I know I’m not a quote-unquote Packers blogger. I normally write on other teams. But I would like to say a word or two about the Packers-Bears game. Last year, prior to Week 14′s matchup, I wrote that the game was like a high school reunion. You know you’re better than you were back then, and you KNOW that you should have moved past old mistakes, but somehow, once the lights turn on and everyone shows up, you’re sucked back into the person you were then — making all the stupid decisions you KNOW you’ve outgrown. Last year’s W14 wasn’t exactly like that. The Packers opened with a touchdown to Ryan Grant on the first play of the game, and while there were a lot of stupid plays (Rodgers’ silly fumble/interception comes to mind), the Packers muscled their way to a win.
It might have looked like a football game, but it was a high school reunion that took place on Soldier Field on Monday night.
Instead of it being an opportunity for the Packers to come out and prove that they are mature enough to make a deep playoff run, it was Jay Cutler who was determined to prove that he was better than his 6 picks against the Packers in 2009. And, suddenly, it was the Packers who found themselves in the same place they’d been a year ago, when they led the league in penalties…when they were last in the league in punt coverage…when they couldn’t come up with a good play without it being overturned for one stupid mistake or another. There wasn’t a player exempt from the reunion curse, not even Aaron Rodgers — his intentional grounding and delay of game penalties came at critical times in drives that the Packers desperately needed. Derrick Martin forgot that you can’t block in the back on special teams. Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher and Daryn Colledge and Josh Sitton forgot that you’re supposed to be disciplined enough with a silent count to overcome a loud and raucous crowd without false starting…or holding. James Jones forgot that you’re supposed to hold onto the ball. Brandon Chillar forgot how to drop into coverage and be effective. Heck, even players that weren’t around last year fell into old/bad Packer habits. Tim Masthay outkicked his coverage and doomed the Packers special teams against one of the best in the business. Andrew Quarless decided to become the latest tight end to drop a touchdown in the end zone when the game’s on the line.
Part of me is viciously glad the Packers lost. Maybe then people will get off the team’s bandwagon and the players can get back to work instead of talking about how they don’t read their own press clippings. Maybe this loss, humiliating as it is (because, let’s face it, it’s not a good loss by any measure), will be enough “adversity” to give the Packers the push they need to play good football.
But I’m sure this part of me will pass, and I’ll just be sad at what a missed opportunity that game was. Three picks and a touchdown negated by penalties. Another poor challenge decision by Mike McCarthy. Multiple pass interference penalties on Woodson. No great pass rush, even when the Bears were dedicating extra blockers to Clay Matthews. The running game will be fine. I don’t have a problem with the little dump-off passes, the toss-sweep, and even gaining 2 or 3 yards with Quinn Johnson as a blocker in front.
The Packers are good enough to overcome the lack of Ryan Grant. What I worry they’re not good enough to overcome are their own bad habits. If they can only be the flashy Super Bowl contenders during the preseason and in games that are already over, we’re going to see these “HS reunion” games again. And again. And again. It’ll be a rehash of the Steelers game. Or the Arizona playoff game. Or either of the Vikings games. Or tonight.
And we’ll be left, after the reunion’s over, moaning about how “We’ve changed, we’re so much better now.” If this team can’t get over its own bad habits, all the potential in the world won’t matter.