Green Bay Packers: 5 Things That Doomed the Packers in 2011
While the Packers had a great year and were the best team of the regular season, there were still some issues covered up by the explosive offense and the consistent winning. In the end, these issues, as well as a few outside factors, were the reason the Packers fell so early in the playoffs.
Here are five things that doomed the Packers from being able to win back-to-back titles, despite the tremendous year they had.
5. Too Much Time off
After beating the Chicago Bears on Christmas Day, Aaron Rodgers and many of the Packers' starters were benched in the final game of the season, and then had a week off during the Wild Card Weekend. This may have caused them to lose momentum going into the playoffs, and it may have also caused some of their players to struggle a bit due to the limited playing time they had faced in the past few weeks.
Rodgers and the Packers brushed off the notion that they may be a little rusty going into the playoffs, but some of their players sure looked like it, particularly on offense, where they continued to drop passes and fumble the ball all game long.
Two weeks off can get a team healthy, but it can also cause a team to lose momentum and not execute the way it would like. In the past four years, it has happened to the No. 1 seed in the NFC three times. Perhaps the Wild Card bye isn't such an advantage after all.
4. The Hot Team Came into Lambeau
Despite playing at home, the hotter team came into Lambeau and proved that sometimes, momentum is all it takes, and even if they Giants were 9-7 their confidence and their strong play in the past few weeks too them far.
The Giants did the same thing in 2007, and the Packers did it last year when they won six games to close out the season and win the Super Bowl. In fact, in the divisional round the 10-6 Packers blew out the No. 1 seed Falcons in the divisional round, much like the Giants did this year.
Having a week off and then facing a hot team in the playoffs is certainly not the best scenario for the Packers, but this was only part of the reason why they lost.
3. The Loss of Nick Collins
Nick Collins was a huge loss to the Packers when he went out for the season against Carolina. What's worse is that it is still unclear whether or not he will be able to play again, as neck injuries can be career-ending.
Although the defense wasn't performing great before Collins' exit, his leadership was clearly missed as there were multiple communication issues on defense that caused many missed assignments in the backfield.
If Collins comes back next year at full strength, I expect this defense to return to last year's form, particularly in the secondary. If he doesn't return, though, it will be Ted Thompson's job to fill a pretty big void.
2. The Struggle at Outside Linebacker
Clay Matthews was one of the best defensive players in the league last year. And while he had a solid year this year, it was clear he was getting all the attention from the opposing defense, because, quite simply, the linebackers opposite of him were largely ineffective.
Because of the hole at outside linebacker, there was far less pressure on the quarterback in 2011, which was a common theme this year, and it was fully noticed against the Giants in the playoffs.
The Packers will likely spend a high draft pick drafting another threat at the linebacker position so that all the attention won't go to Matthews, allowing him to be more effective.
1. Letting Cullen Jenkins Go
Ted Thompson letting Cullen Jenkins go might be one of his worst moves as a general manager. While I feel Thompson has done a great job developing this team, he has a tendency to rely on younger players stepping up and avoids acquiring free agents or signing contracts to aging players. While I like his build-through-the-draft philosophy, it can result in some moves that can end up hindering the team.
Despite the Eagles missing the playoffs, Jenkins had a solid year with them and the Packers certainly missed him on the defensive line, as they had to settle for Jarius Wynn and Mike Neal at the position, neither of which were very effective.
It was clear Jenkins wanted to stay with the Packers; he said that he would have taken a pay cut to stay with the team. But Thompson felt he was past his prime and wanted to give young player Neal a shot. Unfortunately, the pass rush was not the same, which caused this defense to give up so many yards this season both through the ground and through the air.
Hopefully Thompson will learn from some of his past mistakes and keep some of these players that may be getting older, but certainly have plenty left in the tank.