The Lass Word: Winning Ugly, Get Used to it

This is how the Packers have to get it done this season.

The Packers stand at 3-1, tied for the second best record in the NFC.  But many of my fellow Green Bay fans are worried.  They don’t like the way the team is winning.  Having to stop a two point conversion to beat Tampa Bay, going to overtime to put away a New England team playing a rookie third string quarterback.  Even Aaron Rodgers says winning this way is not sustainable.  It’s too soon to panic, we tell ourselves.  The team will get better.  The operation will get smoother.  The wins will get prettier.   

Don’t count on it. 

Green Bay is winning ugly.  Get used to it.  This is the way the Packers are going to have to get it done this year.  Overcoming their own mistakes, playing inconsistently, hanging on for dear life, or coming from behind at the last minute.  If Green Bay is going to make a Super Bowl run this season, you can expect a lot of games like that.  There are several reasons for this.  Here are just a few. 

Aaron Rodgers is another year older.  The frequency of his bad spells is increasing.  And when he is playing badly, he is very, very bad.  The first half against the Patriots is a good example.  Inaccurate long balls, throwing short passes into the ground, tossing an easy pick six.  When was the last time you remember Rodgers having a complete game of four quarters of sharp football? 

Fortunately, he can still correct himself during the course of a game, and get back to playing at the highest level.  He can still make all the throws, sometimes with uncanny accuracy, and he can even run a little bit when he has to.  But he’s never going to return to the consistency of 2010 or 2011.  As he approaches forty, we can reasonably expect he will continue to fall into his funks, and that’s going to mean the team has to survive in many ugly ways.  

When the Packers were forced to trade Davante Adams, they lost more than just their number one receiver.  They lost one of the best receivers in franchise history, a guy whose resume’ will be strong for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  This year’s team has some promising young receiving talent, and some dependable veterans.  It will be fun to watch Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson develop.  I like Samori Toure as well, but it doesn’t look like he will get much of a chance this year.  Randall Cobb will catch his share of clutch third down conversions.  Allen Lazard will find a way to get open in the end zone. 

But it is highly unlikely any of these guys will ever approach the elite level of a Davante Adams.  They don’t come along very often.  There are going to be touchdown passes dropped in the end zone.  Routes will be run incorrectly.  Rodgers will be forced to hold the ball and, inevitably, will choose to take a costly sack rather than throw it away.  That will make for some ugly games, but more often than not, there will be enough talent out there to find a way to win. 

Green Bay has a defense loaded with playmakers at all three levels, but all too often they have a tendency to play as individuals.  They struggle to mesh as a complementary unit.  That’s why we see Rashan Gary, Kenny Clark, Preston Smith and Rasul Douglas make outstanding plays during the course of a game, but then the unit gets gashed repeatedly by opposing running backs because they can’t coordinate their gap responsibility.  Douglas, Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Eric Stokes and Jaire Alexander are as individually talented as any secondary in the league.  But we continually see enemy receivers running wide open deep downfield because, collectively, the secondary is not on the same page, and has blown the coverage.  These errors have been going on for seasons at a time.  They allow opponents to score quickly.  That’s going to keep games close.  I don’t expect that to change.  But somehow, the defense rallies itself together in the clutch, as they did in the fourth quarter and overtime last Sunday, and plays just well enough to help the team win.  It’s not pretty.  But it’s better than losing. 

Then there is the parity around the NFL this year.  There are no super teams out there.  Nobody is steamrolling the opposition every week.  Look around.  There is a lot of winning ugly going on.  The New York Giants, whom the Packers play in London this weekend, had a grand total of 82 passing yards, plus an interception, and still managed to beat the Bears.  That’s ugly.  The Tennessee Titans roared out to a 14-0 lead over Indianapolis, then went stone cold scoreless through the second half, but somehow hung on to win.  Marcus Mariota mustered a mere 139 yards passing, no touchdowns, and had an interception, yet his Atlanta Falcons slogged to a three point victory over Cleveland.  The Vikings beat the Saints only because a long, last minute field goal try by New Orleans double doinked off the goalpost.  Ugly.  Those are ugly wins. 

Even the Philadelphia Eagles, whom everybody seems to want to anoint as this year’s super team, fell behind the Jacksonville Jaguars 14-0, before finding a way to rally and win.  It wasn’t pretty but they got it done. 

