On the other hand the Packers were fighting for their lives, jobs and a chance to go at least .500 for the season, and their effort showed it.
I never want to believe a team doesn't give its all every time it steps on the field, but last night Chicago cut the football fans short. Good thing the Packers had something to play for. As a coach I always tell my players, "you are only as good as your last play." Last night's performance by Chicago will affect their playoff run. I can't see them making it past their divisional game.
Green Bay came into the game at least more prepared than they had in the past. It seemed like they had a solid game plan on offense. Wide receivers Ruvell Martin and Carlyle Holiday stepped up their game, and the offense played with more tempo. With six turnovers and two defensives scores, the defense came out and made big plays. This Packer defense can be a pretty good unit, but one thing they have to learn is how to eliminate giving up the big play. If they could have eliminated Chicago's one big play of the game this could have easily been a reversal of the Week 1 game between Green Bay and Chicago when the Bears won 26-0.
Chicago had six turnovers, four in the first half and two in second, two which were intercepted and returned for touchdowns. It just goes to prove what I've been saying all season, "You cannot win football games when you turn the football over."
Yes, Chicago probably had other things on its mind. It was New Year's Eve and the Bears have home-field advantage and a first round bye, but if they don't turn the football over six times who knows what kind of game this would have been?
I recently saw a NFL stat, showing that 83 percent of teams that win the turnover battle win their football game. If your team can protect the football and eliminate major mistakes you have a very good chance to win your games. That's a pretty good percentage. I guarantee any coach in the league would love to win at least 83 percent of his games.
The Packers struggled with turnovers early in the season and it showed in their poor record and performance. If you take a look at the Packers and their last four victories the turnover-to-win ratio has somewhat been reversed. In their last four games the Packers have averaged 1.5 turnovers and a 4-0 record. Not a bad way to end the season. Green Bay at least now has a foundation of something positive to work with for the 2007 season.
The Bears proved the NFL theory is true to form. They had a 13-2 record and are sitting on top of the NFC, but with their six turnovers they looked like a team that couldn't beat the hapless 2-14 Raiders.
As the 2006 season comes to a wrap, Here is a quick summary of the 2006 Packers and what I saw and thought of this year's team:
My thoughts on if Brett Favre retires: I still think Brett can play. He obviously has great leadership skills, a strong arm, excellent pocket presents and the speed of the game sure hasn't past him bye. He's able to avoid sacks, move in the pocket, delivers passes downfield and even be a lead blocker on a reverse.
In a game where everyone wants to make decisions for you, Brett should play until he's forced to leave the game. Brett has a family to think about. Based on his contract, he'll make $11 million in 2007. I don't care how much money he already has, his family would love to have $11 million more. It would help his wife and kids. His daughter is going to college soon and his youngest is just starting to grow. This extra money will allow his family to really enjoy life with their father. Plus, Brett loves football. As an ex-player, don't leave something you love before you have to. All you end up doing is feeling sorry for yourself.
I hope he stays for a few more seasons. If Brett leaves Green Bay, the city and team will never be the same.
In 2007 the Green Bay Packers will be a better football team. This is the youngest team in the NFL and next season each player will have hopefully matured and also have accrued an accredited season under their belt. The new coaching staff will have had an opportunity to gel with each other, which in turn should lead to a smoother working relationship between coaches and players.
On offense Green Bay should draft or sign a top free agent receiver and running back to complement Brett Favre. The young offensive line should be able to continue building on the continuity that it started to form late in the season. Add a healthy Ahman Green and the offense shows positive signs of being a lot better in 2007.
I've always like the West Coast Offensive scheme and Green Bay has the offensive talent to run Coach McCarthy's system.
On defense I think that late in the year the Packers played pretty solid. Like most defenses, Green Bay is going to have to find ways to get pressure on the quarterback. In order to do this, it needs to find some pass rushers, guys that can get to the quarterback in a hurry. Along with that it needs to find some defensive backs, guys that can cover wide receivers one-on-one in blitzing situations.
If you don't have these types of players on your roster then you need to run a system that plays into the hands of your players. Late in the year Green Bay did a nice job of adjusting to the personnel of its defense.
In the second half of the season Green Bay made some adjustments with their defensive line, benching Biamila and starting Jenkins. This improved Green Bay's ability to put pressure on the quarterback and it also helped to sure up their run defense. In effect this also helped the secondary which started playing with a lot more confidence.
Can the defense use a few more explosive players like Hawk and Kampman? Without a doubt.
I've always said, "Defense wins Championships." When the Minister of Defense, Reggie White, was in Green Bay, along with Leroy Butler and the rest of that defensive crew, the Packers were always in the hunt. Lately its been all about what can Brett Favre can do? The answer is, give Brett some help on offense and continue to stack impact players on the defense and before to long the Pack will be back in the hunt.
It's a big wish list, but if any one team can do it the Packers can.
Ken Stills played safety for the Packers from 1985-89. E-mail Ken at KSt2983113@cs.com.