‘Tis the season for giving. In the Packers, case, ‘tis the season to learn to receive.
Watching the Vikings lose again yet hold onto the NFC North Division lead, it's apparent that the Packers lack the ability to graciously accept good fortune. Given plenty of gift-wrapped opportunities, they've turned them down, or even thrown them back. And that's no way to act around the holidays.
A couple of examples:
Detroit tried to do Green Bay a huge favor Thursday when Joey Harrington threw the ball to Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie with the game still within reach. It was a present that Green Bay clearly didn't deserve, having already committed four turnovers on the afternoon. Instead of capitalizing on the reversal of fortune, the Packers fumbled it right back.
When the Kansas City Chiefs won the toss to start overtime back in week 6, it looked bad for the Packers, who hadn't had much success stopping KC in regulation. But after the defense got the job done and the offense marched toward the win, another fumble gave away another golden opportunity.
Those are just two specific examples of good fortune squandered in game situations. The Packers have also turned down generosity on a larger scale.
The amazing accomplishments of Ahman Green have been muted by an erratic season. Some of the glory has been fumbled away by Green himself, but there is plenty of blame to go around. Saying that individual milestones don't mean a thing if the team loses isn't just a cliché – it's true. Case in point – Lynn Dickey is one of the most prolific QBs in Packer history, but it's hard to wax nostalgic for a run that included just one playoff berth during the watered down "Super Bowl Tournament."
A relatively easy schedule has been wasted so far. Losses at Arizona, a team that looked Sunday as if it had called it a year, and Detroit are costly conference losses that should have never happened. It's a shame to see quality wins vs. Seattle, Tampa Bay and Minnesota cancelled out by losses to losing teams. If it happens Sunday vs. Chicago, it will prove not only futile, but fatal as far as the playoffs are concerned.
After a red-hot start, Minnesota has gone ice cold with a four-game losing streak and a 1-5 run in their past six games including a 48-17 loss to the Rams Sunday. Yet Green Bay remains a game behind the Vikings in the NFC North.
A happy holiday still awaits the Packers. It's all there for the taking, and maybe that's the catch. Green Bay needs to gain a game on the Vikings during the next four games. Minnesota has Seattle and Kansas City at home, and plays at Chicago and Arizona. Green Bay plays Chicago at home Sunday, then plays at San Diego and hapless Oakland before the home finale vs. Denver.
Even with the one-game deficit, the Packers have the easier road to the NFC North title. Will they learn to take it? Having already passed on the chance to control their own destiny, Green Bay has to win out, and sit back and wait for Minnesota to deliver the goods sometime around Christmas.