As bizarre and incendiary as it was, Brett Favre's victorious return to Green Bay in a Minnesota Vikings uniform Sunday was telling of the Packers' lot in the league right now.
Favre's last game at Lambeau Field before last weekend came on Jan. 20, 2008. His last pass as the quarterback of the Packers for 16 years was an interception, which led to the decisive field goal by the New York Giants in a 23-20 overtime win in the 2007 NFC Championship.
That stunning setback — and the soap opera that played out several months later culminating with Favre's ouster from Green Bay — can be looked at as the start of a troubling trend for the Packers, who were a formidable 13-3 in 2007.
Green Bay has fallen from the ranks of the elite because it can't beat the elite teams.
"It doesn't benefit you when you're losing these games," quarterback Aaron Rodgers lamented after the 38-26 loss Sunday to the Vikings, who completed a season sweep of the Packers. "We need to store up some confidence in winning these kinds of games."
Green Bay is positioned as one of the top teams in the NFC this season with a 4-3 record as it heads into Sunday's game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Yet, the plus-.500 ledger loses some luster when considering what teams the Packers beat. The combined record of the Chicago Bears (4-3), St. Louis Rams (1-7), Detroit Lions (1-6) and Cleveland Browns (1-7) is a woeful 7-23.
So, the reaction of many should Green Bay do as expected and defeat the 0-7 Bucs, the league's last winless team, undoubtedly would be, "So what?"
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy is privy to the perception from the outside and readily acknowledges that his team has been flawed in the first half this season, thus the erratic win-loss record. Consequently, he dismisses the notion that another "gimme" game is on the horizon.
"These are very dangerous games," McCarthy said. "These games, to me, are harder. Everybody looks at numbers, you look at film, you look at their final scores, and you think, ‘Well, we should win this game.'
"It's a terrible mindset to even talk about. I can't believe I'm even talking about it or saying it. But, it's the reality of your business. It's important for us to prepare for this football team. I think it's going to be a tough game."
Beating up on the lightweights will get the Packers only so far, however.
As it stands, losing both games to the NFC North-leading Vikings (7-1) has put the Packers well out of reach of contending for the title, since they're technically three games down in the loss column with Minnesota owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Green Bay's other loss was to the 5-2 Cincinnati Bengals, who share the AFC North lead with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The latest defeat was particularly disturbing to Rodgers, who rallied the Packers from a 24-3 deficit early in the third quarter to within a touchdown on two occasions before Favre sealed the deal late in the game.
"The way we played in the second half, we were really one big play from taking the momentum entirely and taking a lead there," Rodgers said. "The great teams find a way to win those games. I think we're a good team with the potential to be great. But, we're going to have to really improve and be critical again. I'm going to start with myself, and I'm going to get better."
Going back to last season, when the Packers plunged to 6-10 with Rodgers in his first year as Favre's successor, Green Bay tripped over itself against the good teams on its schedule.
The Packers posted only two wins against opponents that advanced to the playoffs — the Vikings and the Indianapolis Colts.
"We're 4-3 for good reason," McCarthy said. "There are so many more positives to our football team in my view than the negatives, but the thing I don't like about is the valley between our positives and our negatives is too big right now. The way we play at an extremely high level ... our good plays need to overshadow our bad plays, but we've just got a little too big of a valley right now."
Favre's performance points out Packers plight
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