Effort alone is not going to get it done this year.
No matter how hard they try, which team they play, or who suits up each week, it simply is not enough to overcome team deficiencies. That, in a nutshell, is the Packers' 2005 season, as difficult as it may be to swallow.
In another painful outcome for the Packers on Monday night, they watched Vikings' kicker Paul Edinger boot his second-game winning field goal of the season against them, enduring another close loss, 20-17. With the kick, any possibility of a miracle comeback run in the NFC North for the Packers all but died.
The Bears are 7-3 and looking good. The Vikings, with the win over the Packers, are 5-5, seeing their once "sinking" season back on course. The Lions are 4-6, but still looking better than the Packers, who are five games out of first place with six games remaining.
"You have no idea how frustrating and disappointing it is," said Sherman. "But at the same time, when you lose, you lose and we're measured by wins and losses, it's frustrating. From a coach's standpoint when you get a bunch of guys in the locker room that care about winning and try to win and gosh dang we didn't get it done, I'm disappointed for them and obviously for our fans. I'd rather be in close games and lose than get blown out; I'll tell you that right now. I'd rather us be competing every week and have a chance to win than not having a chance to win at all. I don't think anybody can question our effort, our toughness, our tenacity, our will to win. We practice, but we're certainly not claiming any moral victories here at our current record."
Ironically enough, effort may have been the Packers own worst enemy on Monday night. They again played hard, especially along the defensive line, which has been the most pleasant of surprises on the team this season. After perhaps the unit's best half of football of the entire season in the first half against the Vikings, they appeared to wear down in the second half and could not get off the field. The Vikings put together drives of six, 13, eight, six, and nine plays, scoring on three of those drives. Thus, they dominated the time of possession in the second half by an absurd 22:29 to 7:31.
In the first half, the Vikings went three-and-out three times and did not score on offense. Vikings' quarterback Brad Johnson was harassed with a relentless pass rush and the Packers were in command, even if they led just 14-7.
Said Johnson of the second-half turnaround: "We really started running the ball well; especially on first down it didn't feel like they could stop us. It really opened up our play action. We had two or three shots downfield on the second drive in the third quarter."
Packers' running back Samkon Gado, the feel-good story of the season, also hit a road block on Monday night. Showing determination and a burst in the past month since joining the team, he fumbled for the third time this season. Like the first two, his fumble against the Vikings, early in the third quarter, was recovered by the Packers. This time, however, it sent the rookie running back to the sideline for most of the rest of the game. He had been warned that another fumble could send him to the bench, and as focused as he was on holding onto the football knowing it was the most critical part of his job, he could not avoid losing it again. As a result, he may lose his starting spot.
Then there is Brett Favre. The Packers' quarterback has faced numerous challenges in his football career, but self-admittedly, nothing can compare on the field to the mountain he has tried to climb this year. His skills have not diminished and he remains mobile at 36 years old, but now he has no weapons to throw to and an offensive line that cannot get it right. He threw two more interceptions against the Vikings, one which was returned 51 yards for a touchdown by Dovonte Edwards.
Injuries have sucked the life out of the Packers' offense, leaving Favre and Donald Driver as the only two legitimate threats left. While that duo's will to win and succeed may be good for a couple of wins, it is not nearly enough to carry the team to a winning season, let alone the playoffs.
So here the Packers stand with six games remaining and not much more to play for than pride. That is something Favre and Sherman are not used to, but will get to know over the next month and a half.
Sure, the Packers will continue to grind to win each game for the weeks remaining, just as they have all season, but their efforts will really have more of any affect on next season than this one. The Packers will never look that far ahead, but their fans cannot help but think about the long-term future after the pain on Monday night. Until that time comes, another debilitating loss, to perhaps their most bitter rival, will define another frustrating week in Green Bay.
Editor's note: Matt Tevsh lives in Green Bay and is entering his 10th season covering the Green Bay Packers for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.