Packers suffer from identity crisis

Whether it's running the ball or throwing it, smothering the run or stopping the pass, there's nothing this Packers team does well,'s Steve Lawrence writes.

Eleven games into this season, and the Green Bay Packers can not-so-proudly say there isn't a single thing they consistently do well.

At least year's 4-12 disaster could point to its pass defense as something it could hang its hat on.

This team has nothing to hang its hat on. Nothing it can lean on when things are going poorly. No security blanket to guide it through rough times.

That's what separates good teams from bad teams.

When the Chicago Bears are struggling, at least they know their defense can bail them out.

When the Indianapolis Colts are struggling, they can turn to Peyton Manning.

When the San Diego Chargers are struggling, they can turn to LaDainian Tomlinson.

From the minute he was hired, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said his team was going to run the ball often and effectively. The Packers ran the ball quite well over a month's span earlier this season, but for the last three weeks, the Packers either can't (against Minnesota and New England) or won't (against Seattle) run the football. Monday's performance was especially distressing, considering the 49ers' Frank Gore rushed for 212 yards last week against Seattle.

If you're not going to lean on your running game, then you had better be able to throw the football. Well, the Packers can't do that, either. Brett Favre is inconsistent, and it doesn't help the ole gunslinger that he walks onto the field every week with Donald Driver being the only bullet in his arsenal.

The special teams have been poor. The kicking and punting specialists have been OK, but the coverage units (especially the punt team) have given up too many big plays and the kick returners haven't come close to breaking one.

Last year's team led the league in pass defense. That should have been part of the foundation for this year's team, especially with the addition of Charles Woodson. Well, Woodson and fellow cornerback Al Harris have been fine, but opposing offenses have driven through the Packers' pass defense like it's the Autobahn.

The closest thing to a strength for this year's team has been the run defense, which entered Monday's game ranked 11th in the NFL and hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. But Seattle — minus two starters on its offensive line — gashed the Packers for 235 yards. Shaun Alexander, who entered the game averaging 2.7 yards per rush, rushed for 201 yards. The official stats say Alexander averaged 5.0 yards per rush. That must be a typo. It seemed like he ripped off 15-yarders every other play.

"It's a slap in the face," linebacker Brady Poppinga said.

I realize the NFC playoff picture is a muddled, pitiful mess, but to think the Packers have a chance to join the postseason party is laughable.

No, the only thing that matters going into the final five weeks of the season is whether the Packers can build some sort of identity as they look ahead to 2007. Because as it stands, with the Packers unable to do anything well, where does Ted Thompson turn to in free agency and the draft?

A few weeks ago, we lauded the Packers' improvement. Today, it's evident these Packers aren't improving. And if you're not improving, you're getting worse.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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