can win this game if they play well. We shall see Sunday if the 2010 Packers remain in the playoff picture.