The Green Bay Packers are playing like the 2008 version rather than a team that were crowned Super Bowl Champions in 2011 and fell just short in the playoffs last season to the eventual victors.
The road loss to the Indianapolis Colts in round five sent the Packers into unfamiliar territory with a losing record of 2-3 and third position in the NFC North. Predicted to be strong title contenders – and they still are don’t get me wrong – Green Bay has dropped games to the rampaging San Francisco 49ers at home, the Seattle Seahawks in a game that ended in controversy and last weekend to an emotional Colts outfit. The wins have come against the Chicago Bears in round two and a one-point victory over the struggling New Orleans Saints.
The story from the week just gone has all been about the rookie QB Andrew Luck defeating the MVP QB Aaron Rodgers, Reggie Wayne’s last quarter brilliance and Chuck Pagano watching a stunning comeback win from his hospital bed. This game however was about the Packers.
Green Bay just don’t seem to be a very good team at the moment and it’s not hard to figure out why. The green and gold are at the tail end in the league for sacks allowed. The 28-year old and reigning MVP Rodgers has gone only one game where he didn’t get taken to the turf by the opposing defensive unit – not surprisingly that was against the Saints in round four. In week one, Rodgers was sacked by the Niners three with sack yardage of 24, week two five times with loss yardage of 31 by the strong Bears defense, eight times (39 yards) in week three in that infamous game, and five times in Indianapolis (28 yards). The Arizona Cardinals are the only team worse than Green Bay in the sacks department. Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb has hit the deck 22 times this season including being sacked eight times in week four and nine times in the recent loss to the St. Louis Rams in week five. No other team in the league has given up 15 so far.
Let’s look beyond the sacks because that isn’t the only reason for the slow start to the year. The Packers are struggling when it comes to the rushing game: they rank 20th in the NFL with an average of 95.6 yards. Mike McCarthy’s (head coach) team will fail as they did against the Colts to hold onto leads if there only running threat is a scrambling Rodgers who led his team for ground yards gained (57) in week five.
Green Bay has several of their big name starters injured including RB Cedric Benson (ankle), DT B.J. Raji (ankle) and TE Jermichael Finley (right shoulder) all during the match up against the Colts as well as WR Greg Jennings with a groin injury. But this is football, injuries are a part of the game and Green Bay has solid depth.
As good leaders do, Rodgers has stepped up to the plate and accepted a great part of what has went wrong when speaking on his radio show on ESPN 540 in Milwaukee.
“I set the bar high and I expect to play at a higher level. (I’ve) been making just some mistakes I’m not used to making,” Rodgers said.
The Packers will need to move on quickly and focus as they approach a massive game against the unbeaten Houston Texans juggernaught in Texas in round six. As the saying goes, when it rains it pours. Green Bay fans will be hoping that the sun soon shines bright for this championship contender.
When the two teams meet on Sunday night (U.S. time), it will be the first time since December 7, 2008 – Houston won that game 24-21. The Packers won the previous match four years earlier 16-13. Houston is firing on all cylinders this season, averaging 29.8 points-per-game while only allowing 14.6 points-per-game.