Finishing the season with a loss to the Vikings at home, the Packers were swept in every divisional game this season in Lambeau. The Pack handed the NFC North crown to the Minnesota Vikings and continued the slide they’ve been on since the bye week. Coming into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak, fans are starting to see the writing on the wall.
A week after being criticized in the local media for not having so much as a tackle (a considerable feat for someone playing inside linebacker) in the last few games, Matthews looked like he was playing with an attitude against the Vikings. He was all over the field. This was one of Clay’s best performances yet at the inside linebacker position. The box score shows 2 tackles, 1 assist, including a sack, but if you watched the game you saw that Clay was leading a defense that is far-and-away the strong suit of the 2015/2016 Packers.
Hyde was a play-maker last night, making an incredible interception of Teddy Bridgewater in the first half, and jumping onto a fumble on a kick-return in the second half. Hyde was a big part of a defensive performance that the offense did not deserve. He’s been a major contributor all season long, and especially in the past two weeks.
Crosby chipped in his two field goals without a problem. We’ve all come to expect that. The nice surprise from Crosby last night was his karate chop of Cordarrelle Patterson on his 70 yard kick-return, giving Micah Hyde and the Packers another gasp of air late in the game. The offense, of course, could not capitalize.
Jones quietly finished with a 100+ yard performance. He was consistently getting open, even on deep routes. Those who think that the offensive woes rest entirely on the wide receivers are not getting the full story.
Mike McCarthy and Game Management
The Packers’ first drive against the Vikings was a thing of beauty. Coming out in a two tight end set, the Packers just kept feeding Eddie Lacy the rock. And it worked. Peppering in a few play action passes, the offense drove 70 yards down the field with rhythm. Unfortunately, once they reached the redzone, they abandoned the game plan, electing to pass on both 2nd and 2 and 3rd and 2. From there on out, McCarthy called plays like a guy with amnesia.
But wait, there’s more. With the game coming to a close, the Packers found themselves with two timeouts on 4th and goal from 10+ yards out, down 7 points (as is often the case, the Packers wasted a time out earlier in the half even though, being down 3 scores, they’d probably, you know, need it later). Some fans feel that the team should have just kicked the field goal, knowing that they were unlikely to score and would need another possession no matter what. Other fans felt that taking the shot to tie was the best call, given the uncertainty of getting into striking distance again. Either way, as the seconds were ticking off the play-clock, fans at least thought that Rodgers would likely get another shot to win or tie if needed. That was until Rodgers and McCarthy let the play-clock go almost down to zero and took the 2nd time out. This was the most maddening game management blunder from McCarthy and Rodgers on the season thus far.
Whatever system exists that allows Rodgers to approach the line late in games and not have enough time to read the defense and make adjustments needs to go immediately. I don’t know if it’s the emphasis on trying to get the defense offside or what, but you simply cannot take away later opportunities that your offense will need to score because you’re not ready to run your play. This would have been the capstone, the pièce de résistance of the McCarthy/Rodgers 2015/2016 blooper reel, but wait, there’s more.
The defense again gave the offense an opportunity to save itself. After throwing an interception in the endzone on the above-mentioned 4th down play, the Packers got the ball back with under a minute to play and no timeouts. The offense marched into Vikings’ territory, and on 3rd and 3 with only 15 seconds left on the clock, Rodgers hiked the ball, immediately looked to his left and threw the ball to Richard Rodgers in the flat. Now, make no mistake about it, James Jones missed his block, but maybe in this sort of situation you don’t throw a screen in the flat, nowhere near the sidelines, to the slowest tight end on your team, the tight end who doesn’t break tackles. But it was a fitting end for McCarthy’s clueless offense.
Forget the bizarre decisions above. Rodgers is still missing in action. Never before in his professional career has he so often missed open receivers, or just thrown into locations that make no sense. If you watch the interception that Rodgers threw in the endzone you begin to wonder if it was going to John Kuhn rather than James Jones. James Jones was open if Rodgers threw the ball anywhere from Jones’ right shoulder to the sideline. Instead it floated far left of Jones. But that wasn’t the MVP’s only bad throw. He missed Jones deep. He misses guys every single game on sideline comeback routes on 3rd down. He’s looking to run when there’s no open running lane. He looks jittery in the pocket even when he has time. He looks like an entirely different player.
What has happened to Randall Cobb? For a guy that gets paid #1 wide receiver money, he has completely disappeared. He’s not getting open consistently, and when he does, he’s been having serious problems with drops. He finished with just 37 yards against the Vikings. Last week against the Cardinals, Cobb finished with a whopping 15 yards. The week before, against the Raiders, Cobb put up 40 yards. After being treated with the best WR corps in the league for the past 5 seasons or so, the loss of Jordy Nelson has revealed some serious problems at the position. Here’s to hoping that Ted Thompson doesn’t rest on his laurels and gives the position an infusion of much needed talent this offseason.
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.