On the Brink: Injuries are Key

Why are the Packers staring at extinction? It starts with another incredible torrent of injuries, starting with losing Aaron Rodgers and their ability to dominate from ahead.

So it's come down to this for the Green Bay Packers.

After a rousing 5-2 start to the season that brought back memories of the Packers' Super Bowl championship in 2010, the Packers are 5-5-1 and facing a must-win game at Detroit on Thanksgiving.

How have the Packers gotten here?

Here is a reasoned three-part analysis.

Rodgers' injury

This one barely needs explaining, though it's worth scratching beyond the surface.

The Packers have been the ultimate front-running team under coach Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers. In one-score games, the Packers are 22-25-1. In games decided by at least nine points, they're a glittering 41-10. That mark was 41-8 until back-to-back losses of 27-13 without Rodgers.

Of course, it starts with Rodgers. He's the highest-rated quarterback in NFL history.

This is a team that's been built on the Rodgers-led offense taking the lead and the defense creating a turnover or two to turn the game into a rout. It was a great combination: Rodgers, the highest-scoring quarterback in NFL history, joined at the hip with Dom Capers' defense, which was practically lapping the field in terms of interceptions.

Without Rodgers, the Packers' offense has been unable to force the opposition into desperation mode.

"We're a football team," McCarthy said on Monday. "I'm personally challenged. It's my responsibility to make sure the team wins. You could say it starts and ends with me. The units on our team need to play better, need to perform better. The game is about peaks and valleys but we're spending a little bit too much time in the valley before we peak. The players respond extremely well, they're very accountable but we need to pick it up. We have more to give. It's right there in front of us."

Lots of other injuries

Rodgers wasn't the only starter out of the lineup on Sunday. The team's projected starting tackles, Bryan Bulaga and Don Barclay, were out. So too were tight end Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb. Defensively, the Packers were without run-stopping defensive end Johnny Jolly, outside linebacker Nick Perry and top cornerbacks Sam Shields and Casey Hayward. That's merely nine starters.

Bulaga has missed 10 games (will be all 16), Hayward eight (will be 13), Cobb six (will be at least eight), Perry five, Finley five (will be 10), Clay Matthews four, Morgan Burnett three, Brad Jones three, Rodgers three, Barclay two, James Jones two, Shields two, Jolly one, Eddie Lacy one. That's 55 games from their starters; at the very least, that number will rise to 73.

Last season, the Packers lost a league-high 83 games from their starters.

The Packers opened the season by rolling out out Jordy Nelson, Jones, Cobb, Finley and Eddie Lacy at the skill positions. Because of injuries, they're frequently using Jarrett Boykin, Andrew Quarless and John Kuhn. Boykin has proven to be quite a find but Quarless and Kuhn don't exactly strike the fear of God in opposing defenses.

"It's the next man (up), it's no different, just like next man up was the next man to the next man," Matthews said last week.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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