It’s because of parity.  There are no elite teams, but there are also no terrible teams.  Look at how traditional doormats like the Texans and Jaguars and Jets are giving everybody a tough battle these days.  The Raiders, even with the addition of the great Davante Adams, stumbled to an 0-3 start, mainly because their opponents beat them in games that were very ugly. 

Expect more of the same this weekend.  If you anticipate the Packers will come out and blow the Giants off the field in London, you will be disappointed.  I expect our British brethren to be treated to another contest featuring multiple mistakes, momentum changes, and even lead changes.  I also expect the Pack will once again find a way to win.  I don’t care if it’s ugly.  Any victory will be a jolly good show. 

 

Game Prediction:  Packers 31  Giants 27 

Surprise star of the game:  Christian Watson 

Upset special of the week:  Cardinals over the Eagles 

  

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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6 points

Comments (30)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Ya_tittle's picture

October 06, 2022 at 03:11 pm

Wish Toure was given a shot in the regular season games.

14 points
14
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dblbogey's picture

October 06, 2022 at 04:02 pm

I wish DeVondre Campbell wasn't a one year wonder. He got the big payday and no longer is anything like the guy we saw last year. Walker gets a break, being a rookie, but our ILB's aren't getting it done against the run.

-8 points
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11
Kevin Carpenter's picture

October 06, 2022 at 06:33 pm

He can't be any worse than Winfree.

7 points
8
1
Coldworld's picture

October 07, 2022 at 08:32 am

The one thing that is certain is he’s not getting better sitting and we aren’t overstocked with talent ahead of him.

2 points
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bocster's picture

October 06, 2022 at 09:54 pm

Great article! How do you rate the special teams play?

1 points
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Packer_Fan's picture

October 06, 2022 at 03:14 pm

We knew the offense will be a work in progress. Two dropped touchdowns and two fumbles by the rookies WR. Rusty tackles coming back from injuries. And some predictable play calling. Hopefully this will change and get better as the season progresses.

I see bad penalties on special teams. But Nixon and Ford were great pickups. The coach has to teach situational awareness not to take bad penalties. Running into the kicker and blocks in the back has lost valuable field position. Let the other team make mistakes , not you.

The defense will improve. But I would like to see Barry be more aggressive

10 points
10
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MooPack's picture

October 06, 2022 at 03:30 pm

"Winning Ugly, Get Used to it"
I'd rather not. It doesn't need to be this way and I think/hope they will overcome whatever communication deficiencies they have so far.

"...then the unit gets gashed repeatedly by opposing running backs because they can’t coordinate their gap responsibility."

If not done already, they should be looking at the line of communication first. Who is calling the plays, Who relays the call, Who is telling the team the play call, Who is getting them lined up? Start there. I remember as a kid a communication exercise we'd do. I'm sure others have done this - we'd sit in a circle. Someone would whisper a sentence in the first persons ear. That person would whisper it in the next persons ear and so on. The last person would tell the group the sentence he heard. It would rarely be the same and a lot of times wildly different. We were kids. These are adults, for the most part, and should know by now what the call is and where their responsibility resides.

Other teams are going to get better. The cream will rise to the top. I see no reason the Packers won't as well. Too much talent to be in close games against teams with far less.

5 points
5
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SinceLombardi's picture

October 09, 2022 at 08:12 pm

What talent?? Alexander , ok, Clarke? Over rated but good, Preston? He’s ok, Gary? He’s excellent. Stokes? Please he’s a Packer website hype.
The rest are all just middle grade nfl talent. Maybe Amos is above average.. sometimes. Savage stinks.. quay Walker looks lost. We spent no money on defense because AR got it all.

0 points
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Lphill's picture

October 06, 2022 at 03:51 pm

Davante not helping the Raiders much it seems .

9 points
11
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Coldworld's picture

October 07, 2022 at 08:34 am

He’s not hurting them. Did you really expect him to carry that team with Carr? It’s not like WR was their only issue.

0 points
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ricky's picture

October 06, 2022 at 03:59 pm

The Packers always seem to play down to the level of their opponent. And don't even think the season will go by without that "WTF" loss to a team they absolutely should have clobbered. It is what it is. Rodgers has two plays he can choose from, but also has the freedom to call an "audible" if he sees something the team can exploit by the defense. That was the cost of bringing him back (other than the money), and we'll have to deal with it, or eat a very unpalatable "dead money" hit.

