Cut-and-Paste: Another Day, Another Bad Loss

The Packers should be 6-0 but are 3-3 because of their habitual inability to function late in close games. The injuries are a factor but again and again (and again) the penalties and sacks form a troubling pattern that's developed under Mike McCarthy.

With the option of going home and playing with my 7-month-old son or writing about the same thing for the fourth consecutive week, I feel like just looking up last week's commentary, hitting "Apple C" for copy and "Apple V" for paste, slapping on a new photo and then watching Grady crawl across the floor so he can grab my 12-year-old dog's feet.

But if the Green Bay Packers are brave enough to try to win a football game with Frank Zombo and Robert Francois playing outside linebacker, then by God, I'm brave enough to put a new spin on the same old, same old.

Like I wrote last week, it's 2008 all over again. Play winning football on 80 percent of the game's snaps, screw up royally the rest of the time and getting a helping hand down the road to defeat by the officials.

Following Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to Miami, the Packers are like a leaking dam and coach Mike McCarthy is the guy trying to repair it using only his fingertips. He plugs one hole, only for another hole to appear.

On Sunday, McCarthy solved one problem, with Greg Jennings coming out of the witness protection program to catch six passes for 133 yards and an 86-yard touchdown. But there are too many leaks and McCarthy's not nearly quick enough with his repairs. Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times. The defense, which led the NFL with 40 takeaways last year, can't make the big play. The special teams doesn't have a single thing to hang its hat on.

Then again, McCarthy is trying to make filet mignon out of cube steak. Zombo, Francois, Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga aren't exactly NFL sacks leader Clay Matthews, if you know what I mean. And no offense to retread safety Anthony Smith, who the Packers reportedly reacquired in a trade with Jacksonville on Sunday night, but that's not exactly the bold move that general manager Ted Thompson needs to help McCarthy in his dam-plugging gig.

And none of this is to absolve McCarthy.

If you include the NFC championship game loss to the Giants, the Packers are 1-12 in games decided by four points or less or in overtime since that miserable January day here at Lambeau Field. The lone exception is this year's victory over Detroit, when the Packers actually came through in the clutch. Including Sunday's loss, McCarthy is 0-6 in overtime games since Brett Favre's bolt of lightning at Denver in 2007.

There's plenty of blame to go around. In other words, it's that whole leaking dam thing. However, the confounding problem is the offense isn't pulling its weight. Never mind the drive-killing blunders throughout the first 60 minutes and just focus on overtime the last two weeks. Last week, first-round pick Bryan Bulaga blew a blitz that allowed Jeremy Jarmon to force Rodgers into the interception. This week, with a manageable third-and-6, the Packers again blew a blitz, which allowed Cameron Wake to drop Rodgers for a sack-forcing punt.

This was a unit that averaged a scintillating 34.3 points per game in the final eight games last season. Everyone was back from that unit when the season kicked off, so championship-worthy things were expected. Not having Ryan Grant for the last five games or Jermichael Finley for most of the last two can't be swept under the rug by saying injuries aren't an excuse. Still, Rodgers' seven interceptions have equaled last year's total and he generally just hasn't been sharp. The receivers -- Jennings' big play not withstanding -- have been unable to turn short catches into bigger gains, like they have in the past. The offensive line has regressed.

Asked if he's surprised by what's gone wrong on a unit with so much proven firepower returning, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said: "Nothing surprises me. Yeah, I wish we were playing better and I wish we were more productive. But I'm not surprised when you look at the sheet and today there's four or five sacks and there's a couple of penalties. That doesn't surprise me that you only score 20 points when you're doing that stuff. Do I wish that we weren't doing that? Sure, absolutely. But that's where we are now. That's what the game says."

Put it together, and the third-down offense has gone from one of the best in the league to one of the worst. In the last two games, the Packers are a woeful 5-of-26 on the move-the-chains down. On Sunday, Rodgers was sacked twice and threw one interception on third down.

It didn't help that the average yardage needed on third down was 11 yards, with seven third-down plays needing at least 10 yards and, incredibly, just two plays of third-and-1 or third-and-2.

"It's always frustrating when you can't convert those drives," Rodgers said. "I liked our tempo. I thought in the second quarter it was very good and we got down there about the 32 and had a sack and a negative-yardage play and just got ourselves out of field-goal range at a time where it was 10-7 and we're looking to go up two scores. You look at Miami, they're a team that likes to run the ball and control the clock and shorten the game. If we had gotten up two scores there, it would have been probably a different game there."

"If" is the loser's lament. In 2008, the breakdowns ranged from Rodgers' late-game blunders to special teams gaffes to defensive meltdowns. It was always something. This year, the defense is playing well enough to win games but the special teams gives away field position like Bill Gates gives away his fortune. You knew the Packers were done when Rodgers was sacked on third down in overtime, and sure enough, Tim Masthay's punt set up the Dolphins at their 48-yard line – 23 yards better than their opening drive of overtime.

The talent is there to get this thing turned around. They did it last year, even after Aaron Kampman and Al Harris were lost to season-ending injuries. Help is on the way on defense with the return of Harris and safety Atari Bigby. The special teams seem like a lost cause. So, the pressure is on the offense. The missed blitz pickups, the dropped passes and alike have to stop. At 3-3 with Minnesota coming to town, time is running out.

For now, the players look bravely ahead.

"We didn't expect it, you guys didn't expect it but the good thing is, it will give us something – as a team, we're already tight and I think we'll get even tighter," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "Through adversity, good things happen. We're going to do that. We've got a lot of good-character guys, guys that are going to work hard and we're going to pull together and put it together real quick. We just have to get that one win and get us on a roll."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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