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By CHRIS HAVEL
While Vikings falter, Green Bay fails to take advantage due to sloppy play
There’s an old saying in the NFL, “You are what your win-loss record says you are.”
The Packers, at 4-4, are painfully mediocre, irritatingly average and shockingly so-so. They are a .500 team.
There’s some good, some bad and a whole lot of head-scratching at the season’s halfway point. Grand August predictions placing the Packers in Super Bowl 51 have given way to deflating November pessimism.
Could it be that the Packers are merely ho-hum? Most aren’t willing to accept that answer, but the fact is it’s a possibility.
While the Packers and their fans search for answers in the aftermath of Green Bay’s 31-26 loss to Indianapolis on Sunday at Lambeau Field, the reality of being a serious playoff contender may be this: The Packers could have too far to go and not enough time to get there.
Two weeks ago, the Packers seemed poised to get it right. They were facing Atlanta (a 33-32 loss) and the Colts with an excellent chance to be no worse than 5-3 at the midpoint. Instead, they have back-to-back losses, including three of the last four, with a three road games staring them in the face-mask.
Green Bay faces the improving Titans and the Redskins and Eagles in Sunday night and Monday night nationally televised games, respectively.
The Packers must go 6-2 to reach 10 wins. That’s a considerable challenge for a team with so many questions and concerns.
Attitude, Effort, Energy
My greatest concern is the team’s attitude, effort and energy.
For the first time in forever it appeared the Packers weren’t mentally or physically up to the task. They met the Colts’ best shot – a 99-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff – with a shoulder shrug that produced three points and a yawn.
The fire has been doused by injury and ineptitude. Afterward, Aaron Rodgers was vocal in his disappointment, especially in terms of the team’s fire.
“I have no idea. I don’t understand it,” Rodgers said of what he perceived as a team that lacked juice. “This is what we get paid to do is to bring it every week. I hope the guys would they bring it every week. I’m not a rah-rah guy, but I’m a focused, enthusiastic player. I don’t know what the lack of juice was. I felt that over the entire sideline. We didn’t have the same kind of encouragement we had the last two weeks. We have to look deep in the mirror. That’s not acceptable.”
McCarthy: “We’re just not detailed or sharp.”
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy echoed that sentiment during his post-game news conference. However, today he backtracked.
“There’s a lot of things said in the locker room after the game, a big focus of mine was about energy,” he said. “But (Monday), watching it, reviewing it, I thought there was good energy, but there’s moments in that game we’re just not detailed or sharp.”
The Colts’ kick return for a touchdown on the opening play appeared to suck the wind out of the Packers.
“That didn’t help, but we have to be mentally tougher than that,” he said.
Indeed, the Packers have issues that go beyond the injuries.
Offensively, McCarthy needs to choose a preferred way to play and stick with it. If he’s going to bang away behind Aaron Ripkowski out of the I-formation, then do it with Don Jackson, and if he can’t then find a running back who can do it.
If you’re going to spread the field with five wide receivers, then do it and stick with it for a series. Go no-huddle. Throw it around the ballpark. Create rhythm by going up-tempo occasionally. The Packers even looked slow out of the huddle. It’s why I’m puzzled McCarthy would backtrack.
Sunday’s game couldn’t have looked any better the second viewing.
Frankly, I think Rodgers is right. The energy was unacceptable.
“Hopefully it wakes people up enough that it’s important,” he said. “We feel it. It’s not something that’s some mystery. You feel the energy and the excitement and the focus, and it just wasn’t where it needed to be, and that’s on everybody, myself included.”
So why would McCarthy take a different view the next day?
Perhaps we’ll find out, but somehow I’m not surprised. It seems McCarthy’s and Rodgers’ views are different on a variety of things, including what ails the Packers.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.