Lombardi: This season is over

I don't really mean that headline, but it might as well be true. What more could happen to this team? Injuries, penalties, poor play-calling and a lack of will all contributed to that ugly loss over in Minneapolis. Throw in the early season turnover swoon and the Packers' season comes down to one thing and that is mental mistakes by the players and coaches.

No one is exempt, including me. I believed in this team. Part of me still does. But they are the worst kind of heartbreaker. They make you feel good before they crush your spirit. They accomplish just enough positive things to give you hope, before they cut your heart out with some breakdown or collapse that defies acceptance.

Anyone can make the argument that in every game they have lost, including the Lions game, they could have and should have won. But at some point, this team has to quit missing field goals, stop being so conservative on third down, and stop the reverses. They seem to find a new way to lose each and every week. Against the Lions, it was a lack of emotion and vigor. Against the Browns, the defense allowed too many big plays and the Packers committed too many turnovers. Against the Bucs, a missed field goal and a missed extra point were the difference. The Panthers jumped out to a big lead, the Packers fought back, but it was too late. The Saints game was a brief respite from the pain, but the Saints poor play masked any deficiencies the Packers may have had.

Mathematically, the Packers are still in it. Realistically, there is no way this team will win another game as long it plays the way it has this season. They cannot finish things off when they have a 17-0 halftime lead over the dopey Minnesota Vikings. The Packers should have exited the locker room at halftime, gone out on the field and put Minnesota out of its misery. Why they let up on the Vikes is beyond my comprehension. Before the field goal drive at the end of the game, the Packers went three and out. They then missed a field goal after a 10-play drive that ended when Scott Wells flubbed a shotgun snap on third and 11 at the opponent's 20. Their third drive was another three and out. The Vikings had an 11-play drive, then an eight-play drive, then another 11-play drive and finally a nine-play drive to go up 20-17. As much as I hate to admit this, the Vikings wanted it more.

The only saving grace in all of this is that the NFC North is so weak. A 6-10 record may win it this season. The Packers may be lucky to get even close to that given their injury situation. I do not expect them to quit, but I would not be surprised if they did. There is so much doubt and negativity that surrounds a losing football team that it is sometimes impossible to escape. I admit that I am adding to that negativity. I have often said that I love football when it is played well. I do not care who is playing, just give me a well-executed game and I am happy. What I loathed on Sunday was that this team had a chance to crush the Vikings and they played it safe.

When you have a quarterback playing as well as Brett Favre has been playing these last two-plus games, you have to let him make a play. On third and two near the end of the game, Coach Sherman took the ball out of Favre's hands and gave it to Tony Fisher, the Packers third-string running back. The result: fourth down and a tying field goal. Give the ball to your play-maker and let him make plays.

On a personal note, I wanted to acknowledge the death of Giants owner, Wellington Mara. You could count on one hand the number of people who have the class and dignity of Mr. Mara in or out of football. I had the fortune to meet him every now and then over the years and he was always very gracious and courteous. He will be missed.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. John resides with his family in Green Bay . His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. He will be contributing columns for PackerReport.com.

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