The saying goes “once is a phenomenon, twice a circumstance, but three times is a trend.” Despite winning its fourth game in a row on Saturday, the Packers got conservative down the stretch, leaving the possibility for an upset on Aaron Rodgers’ record-setting day. Most wouldn’t blink at the reserved play, but it’s become a trend over the last month. The Green Bay Packers are leaving games too close for comfort.
There’s always stuff to clean up, even following a win. It’s not coach speak, it’s a fact if you want to win a championship.
In the Packers’ case, finishing games — on offense and defense — has to be on the agenda.
In its last four games, the Packers have beat the Rams, Ravens, and Browns — all playoff-calibre teams. Any win is great, but the team has been outscored 31-10 in the fourth quarter of those victories, leaving concern as it enters the gantlet of the playoff push.
Not all the blame is on play-calling, however. Execution can be blamed at times, like in the Ravens game, where the defense struggled to exhibit the importance of contain and rush lanes, especially against a scrambling quarterback.
Against the Browns on Christmas Day, the Packers seemed to be in full control heading into halftime, intercepting Baker Mayfield three times and posting 21 points. Then the offense went on to register three points in the second half.
A couple of uncharacteristic drops by Davante Adams contributed to some stalled drives, but a clock-chewing approach on offense coupled with a defense that was conservative against the pass and porous versus the run led to the Browns hanging around much longer than they should.
While most Packers fans are past Matt LaFleur’s decision to kick a field goal instead of putting the ball in his MVP’s hands in last season’s NFC Championship game, that narrative is certain to quickly surface if the team continues this trend of subpar fourth-quarter play.
Rest assured, the Packers are the cream of the crop in the NFC, and the NFL for that matter, but the game plan and execution in the final act of a game needs to be resolved in the last two weeks of the season.——————
Joshua Frey-Sam is a journalism student and aspiring sportscaster hailing from Winnipeg, Canada. A Packers fan since 2005, Josh has worked to master the financial and scouting aspect of the NFL over the past few years. Josh remains a firm believer that Dez did not, in fact, catch the ball. You can follow him on twitter at @jfreysam.