The difference between winning and losing on Sunday was basically one thing. The Packers had Brett Favre and the Chiefs had Damon Huard. Both defenses played good enough to win. Both teams struggled to run the ball. The Packers averaged 2.9 yards per carry and the Chiefs averaged 2.8 per carry. Both teams' tight ends had good days. Both teams committed costly penalties. But Favre was there at the end of the game and made the play to give the Packers the lead and Huard made the bad throw that was intercepted by Charles Woodson to end it.
The Packers committed 13 penalties for 115 yards. The Chiefs got four first downs off those penalties. That is awful. Atari Bigby made another costly penalty in the end zone which lead to a touchdown. In spite of fact that he is an upgrade at the position, I am beginning to see why he was cut by two other teams. He makes some mental mistakes that kill a team. Al Harris and Charles Woodson continue to get chippy penalties in the secondary and all the rest is just sad. I usually chalk up excessive penalties to bad coaching, but am not ready to go that far. I give the coaching staff the benefit of the doubt. If it continues, though, it will be their fault. They have the ability to stop it.
Speaking of coaching, I saw Mike McCarthy make his first glaring coaching mistake in a long time. Favre's interception at the end of the second quarter was avoidable. Sure Koren Robinson was open and Favre did get his arm hit on the throw, but they were up, were a long way from the end zone and had a third and seven when they attempted that pass. It cost the Packers seven points. Just sit on it and go into the half up.
Favre and his Arm
After eight games, Favre has thrown 308 passes. Only Drew Brees has tried more passes with 335 attempts. Favre has cooled down from his early season pace, but is still on track to throw 616 passes this season, which would be a career high. The past two years he had 307 and 313 pass attempts. If the Packers get into some shootouts, he might still break the League record for attempts, held by Drew Bledsoe who chucked it 691 times in 1994. He would need 383 pass attempts or 47 attempts per game. Kind of a long shot. His arm must be getting tired this late in his career.
Favre has to throw it so often because Green Bay is bad on the ground. The Packers have only run the ball 175 times, second fewest to San Fran who have run it 172 times. The Pack is last in the league in total rushing yards. They have gained a paltry 577 yards on the ground. Chicago is next with only 631 yards. And worst of all, the Packers are averaging 3.3 yards per carry. Only KC and Chicago have done a worse job. They are both averaging 3.2 yards per carry. This has to change for the Packers to truly contend for anything.
End All, Be All
It sure is exciting to follow the Packers. They have one of the best records in the league, and have won 11 of their last 12 games. Lately, they are winning is breathtaking fashion, games going down to the wire.
Looking back on the season so far, they got lucky against the Eagles, beat the Giants, made the plays to beat the Chargers, outclassed the Vikes, stumbled against the Bears, pulled one out against Washington and won a thriller in Denver. Whatever needs to be done, they are doing it.
I hesitate to jump on the bandwagon yet. They have yet to beat a good quarterback when he is on his game outside of Philip Rivers who is still a young player. At some point their lack of a running game will hurt them. The Lions are not going to let the Packers relax either. They face each other twice and those games will probably decide the division unless something strange happens. I am most excited with the fact that the Lions Thanksgiving game will matter for the first time in a decade.
Bottom line is that I cannot see them beating a team with a good quarterback. To make a run in the playoffs, they will have to more than likely beat at least two. In the NFC, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Jeff Garcia, Jon Kitna (gasp), and Matt Hassellbeck would be considered good. Eli Manning, Marc Bulger and Donovan McNabb have their moments. Only Romo and Kitna are on the Packers remaining schedule. The Vikings are awful at the position. The Panthers are injured and old. By the time the Raiders come to town, Jamarcus Russell may be playing. The Rams' Bulger is injured and Brian Griese is too up and down.
The good part, is no one, including me, gave them any chance to be 7-1. They continue to defy expectations and what gives us any reason to think that will end anytime soon. The only game left on the schedule where they will be an underdog is the Dallas game and maybe the Lions game in Detroit. Is it too much to think that they might go 14-2?
John Lombardi is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com.