Not only did Green Bay lose its first game of the season to Dallas 27-16 in a game that was not nearly as close as the score indicates, but first string cornerback Al Harris may be done for the year as well.
According to ESPN, Harris is seeking a second opinion after being told by a doctor he has a ruptured spleen. This is the same injury that knocked out Chris Simms, former Tampa Bay quarterback, for a year.
Now, I'm admittedly not an alarmist by any stretch of the imagination, so don't misinterpret me when I say that I don't think this is a big deal. I know Al Harris is a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback, and is often underrated by the media as a player.
But as the Green Bay offense sans Brett Favre has shown, one player does not a great offense (or in Harris' case, defense) make. The Packers have enough talent on the defensive side of the ball, between the sharp young linebackers and stout pass rush (though it looked anything but that against the Cowboys on Sunday).
The line is led by Aaron Kampman, who I believe to be the hardest working player in the NFL, and whom I will heretofore be referring to as AK-74. For those of you who aren't gun people, the AK-74 has been the model of choice for the Russian Armed Forces since 1974, replacing the iconic AK-47 and designed by the same man, Mikhail Kalashnikov.
This loss in no way affects my expectations for this year that the Packers will win the NFC North and maybe a playoff game. It is not a good thing, to be sure, but I expect the Packers to do what they have always done when facing a loss of a player: use the existing talent to, if not duplicate the lost player's productivity, make do without it.
Al Harris is a great player, sure. But that doesn't mean the Packers can't win without him.
And now I'd like to talk about the game on Sunday for a minute. I can't say I'm surprised by the outcome; as soon as I heard commentators start saying, "The Packers are legit," I knew they were doomed (that and the fact that I believed the Cowboys to just be a better team).
I could make all sorts of small quibbles about the way the team played, including Rodgers' apparent reluctance to attempt a difficult throw. Or the defense forgetting how to tackle and looking like our defenses from the early '00's.
It was also Ryan Grant's second straight no-show performance. Granted he's been hurt, but I've been suspecting since the NFC Championship Game last year that he's going to be another one-year wonder at halfback for Green Bay.
This has become the dominant trend since Ahman Green got hurt and we ended up with Samkon Gado as a surprise star a couple of years ago. But I'm going to forgive all these minor indiscretions and focus mainly on the failure of the defensive game plan.
I don't usually like to talk about the coaches, as I believe they already get too much of the blame for losses and far too much of the credit for wins. I use the Gregg Easterbrook scale: good coaching adds at most about 10% to performance, and bad coaching takes away at most about 10%; the rest is up to the players.
But I can't help but question the defensive strategy employed by the Packers in this game, whether it was the choice of Mike McCarthy or Bob Sanders. Why, when time after time Tony Romo has folded in the face of a good pass rush, would you not blitz early and often to try and rattle him, but only rush four and let him pick the secondary apart?
While succeeding in bottling up T.O. for the most part, it didn't stop the big play from happening. Granted, Miles Austin wouldn't have been on my radar, but the point isn't who it was, but rather that it happened. If you can't stop the deep pass by dropping seven, what's the point of dropping seven in the first place?
Also, you have seven guys backing up at the snap to cover a man or a zone as opposed to attacking the line of scrimmage and helping to stop the run. I'd be willing to wager that if the Packers had sent blitzes after Romo that they'd have caught Marion Barber III in the backfield more often before he could pick up steam and bowl over people, and the Cowboys wouldn't have picked up 217 yards on the ground.
I'm not sure we would have won the game, but I think it would have been far more competitive. I don't mind a conservative game plan, but it has to fit the situation and it has to work in-game, and the defensive strategy for the Packers this week did neither.
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