How Clutch Are the Green Bay Packers?
After the 2009 Packers season ended in a screeching halt. I began to think about how our season went; the highs and the lows, good plays and bad plays, and what ever else was produced this season. I began to think "are we a clutch football team?" Well it depends on how you define the word "clutch." I think that we very well are a clutch football team, are we all the time? No. But lets take a look back at some games of the '09 season.
Week 1 of the 2009 NFL season, Packers vs. Bears, Sunday Night Football. Packers are favorites going into this game. Both teams seemed to have struggled on offense throughout the game. Jay Cutler of the Bears had thrown 3 interceptions the first half, the Packers lead 10-2 at halftime. But Chicago would come back eventually taking a 15-13 lead late in the 4th quarter. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense take the field at their own 28 yard line. Rodgers drives his team to the 50 yard line. Its 3rd and 1 from the 50, Rodgers does a play-action pass and throws deep for Jennings for the game winning score. He would also throw to Jennings on the 2-point conversion putting the Packers up 21-15 with a little over a minute to play. Cutler is then picked off by Al Harris and the seals the victory.
That would be a great example of Green Bay being clutch. Not only on offense but on defense too.
Lets go to week 2 against the Bengals. Packers are trailing Cincinnati 31-21 with under 50 seconds left in the game. Mike McCarthy calls for Mason Crosby to attempt a 45 yard field goal. Mason's kick is good and the Packers trail 31-24 with 45 seconds left and no timeouts, meaning there would have to be an onside kick attempt. The Packers would recover the onside kick, making a comeback possible. Rodgers completes a couple big passes and drives his team to the 10 yard line with about 11 seconds left, running the no huddle the team runs to the line of scrimmage to try to get a play off. Two problems occurred: The referees seemed to have trouble spotting the ball and there was a false start penalty as we tried to snap the ball. The game had ended and the Packers were 10 yards from overtime and a possible victory.
So what went wrong there? Well Aaron Rodgers was able to drive us down the field, only to come up 10 yards short. So there is disappointment.
Week 9 comes the biggest disappointment for both offense and defense. Playing the 0-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Packers have a 28-17 lead in the 4th quarter. The lead is soon cut to 28-23. Then even later in the 4th quarter Tampa Bay takes a 31-28 lead on a 4th down touchdown pass along with a 2 point conversion. Now this would be a good time to drive into field goal range right? Well we are unable to, but get the ball back with over a minute to play. After a few incomplete passes and a sack, Packers are now facing 4th and 18. With little time left Rodgers throws his 3rd interception of the game which is returned for a touchdown. Green Bay would lose the game 38-28.
Now that looked pretty bad. Their offensive line, which was struggling all year, failed to effectively protect Aaron Rodgers. Our defense was unable to stop Tampa Bay, along with our special teams, which gave up an 83 yard kickoff return. We were unable to come through in the clutch and tie or win the game.
Week 15 at Pittsburgh, this game showed a great performance from our offense, but a bad performance from our defense. Trailing the Steelers 24-14 in the 4th quarter, Aaron Rodgers is able to connect with Jermichael Finley for an 11 yard score to cut the lead to 3. The Steelers would proceed to kick a field goal and make the score 27-21. Ryan Grant would then run it for 24 yard touchdown making the score 28-27 in favor of the Packers. The Steelers would drive down the field and add another field goal and retake the lead 30-28. Then came some controversy. Pittsburgh decided to do a surprise onside kick, and unlike the Superbowl, the kicking team did not recover, because it failed to go 10 yards. This gave the Packers great field position and they took full advantage, Rodgers would connect with James Jones for a 24 yard touchdown pass to take a 36-30 lead with just over 2 minutes left. Unfortunately, this left just enough time for the Steelers to have a drive. As Big Ben Roethlisberger did his usual thing we have seen many times, and that's driving his team for the win. As he hit Mike Wallace for the game winning 19 yard touchdown pass as time expired. This gave the Steelers a 37-36 victory. Now that game showed that Rodgers can throw for the game winning score, the only problem here was the defense, which was not clutch at all, especially on the final drive. Ben Roethlisberger was able to generate 503 passing yards that game, breaking his former record. Now that is not something for us to be proud of. The defense played poorly the final drive as we could not get to Ben and he seemed to be picking our defense apart. That would be an example of our defense failing to come through in the clutch.
Now we will look at the biggest one of them all and that is the Wild card game at Arizona.
It started off very ugly, Rodgers' first postseason throw was an interception. Packers would fall behind early. Donald Driver would then fumble and suddenly the Cardinals were up by 2 possessions. We found ourselves down 17-0 in the first quarter. We trailed 24-10 at half and soon trailed 31-10 in the 3rd quarter. This looked like a blowout. But Rodgers would shine and lead his team to come back and cut the lead to 31-24. Now trailing 38-24, Rodgers once again throws 2 more touchdowns passes and now its tied at 38. We once again trailed 45-38, but Rodgers came through in the clutch and lead his team down the field eventually tying the game at 45. The game would go to overtime after Neil Rackers missed an easy field goal at the end of regulation that would have won it. The Packers would win the coin toss in overtime, Rodgers who had been so perfect these last few drives just missed an open Greg Jennings. Who knows what could have happened had Greg been able to catch it but that was one of the few mistakes Rodgers made. Then on 3rd and 5 Rodgers is sacked/fumbled and it returned for a touchdown. End of game.
Now what is there to say about that game. Rodgers had a clutch performance, bouncing back from the early interception and leading his team to a comeback. But unfortunately it didn't end well. Our defense is what really had the problem. Now it was a little banged up, but still no excuse for what happened. Kurt Warner had 5 touchdowns and 4 in completions. No, not interceptions. In completions!
So in conclusion the Green Bay Packers can be very clutch. But need to develop more consistency. When our offense can drive down the field and score, we need our defense to help out and stop them from scoring. More hard work and practice will help the Packers develop more consistency. I hope this loss stays in the mind of every player on the Green Bay Packers Not to haunt them, but to motivate them. Saying "next time, we won't make those mistakes."
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