Football is a game of numbers. For the Green Bay Packers, the numbers are stacking against them.
Miami had five sacks and 10 hits on Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay had no sacks and only knocked Chad Henne four times. Green Bay has lost two straight games in overtime, and it was the fifth game this season decided by less than seven points. Three of those games were losses.
Now that all the math is settled out, the question is: Is it still possible for the Packers to turn this into a positive trend? You don't need to be a math whiz to know the answer is a difficult one.
In today's game, positive signs were few and far between. For the second straight game, AJ Hawk stood tall on defense, leading the team in tackles today. Aaron Rodgers literally could not do more in a game and still lose, coming off a concussion with a 313-yard day, and even rushing the game-tying score in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Greg Jennings continued to make a case for being an elite receiver in the NFL, grabbing six receptions and Green Bay's only touchdown through the air.
The negatives came easily for the battered Packers, who found trouble on both sides of the ball. Chad Henne threw for 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Miami looked worlds away from the team they were on Monday Night. Penalties, an interception and a near-complete inability to convert on third down have Green Bay looking like they don't belong in the league—let alone playoff—picture.
The first thing Green Bay needs to fix in order to get that lens back in focus is completely out of their control. Players like Morgan Burnett, Nick Barnett and Clay Matthews cannot make a difference from the trainer's room. Getting a healthy defense with some semblance of continuity will be paramount for mounting a charge. Whether or not that can be done has yet to be seen, but the defense Sunday had a decidedly different feel and impact with Matthews sitting out.
The offense needs help as well. Specifically for Brian Bulaga, who got manhandled and made LB Cameron Wake look like a superstar. In the more general sense, Green Bay needs to dedicate themselves to establishing the run—which does not mean Aaron Rodgers scrambling. The passing game can and will weather the storm, which has already been proven today. But for the sake of keeping the quarterback vertical, putting men on the ground is a sound strategy for opening up the offense.
Anyone can see that things are looking grim. The Packers cannot seem to hold or finish a game in the fourth quarter. The answer seems to lie in the fundamentals—conditioning, preparation and coaching. This year is showing how thin the Packers process is in regards to those factors. They are visibly tired at the end of the game, specifically the defense. The penalties and miscues in coverage and blocking show a lack of discipline and adaptability in the game plan. Whether it's a coaching or player issue—or more likely a combination of the two—it's an issue that needs a remedy yesterday, before things get worse.
3-3 is not a death sentence in the NFL, especially not in a season as competitive as this, but it certainly is a worrisome thing. There is a lot of football left to play, but right now the odds are stacked against Green Bay.
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