Does anyone recall how the Green Bay Packers started their 2010 campaign, the year the team won its first Super Bowl in 14 years?
Oh, how quickly people forget.
Following the Packers’ head-scratching 23-20 overtime defeat at Lambeau Field to the Miami Dolphins two years ago, Green Bay held a 3-3 record, showing no signs that a Super Bowl run was in the works.
In fact, each of the first three Green Bay defeats came in rather heartbreaking fashion—a Monday night loss Week 3 against the hated Chicago Bears, and a Week 5 overtime loss at Washington.
As in its early season loss to the Bears two years ago, Green Bay lost to a team that, at the time, was superior in the San Francisco 49ers. Yes, the loss was concerning, but everyone could agree that the team wasn’t clicking on all cylinders just yet.
In 2010, the Packers followed that up with games that could have gone either way against the Redskins and Dolphins. This year, it was nearly déjà vu when Green Bay lost games it surely should have won against Seattle and Indianapolis.
The slight difference in these undertakings is that the 2010 Super Bowl team was 3-3 after this start, while the 2012 Packers are 2-3, heading into an apparent buzzsaw that is the Houston Texans.
We will get to Houston in a second.
First, there is another similarity worth noting between these two squads—injuries.
To be more specific, injuries to the starting running backs. Right off the bat in Week 1, Ryan Grant suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Against the Colts, Cedric Benson went down with a Lisfranc foot injury, which is reported to keep him out for eight weeks, possibly the season if surgery is necessary (via ESPN).
It was only the beginning for the 2010 Packers, a team hit with a flurry of injuries, including to tight end Jermichael Finley, linebacker Nick Barnett, offensive lineman Mark Tauscher, and safety Morgan Burnett. 16 players in all ended up on injured reserve before the regular season was all said and done.
Along with Benson, the Packers have had injuries to notable players like Finley, expected starting cornerback Davon House, linebacker Desmond Bishop, nose tackle BJ Raji, wide receiver Greg Jennings, and left tackle Derek Sherrod. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
How was the 2010 team able to overcome so many devastating injuries? Besides having excellent depth, many of the injuries took place early on in the season, giving the Packers time to recover, assess their talent and select the correct replacements.
Although only a few of the significant injuries the 2012 team has suffered are season-ending (Bishop and possibly Benson), losses like Jennings and House have clearly had a negative impact on this team. While House (shoulder) is back to being a full-time participant in practice, Jennings’ groin injury has lingered.
Who is most at fault for Green Bay's early season struggles?
Still, it’s early. The Packers have 11 games left in the regular season, which is plenty of time to get some of these players healthy. Players due to return after being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list after Week 6 are Sherrod, tight end Andrew Quarless and linebacker Frank Zombo.
Some fair points yet to be noted are the differences between 2010 and 2012.
Charles Woodson is two years older. The defense is younger, more inexperienced and, as a result, not as good at creating turnovers. The offensive line is struggling more. Defenses have adjusted to Green Bay’s high-powered offense, limiting big plays down field. The team’s psyche may have been affected by a horrific call at the end of a certain game in Seattle.
It’s hard to deny any of this, but it’s early.
However, is this offensive line really as bad as people think?
Yes, Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 21 times in five games, but those sacks came in only six halves of football. Green Bay has already gone up against the three top scoring defenses in the league. In their other two games, the Packers averaged 27.5 points, which would be good for No. 9 in the NFL.
It’s not where Green Bay wants to be, but again, it’s early.
And if anyone wants to pin the blame on Rodgers for missing throws he usually makes, take a look at the comparison between 2010 Rodgers and 2012 Rodgers through five games:
2010: 66.1 COMP PCT, 246.6 YPG, 9 TD, 6 INT
2012: 68.8 COMP PCT, 261.4 YPG, 10 TD, 4 INT
Rodgers set the standards high based on his performance last season, but his numbers thus far are better than the year he led the Packers to a Super Bowl.
As for the defense, there is no question it has to play better. Not to make excuses, but the Packers are possibly two despicable Sam Shields pass interference calls away from being 4-1.
This unit has gone up against three of the top seven offenses in the league (San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans), and yet it is still in the middle of the pack when it comes to points-per-game (14th) and yards allowed-per-game (16th).
Here are a few things to keep in mind before we get to the Houston game.
The Packers have only played one game against a division opponent—a game they won against the Bears. Those divisional games are important, and five remain on the slate for Green Bay.
On Monday night, the Texans' Brian Cushing suffered a torn ACL on what can be categorized as a dirty play (Via The Big Lead). As much as you hate to see a player get hurt, the Packers could benefit from no longer having to account for the All-Pro linebacker.
OK—getting back to Houston. Green Bay squares off against the undefeated Texans Sunday night in Houston, a 2-4 record starring the Packers directly in the face.
Week 8 of the 2010 season, the Packers traveled to New York, still trying to find their groove. They went up against the 5-1 Jets, a team that finished with—the No. 3 defense in the league.
Green Bay won that game, and it never looked back en route to winning Super Bowl XLV.
The comparisons are endless between the 2010 Packers and 2012 Packers. Shouldn't that be a good thing?