Iceberg is in sight for Packers

After watching the Green Bay Packers suffer a devastating 40-34 overtime loss last week to Kansas City, I hate to be one to pour more rain on your parade, but I also like to deal with reality.<p> Get your umbrella.<p>

This year's version of the Packers is in serious jeopardy of not making the playoffs. In comparing the Packers to the Titanic, they have not yet hit the iceberg, but the big piece of ice is in view and it looks iffy if the Packers can steer clear of it.

At 3-3, the Packers are headed for a 3-5 record at the halfway point of the season, unless Brett Favre and Co. figure a way to overcome this heartbreaking defeat and win at a dome that is not the home of the Lions. With back-to-back road games at St. Louis and Minnesota, the Packers are skating on thin cheese.

With games at Tampa Bay and at Oakland, and home games against Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver, that's a tall proposition.

If they are 3-5, the Packers will probably have to go 7-1 in the final eight games to make the playoffs. This didn't look to be the position the Packers would be in, however, as they entered the fourth quarter, leading Kansas City 31-14. In Green Bay's 11 previous quarters, it had outscored the Bears, Seahawks and Chiefs 104-50.

It looked like this team righted itself after losses to Minnesota and Arizona in the first three weeks.

It's a good thing Lambeau Field isn't a dome because then the "roof" caved in. Kansas City outscored the Packers 26-3 the rest of the way, marking the first time in 57 games the Packers lost a home game after holding a lead of at least 10 points.

In reality, though, the Packers have not looked like a playoff team since late last season. The Packers finished the 2002 regular season with a 42-17 loss at the New York Jets, and then Green Bay's 2002 season was finished when Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick and Co. smoked the Packers 27-7 at Lambeau Field in a wildcard playoff.

The loss sends the Packers two-and-a-half games behind Minnesota (5-0) in the NFC North, so a division title shouldn't even be a concern right now.

What needs to happen from here through December is the defense has to figure a way to make plays like it did last season when Green Bay led the NFL with 45 takeaways. After a slow start, the offense has found a groove, and now it's time for the defense.

This starts up front with the defensive line.

In six games, the lack of pass rush by the defensive line is even obvious to Ray Charles. Without pressure from an overpaid front four, the Packers have had to blitz to get near the quarterback.

What this does is if the blitz is picked up, defensive backs are in a tough position, being one-on-one. One bad move, like Bhawoh Jue made against Eddie Kennison on the last play of Sunday's game, can lead to a big play or a touchdown.

Playing risk-reward football like this is not the blueprint of how to be a playoff team.

But how can the defensive line all of sudden change its spots? It can't.

Joe Johnson is a bigger joke than Jerry Seinfeld could ever tell. He didn't play against Kansas City because of injury, but most would say he hasn't played since coming to Green Bay in 2002.

Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila plays his tail off, but with no other pass-rush threat, teams can afford to double-team "KGB," which limits his chances.

Cletidus Hunt hasn't lived up to his salary, but hey, he's no Joe Johnson.

Gilbert Brown has played every game with an injured biceps which would have put most players on the injured-reserve list. Whatever he has done has been a positive, so Big Gil is doing OK.

So what can the Packers do to improve defensively? Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell has to look into his cookbook of defensive recipes and whip something up. It's obvious the Packers overrated the talent on the defensive line with so many players making big money (Johnson, Hunt and Jamal Reynolds) and not producing. And if the defensive line doesn't improve, this season will just be an extension of the end of 2002, except this time there will be no playoff trip.


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