Knocking on the postseason door has been the ultimate goal of the Green Bay Packers 2010 season.
Unfortunately on Sunday when Mike McCarthy and his team flew to The Motor City to take on the Detroit Lions, that dream took a massive shot thanks to some hard hitting Jim Schwartz defense.
Getting knocked down and jumping back up in the face of adversity has been the theme of the Packers year. Canceling out the Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley injuries seemed impossible back in September, but somehow the Packers managed to utilize their overall depth quite nicely as the year drew on.
This Sunday's loss though? Unfortunately an Aaron Rodgers concussion was too much to ask.
Scoreless midway through the second quarter, Green Bay looked to be building momentum heading toward the halftime break. Packer fans may miss Ryan Grant's bruising run style, but in recent weeks Aaron Rodgers' mobility out of the pocket has made up for the lack of ground game with the playoffs quickly approaching.
So on 2nd and 5, Aaron Rodgers figured he'd try his luck and scramble for a gain of 18 yards. What No.12 probably wasn't expecting though, was a cluster of hard hitting Detroit Lions defensemen (one of whom included Landon Johnson) awaiting on the opposite end.
Flash back to the Washington Redskins overtime saga, and you pretty much know how Aaron Rodgers wound up.
A concussion sustained and a halftime score sitting at a boring 0-0, the Packers then saw back up quarterback Matt Flynn step under center much to the surprise of the many traveling Packer fans up North in Detroit.
So how did the notably talented Flynn turn out against a Lions defense ranked 15th in passing yards?
Somehow, some way, Flynn didn't live up to the hype that Mike McCarthy surely saw when making this split decision in the locker room. At the end of the day Flynn wound up with 177 yards and 1 interception, and although the Packers third year back up was more or less thrown into the deep end, surely Aaron Rodgers would've stood a much better chance should he have stayed healthy.
However, to alleviate the pressure from Flynn's shoulders for one moment, much of the Packer offense stumbled throughout the game. Brandon Jackson faded into nothingness once again with a dismal 19 yards, and even the brilliant Greg Jennings couldn't muster anything higher than 52 yards, behind Andrew Quarless' 62.
I think you'll agree now that this wasn't the Packer offense we had come to expect in the past three months.
What about the defense?
Dom Capers 3-4 scheme held up nicely throughout the first half, but you have to question why such a high powered, turnover prone, scoring machine couldn't withstand Drew Stanton's questionable passing ability.
Fortunately for the Packers though, Green Bay did manage to record two interceptions against the shaky Lions starter and add immense pressure on Jim Schwartz's offensive line. Better yet, seeing as though Calvin Johnson only managed to wreak havoc for a small 44 yards, the Packer defense is allowed off the hook this weekend.
With all this being said, what can't be let off the hook is the Packers lack of scoring. To think that this was the same team that dismantled the Minnesota Vikings 31-3 little over a month ago is almost unimaginable, considering that Green Bay managed just one field goal in the third quarter.
Heading into this affair the Packers were ranked 12th overall in league point scoring, now though the Packers offense seems doomed to slip down those rankings a little with a touchdown-less effort against a mediocre NFC North side.
For those folks wondering where the Packers are headed now, your guess is as good as mine. If your remaining persistent and keeping the faith, keep in mind that the Wild Card spot is still very much an open contest with three weeks remaining in the year.
Before Packer Nation focuses on the postseason however, they must rehabilitate Aaron Rodgers. Sure, that may be a drastic choice of word, but Mike McCarthy must fully ensure that his star quarterback is ready and willing for next weeks visit to Foxborough against the New England Patriots.
Luckily for the Packers when Aaron Rodgers was concussed in overtime against the Redskins, No.12 was suiting up the very next week. Even more promising is the fact that Rodgers did remain in the game this Sunday for a handful of plays following his hard knock, even though they are never likely to make any Sportscenter highlight reel.
Yes Packer faithfuls, don't lose hope just yet. It may seem hard to extend the branch of friendship to the New England Patriots, but at least Tom Brady and company managed to rout the Chicago Bears and keep the NFC North division tight.
Still, don't get too comfortable with Bill Belichick's men, because the Packers unfamiliar trip out east in Week 15 is sure to test every ounce of strength in the Packers roster.
Whether or not Green Bay can stun the Patriots like they did the New York Jets not long ago remains to be seen, but one gets the feeling with no Aaron Rodgers, the Packers don't stand a legitimate chance against the leagues top team.
Getting back up has been the theme of the Packers season thus far, and just like in 2009, Green Bay have led their fans to an instant cliffhanger as the season draws to an end.
Unlike last year though, the Patriots, Giants and Bears await the Packers in the next three weeks, and if Green Bay are to get back up from another devastating injury and an even tougher loss, Mike McCarthy must take a look at his play calls.
Week 17 may not spell trouble, but it could mean the difference between playoff football or an offseason golf tour for the Packers. In the mean time, New England awaits, and it couldn't have come at a worse time.
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Ryan Cook is an Australian Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also an NFL columnist for Real Sports Net and a Green Bay Packers writer for Fan Huddle and PackerChatters, plus a contributing writer for Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Generation Y Sports.