The Packers confirmed Sunday the abnormally long list of flaws that had fans of the 15-1 NFC North champs on the edge of their seats all season long. The deep-rooted problems lie on defense, though miscues like dropped passes and fumbles played a major role in the loss. It was sheer sluggishness that cemented the Packers’ fate though, as Green Bay kissed their magical season goodbye in front of a hopeful Lambeau audience.
Let’s pretend for a second that the Packers at least played a fundamentally sound game, free of turnovers and dropped passes. We suddenly have a ball game…but would it have even translated into anything? Sunday proved that Green Bay’s reliance on a 40-points-per-game offense wasn’t going to cut it down the stretch. The defense simply wasn’t good enough to bail out any less-than-perfect performance by the offense.
Even the Packers’ strength on defense, the defensive backfield, looked silly against two of the NFC’s better wide receivers and a composed signal caller. The Nick Collins-less secondary made a habit of giving up big plays downfield all season long and paid for it on Sunday. Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise that big target Hakeem Nicks would have a Plaxico Burress-like showing a Lambeau.
Dom Capers’ commitment to Brad Jones as the postseason starter at outside linebacker lasted only a handful of drives before pedestrian pass rushers Frank Zombo and Erik Walden were thrown back into the mix. The pass rush did manage a rare sack but not much more as Eli Manning scorched the Packer defense for 330 yards and three touchdowns. Put bluntly: Manning had all day to throw.
For 16 games, the Packers’ front three played like a giant anchor – serviceable against the run but utterly anemic versus the pass. While Mike Neal may have turned in his best game of the season, experts and fans are still wondering whether Cullen Jenkins’ presence would have been enough to change the defense’s and team’s fate this season. After all, the Giants did most of their damage through the air.
The most puzzling part to all of this is that the Packer defense is really only missing two major pieces from last season: Nick Collins and Cullen Jenkins. Dom Capers has built such a name for himself in Green Bay that he will be able to spend the offseason without the worry of being cut loose. However, it’s evident that change must happen on that side of the ball next season. The Packers know that they can’t disappoint like this again for a long time.