We’re not talking about injury in a literal sense (although it appears defensive lineman Jerel Worthy and wide receiver Jarrett Boykin couldn’t escape Sunday’s game unscathed), but the Packers three times incurred penalties at the worst-possible moment.
Don’t get me wrong, the reason the Packers lost to the Vikings in the regular-season finale was because they couldn’t find ways to stop Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder.
But in three separate instances on Sunday, the Packers had penalties following plays in which they lost yardage creating down-and-distance situations of more than 15 yards.
The first time it happend was in the second quarter after a sack by Jared Allen for a loss of 12 yards.
Facing second-and-22, the Packers offense failed to allow themselves a sufficient amount of time to get to the line of scrimmage and read the defense. They were penalized for delay of game and ended up punting the ball back to Minnesota.
The next occurrence was in the third quarter following a sack by Everson Griffen that dropped Aaron Rodgers for a three-yard loss.
What should have been second-and-13 turned into second-and-18 when James Jones was called for a false start.
Fortunately, Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for a gain of 45 yards that set up a touchdown connection between the two just two plays later.
Then in the fourth quarter Griffen again sacked Rodgers, this time for a loss of eight yards.
On second-and-18, the Packers got two yards back on a short completion to Jermichael Finley, but third-and-16 became third-and-21 after Don Barclay was found guilty of a false start.
Once again, Rodgers bailed the Packers out. A hook-up with Finley netted twenty yards and then a fourth-and-1 conversion from Rodgers to rookie Jarrett Boykin got the Packers a first down, which eventually led to a game-tying touchdown.
The Packers are lucky to have an elite quarterback with a great set of receivers that can bail them out of such less-than-enviable circumstances.
But they’ll have to avoid committing the same sort of silly mistakes beginning on Saturday when they face the Vikings in the Wildcard round of the playoffs.
All it takes is one ill-timed penalty that can cost the Packers a chance at winning. They learned that very lesson on defense when Tramon Williams was flagged for illegal use of hands late in the fourth quarter.
Instead of forcing a field goal, the Vikings were able to find the end zone with a touchdown by Michael Jenkins. That capped a forgettable evening for Williams.
The Packers have plenty of weapons capable of beating the Vikings. Rodgers can make sure of that. But they can’t afford to beat themselves.