When you make it this far and fail, it hurts. Maybe not as much as it did back in 2015 in Seattle, simply because the Green Bay Packers actually had that game. They never had this one. It was over pretty much from the start.
The Atlanta Falcons are NFC champs and the Green Bay Packers are now 1-3 in NFC Championship games under Mike McCarthy. Aaron Rodgers is 1-2 in them as a starter.
So now we go into another offseason of uncertainty, just not quite good enough.
Here are five more thoughts as the season closed with its inevitable thud.
This is Still More Than We Expected
On the bright side, this Packers team made it much further than we expected. When they were 4-6, we were talking about how this looked like a 6-10 team. The run of six wins in a row to make the playoffs and win the division was a phenomenal feat. Adding two playoff wins on top of that was great. This Packers team overcame adversity and injuries. Aaron Rodgers put together a run of stellar play that rivals his best. In the end, there just wasn’t enough talent and there were too many injuries. It was a hell of a ride, though. The guys who played a role in that ride don’t have anything to hang their heads about. Well, most of them, anyway.
But That Pass Defense…
You probably had a good idea that this wasn’t going to be all flowery. The Packers’ pass defense — a weak link all season — cost them dearly against the high-powered Falcons’ passing attack. That’s no secret. What I found amazing and inexplicable was how the Packers played pass defense. So LaDarius Gunter was no match for Julio Jones. Who is? At least Gunter was near Jones most of the time. The same could not be said for his teammates. Falcons’ receivers were repeatedly wide open without a defender within yards. It’s as if guys were so worried about getting burned deep, they just gave up any and everything underneath. The zone scheme the Packers were running didn’t really work either, did it? Here’s a nice sample of what I’m talking about.
I do not understand what the directive on defense was for the Packers. Who’s coaching these guys to play like this? I’m baffled.
Amazed By Jordy
It’s crazy that Jordy Nelson played football two weeks after breaking his ribs. If you’ve ever had anything to do with bruised, cracked or broken ribs, you know how painful that is. It’s hard to move, much less run around, contort your body and get hit. Yet, there was Jordy Nelson on Sunday doing just that. He ended up catching six balls for 67 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Davante Adams was largely ineffective with an ankle injury (three catches, 16 yards) and Geronimo Allison was the same with a leg injury (one catch, 11 yards). On top of gutting it out, Nelson actually was able to perform. Maybe not at his best, but at a fairly high level. That guy is one tough son of a bitch.
Coming Out Flat
This COULD have been a totally different game. It could have been the shootout a lot of people were expecting. We never got the chance to see that because the Packers never gave themselves a chance. The Falcons got the ball first and scored a touchdown on their opening drive. Not terribly surprising. However, the Packers managed to hold them to a field goal on their second. We have to take that as a win with this defense. We never got the track meet we could have because of the Packers’ failures on their opening two possessions. On the first, Mason Crosby misses his first playoff field goal since 2011. Ironically, that last miss was also in Atlanta, so he must have some issues with kicking in the Georgia Dome. The Packers’ second drive was derailed by fullback Aaron Ripkowski’s fumble at the Falcons’ 11. Had things gone according to plan, the score should have been 10-10 at that point and then we’ve got ourselves a game. In fact, it could have turned into the type of game we saw in Arizona in 2010 — a 51-45 dual between Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner. Those two plays seemed to suck all the life out of the Packers and they never recovered.
The Injury Legacy
We’ve talked about this before. What will Mike McCarthy’s legacy with the Green Bay Packers be? At this point, he’s the guy who only one Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers. There’s something else we ALWAYS talk about when we talk about McCarthy’s teams, though. Injuries. Year after year, the Packers seem to have more injuries than any other team — that’s certainly not a scientific analysis or anything, but the Packers are always beat up. Do you know how many guys the Falcons had on the injury report on Saturday? Zero. Being healthy is a huge component in winning football games. The Packers never are and we always talk about overcoming that adversity, but why? How do McCarthy’s teams resemble a M.A.S.H. unit year after year after year? That cannot be coincidence. Something isn’t right and the Packers need to address it, whether it’s the training program, the medical staff or the types of players they’re drafting. The Packers barely strain themselves in practice anymore, so it must be one of these other things. Right now, part of McCarthy’s legacy is injuries.