Green Bay Packers: Chokes in 2008 Serve As Lessons Learned for 2009

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IJuly 25, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - MAY 1:  Head coach Mike McCarthy watches  players participate in practice drills during Green Bay Packers Minicamp at Don Hutson Center on May 1, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

"We rate men by what they finish, not by what they attempt." - Anonymous quote

Twenty-eight points kept the Green Bay Packers from finishing 13-3 in 2008.

Instead they went 6-10.

The Packers were 0-7 in games decided by four points or less. Those deficits totaled 21 points, meaning if the Packers had been able to erase those deficits and score another point in each game for a win, those 28 points could have made a seven game swing in their season.

What made the difference in the Packers' lack of ability in closing out games? And what can be done to ensure this won't happen again?

First we'll look at those seven games and exactly what made the difference in the outcome of those games.

1. Oct. 5, 2008 vs. Atlanta Falcons (24-27)

Tied 17-17 with 10:08 left in the fourth quarter.

Gave up a field goal and threw and interception on their own end of the field.

Unsuccessful onside kick at 2:00 when down 24-27.

Gave up a first down on 3rd-and-1 on a third straight running play to end the game.

Who was guilty?

Verdict: Aaron Rodgers for a horrible decision and Trammond Williams for not hitting Turner's body on the tackle on third-and-one.

2. Nov. 2, 2008 vs. Tennessee Titans (16-19)

Tied 16-16 with 8:58 left in the fourth quarter.

Had a 1st-and-10 at the Titans' 45 yard-line with 2:51 to play and went three and out.

Had Tennessee in a 3rd-and-6 and a 3rd-and-4 in overtime and gave up first-downs on both, leading to a Rob Bironas field goal.

Who was guilty?

Verdict: Run defense for allowing LenDale White to run for seven yards on a third-and-four to put Tennessee in field goal position.

3. Nov. 9, 2008 vs. Minnesota Vikings (27-28)

Winning 27-21 with 5:56 left in fourth quarter.

Allowed Adrian Peterson to run for 40 yards on four carries on a touchdown drive.

Missed a 52-yard field goal with 31 seconds remaining.

Who was guilty?

Verdict: Run defense for a poor clutch performance and Crosby for knocking the field goal wide right

4. Nov. 30, 2008 vs. Carolina Panthers (31-35)

Winning 31-28 with 1:56 left in fourth quarter.

Steve Smith catches a 54-yard hail mary pass from Jake Delhomme to set up a one-yard TD run by DeAngelo Williams.

Aaron Rodgers throws an interception with 1:11 left.

Who was guilty?

Verdict: Brandon Chillar for giving up on the bomb and Charles Woodson for having horrible position. Also, Aaron Rodgers for a poor decision on 2nd-and-10.

5. Dec. 7, 2008 vs. Houston Texans (21-24)

Tied 21-21 with 5:56 left in fourth quarter.

Green Bay gets to Houston's 22 yard-line with 3:02 left to play, but get a holding penalty and sacked for nine yards to force a punt.

Texans drive from own three yard-line to the Packers' 22 yard-line and make FG.

Who was guilty?

Verdict: Offensive line for ruining a great drive late in game and Nick Barnett for bad coverage on the tight end on the Texans' last FG drive.

6. December 14, 2008 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (16-20)

Winning 16-14 with 5:45 left in fourth quarter.

Jacksonville drives 80 yards for a touchdown.

Aaron Rodgers throws an interception on second down with 46 seconds remaining.

Who was guilty?

Verdict: Defense for bad coverage and bad tackling on that final defensive drive and Aaron Rodgers for the overthrow interception on second down.

7. Dec. 22, 2008 vs. Chicago Bears (17-20)

Winning 17-10 with 7:14 left in fourth quarter.

Chicago drives 51 yards for a touchdown on one pass play and seven run plays.

Crosby's 38 yard FG blocked at the end of regulation.

Bears drive 47 yards into field goal position and make a 38-yarder in overtime.

Who was guilty?

Verdict: Run defense for allowing 48 yards on seven carries from Forte on final TD drive, special teams for poor push on FG attempt, and Aaron Rouse for a stupid unnecessary roughing penalty in overtime.

We can all agree Green Bay was in every one of these games almost until the final whistle.  So let's tally up who we've blamed for these seven chokes.

Run defense: 5

Pass defense: 4

Aaron Rodgers: 3

Special teams: 2

Offensive line: 2

Now we can evaluate the problems and see what Green Bay has done or can do to address them.

Run defense: In changing to a 3-4 scheme, the Packers are putting even more pressure on the defensive line to stop the run.  DT B.J. Raji and LB Clay Matthews were taken in the first round of the draft and both, especially Raji are known for their prowess against the rush.

Pass defense: This is the area that still scares me the most. Green Bay obviously has two 12-year veterans at corner with Al Harris and Woodson, but Al Harris is losing a step and the rest of the youthful unit can be unpredictable.

Aaron Rodgers: I have few concerns with Rodgers and fully expect him to continue to mature and put the Packers in positions to win games.  His mistakes will become fewer and he will be smarter every time he gets under center.

Special Teams: Shawn Slocum will be the new special teams coordinator for Green Bay.  Whether he brings a different mentality or not is yet to be seen, but special teams is always hit or miss and mistakes happen, so not a lot of blame can be put here.

Offensive line: The Packers are bringing in six new offensive linemen into camp, five of whom are rookies.  I like to see this because the competition will be intense and hopefully the best talent can be pooled for a very solid starting lineup for the fall.

Overall, Green Bay does not have a lot of pressing needs to take care of.  They looked very good last year until the final eight minutes of every game.

With maturation of a quarterback, new additions to the coaching staff, and heated competition in training camp, the Packers should come out of camp focused to make a run at winning the NFC North Division for the second time in three years.


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