Lombardi: Things change every day

PackerReport.com's John Lombardi offers his thoughts in the wake of Green Bay's 35-0 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday:

I learned many things being around college and professional football all these years. On top of the list is:

No one and I mean no one can predict with any certainty how a team will play on any given day.

Keeping that in mind, it is not too surprising that the Packers got beat 35-0 on Sunday.

Sure, they had won three of their last four games, but they had beat the Dolphins, who are up and down, the Cardinals who stink and the Vikings who are reeling.

Sure, Brett Favre was playing much better than last year, but he was due a bad game. I think his injuries going into the game were worse than reported. How else can you explain him being so off on this throws.

Sure, the defense has been playing well for the most part. The defensive line was getting pressure on the QB. The linebackers were making plays and the defensive backs were playing better in spite of the communication breakdowns, but they could not get to Tom Brady, the linebackers were next to invisible and Brady threw for four touchdowns.

Sure, the coaching staff had made some good adjustments and was protecting and maximizing the talent it had, but the Patriots are as talented a team and Bill Belichick is as good a coach as the Packers have played this year. The Pats and Belichick are legendary for finding a flaw and going for the throat. For example:

Marquand Manuel was exploited. I do not know what Ted Thompson saw in him.

Brady Poppinga was exploited. They had protected him for a while, but not Sunday.

Tony Moll was exploited. The Pats have one of the best defensive lines in the league so who is surprised with that? The other guys did not do much better as the Packers rushed for only 43 yards on 17 carries and most of that was in the fourth quarter. Favre and Rodgers were sacked four times and ultimately both were knocked out of the game, Favre with a bad arm and Rodgers with the bad foot.

Donald Driver was a non-factor. New England game planned to stop him. Greg Jennings and Donald Lee and David Martin were open, but Favre and Aaron Rodgers could not find them consistently enough.

If anyone had proposed back in September that a loss to the Patriots would be taken so hard, I would have expressed humor and misgiving. The Packers have given fans reason for optimism, but the Patriots are one of the elite teams in the NFL and the Packers are just not there yet. Don't be disappointed. The Packers are working toward building a better team. They have more talent than a year ago. They are playing better football than a year ago.

Ted Thompson has made strides and has begun to clean up the mess left by the Mike Sherman as GM fiasco. But here is the rub. It will take a lot longer to get to the point where the Packers can compete with the Patriots on a day-to-day basis. And as much as Favre was off yesterday and as much as Rodgers looked like a rookie quarterback, Thompson's efforts may be for naught.

Favre may retire in six weeks and Rodgers who out for the season with a broken foot, may not be the long-term answer. The roster may improve around the QB, whoever it may be, but if the QB position is a weakness, due to inexperience or ability, it might be more of the same.

Favre may hang on for another season and Rodgers may justify his lofty draft position, but the Packers record may never get better even if the talent improves. My grandfather once said that football was an almost perfect game. The one thing that held it back was the quarterback. Too much influence was vested in one position. Take a look around the league. The teams that are good and are confident are the ones with the quarterback position settled. Indianapolis, New England and San Diego come to mind. Look at the turnaround that took place in New Orleans with the arrival of Drew Brees.

There are good teams out there that have question marks and they start behind center. Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, Philadelphia, Jacksonville and even Denver are teams with high expectations that have unsettled situations at QB. Injury, performance and desperation all contribute to this state of affairs.

There are six weeks left in the season. The Packers must get past the Patriots game and make the best of the final games, or they can hang their head and pack it in. This is Mike McCarthy's first true test as head coach. If Green Bay lays an egg on Monday Night Football against the Seahawks, then he will have failed. They do not have to win the game, but they need to show up and play a competitive four quarters. It would be easy for this team to look at the New England game and give up. Coach McCarthy cannot allow that to happen.

Who knows, this is the NFL and no one, and I mean no one, can predict what will happen next week.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. 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. E-mail him at johnlombardi22@yahoo.com.

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