This week has been difficult.
I’ve struggled to find a reason behind the showing the Packers gave this past Sunday. They got beaten up and down the field. In no way did I expect for them to lose, let alone play as poorly as they did. They were outplayed on offense. They were outplayed on defense. They were out coached. And worst of all, their play led to an abrupt end to the season.
The question I keep asking myself is why? What caused this team, this 15-1 seemingly unstoppable team, to come out and play so flat on Sunday?
It is a question I have tried to find an answer to, and I might have found an answer.
As I discussed on Cheesehead Radio last night, the Packers had a certain swagger to them throughout the season. Every day after a game was a “Victory Monday/Tuesday/Friday” for them. As the win total got bigger, the seemingly invincible nature of the team grew as well. They were a speed bump in Kansas City away from being undefeated in the regular season. This was a team which was destined to repeat as Super Bowl champs in spite of their deficiencies on defense.
And then in a two week period, the Packers had a bye week and had to deal with the death of Michael Philbin, son of Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin.
What followed these two events was the worst game the Packers have played in some time. Simply put, they were flat.
While perusing the inter webs today, I came across a site featuring quotes by Vince Lombardi. More than just the greatest coach in the history of professional football, Lombardi was an oft quoted speaker, master psychologist, and motivator of people. He continues to inspire to this day, and will continue to do so for years to come.
I found a quote which I thought was very telling about the way the Packers played this past Sunday, and perhaps offers a reason why the play on Sunday was seemingly uninspired.
“Teams do not go physically flat, they go mentally stale.”
Think about this for a minute. Did the Packers forget how to play like a 15-1 team? Or was the swagger they displayed throughtout the season sapped away with the events over a 14 day period?
I’d be willing to bet it is the latter.
The truth is we will never know the effect of having the bye week had on this team. While it is a reward for playing well in the regular season, and did allow for many of the walking wounded to heal for the playoffs, it also disrupts the week in/week out rhythm of the team. Teams need to maintain a certain schedule to stay focused, and when this is disrupted for any reason, they need to find it again.
We will also never know the full effect that Michael Philbin’s death had on this team. Death affects all people differently. While I thought the Packers would come out and play a very inspired game in honor of their coach, his loss may have cast a shroud over this team from which they could not recover.
As a result of these two events, this team went mentally stale. All of the energy, focus, and (get ready for buzzword) momentum was gone. They were unable to recover from this layoff and emotional expenditure, and went out and played their most uninspired game of the season, bringing the season to an end.
It may not be the answer, but it could be at least part of an answer.
In the struggle to find a reason for the loss on Sunday, Vince Lombardi’s quote at least helps a little bit. I’d like to think that this team was mentally stale as a result of the events of the prior two weeks than they simply got outplayed.
Filed Under: John Rehor