Oh, how things have changed in 36 days.
On Nov. 16, the Green Bay Packers smashed and thrashed the Chicago Bears 37-3 at Lambeau Field. At 5-5, the Packers were in a three-way for first place in the NFC North and had undeniable momentum.
"We feel like we're definitely turning it around right now at the right time," receiver Greg Jennings said after the game. "We definitely feel like we have a shot, and we're going to get it done. Period. There's no other option but to get it done."
"We feel like we're going to have to win every game," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said that day. "We control our own destiny now."
Then, the Packers lost control.
Since whipping the Bears, the Packers were blown out at New Orleans and lost heartbreakers to Carolina, Houston and Jacksonville by a combined 11 points. Just like that, the Packers went from on top of the world to bottom of the barrel. Instead of a Monday night showdown at Chicago to possibly decide the division champion, the Packers are playing for pride.
"We sure were (confident)," Rodgers said this week. "We were 5-5, tied with Chicago and Minnesota and going down to New Orleans for a big statement game, and New Orleans made a statement. We just haven't recovered since then."
The Packers played their best game of the season five weeks ago against the Bears. Rodgers was nearly flawless as Green Bay piled up 427 yards of offense. The defense held Chicago to 234 yards and limited standout rookie running back Matt Forte to just 104 yards from scrimmage.
"We played at a very high level in just about every area in that game, and that's not true to the games that have followed," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We've had a number of areas that we didn't play particularly well, and we've come up short. Every game has been a tight game. It's been competitive. But we're not making the key plays down the stretch to put us over the hump."
"It is a shock," Rodgers added. "The league's all about momentum a lot of times, and we just couldn't get into a rhythm that we could sustain for multiple games. We had a great rhythm in that game, especially second, third quarter. We ran for 200 yards, I had 227 passing yards. I barely got touched the entire game. The line was dominant. We just haven't been able to have that repeat performance since then."
Meanwhile, the Bears bounced back from the loss by winning three of their next four games — including wins over Jacksonville and New Orleans.
"We were embarrassed," Bears coach Lovie Smith said in a conference call on Thursday. "They beat us in all areas. They dominated us in all areas that day. But that happens in the league. You try to guard against it, but from time to time, things like that do happen. You do get knocked down — and sometimes you really get knocked down — but it's how you respond. I like how our ballclub has responded since then."
Simply put, the Packers haven't responded to the 51-29 loss to the Saints. Nor have they adjusted.
The Packers entered that game with the NFL's best pass defense in terms of passer rating but got dissected by Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The weaknesses New Orleans exposed — the Packers' lack of pass rush and the inability of the linebackers to cover the underneath routes — have shown up the last three weeks, as well. To try to add to the pass rush, defensive coordinator Bob Sanders is dialing up more blitzes. They haven't worked, and that's put added stress on the guys in coverage. As ESPN's Ron Jaworski put it, the Packers' defense seems disoriented.
Mix in breakdowns by the Packers' kickoff coverage, their inability to produce good field position with their return units, the offense's recent failings in the red zone and Rodgers' inability to complete a magical comeback, and the season deteriorated in unexpected fashion.
"Our expectations haven't changed from the first day we kicked off at the beginning of the season," McCarthy said. "But we've gone through a very rough patch. The reality is there's no moral victories. We're not doing the little things to get out of the foxhole that we've created from the win-loss column. They've all been close games, they've been tight games, but it's really a play here in this particular situation or a play there in that particular situation."
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Year went down drain in 36 days
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