5 points
6
1
BirdDogUni's picture

October 06, 2022 at 05:15 pm

"And don't even think the season will go by without that "WTF" loss to a team they absolutely should have clobbered."

You mean like week 1 against the viks...?

8 points
8
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Coldworld's picture

October 07, 2022 at 08:29 am

That wasn’t really that much of a surprise. Did many of us really believe LaFleur and co would have us ready?

What I take from the preseason is greater-than-should-be lack of familiarity of Rodgers with the rookies, that the reason our D looked so good is how lame this offense was and that other teams can get far more ready even not playing many starters.

4 points
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SinceLombardi's picture

October 09, 2022 at 08:13 pm

There is no team they should clobber. This is 2022 and they are only a little better than the Bears.

0 points
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splitpea1's picture

October 06, 2022 at 04:02 pm

Close games come as no surprise with the offense in transition from a season ago; when you take away AR's favorite target and the downfield threat of MVS and replace them with rookie WRs, well, the offense in going to struggle sometimes. We still have Jones, Dillon, a good defense, and so far, much better ST unit--which should pull us through until the vertical passing game gets more potent.

Defense: Barry is using one-gap defenses and light boxes, and Walker is obviously still learning, and is being replaced by Douglas in certain situations; like to see more out of Lowry....The pass coverage needs to be stickier; I would especially like to see Stokes be in the position where he could snag a couple of interceptions instead of being far off the ball.

Whatever the definition of "elite" is, there will be some very good teams by the end of the season, as always. We may or may not be one of the "elites", but all that really matters is who is playing their best football during the playoffs. And, as always it seems, we'll see if we can do better this time around.

4 points
4
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jannes bjornson's picture

October 06, 2022 at 04:46 pm

We know Lowry should have been moved last off-season. Bring in a four down lineman look with Clark, Slaton Reed and Gary. The leverage will change and let Montgomery run his stunts. Ford needs to be in the heavy looks in the slot. Savage is starting to creep up closer. Amos should stay back.

1 points
3
2
stockholder's picture

October 06, 2022 at 04:30 pm

They need to give Toure his shot in the slot. Above and beyond, is the only way to prepare a Rookie.

4 points
7
3
jannes bjornson's picture

October 06, 2022 at 04:48 pm

Speed kills, let he and Watson run the go-go's. They can't double everybody.

12 points
12
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Coldworld's picture

October 07, 2022 at 07:15 am

This season always looked to be dependent on an unlikely marriage between Rodgers and a team with a WR corps made up of rookies, 2 aging or oft injured vets and a number 2/3 receiver.

Now we see Rodgers calling for more time for Cobb. Don’t get me wrong, Cobb is a very nice piece if one can keep him healthy and in certain situations, but that call just signifies your me that the leap of perception needed has not happened for Rodgers. It’s already clear that it has not happened for LaFleur either. Toure doesn’t play so doesn’t get better. Doubs is used in bursts but hugely conservatively mostly and Watson is a gadget who’s at the line or just going on a deep go.

It’s ironic that Doubs and actually, particularly Toure are highly adept at tracking deeper balls, while Watson is not and easy not. His stock in trade was medium range passes he could run with. He’s had none of those. Doubs has had one deep target and Toure had t seen the field. Instead we are trying to force balls to Lazard and Cobb deeper. That’s rarely worked. Cobb has done best being Cobb and, even a little slower, getting yards after breaking open. Lazard is great, but it’s asking a lot when he’s the most covered guy.

LaFleur has neither imposed a vision that could make this roster work nor game plans that recognize our weakness if we do not. He and Rodgers are playing as if nothing has changed and we’ve just got to wait till Adams gets healthy or some miracle happens and Cobb can take his place or Doubs turns out to not be a rookie.

It’s ugly because the offense is fighting reality and, thus far, Jones has essentially covered over how bad it is. Teams aren’t stacking the box, but they are stacking the ten yards from scrimmage—the no 8 man box stat is just an example of a stat that blinds—teams know Jones can get outside and they know we looked to throw their too.

We have played 2 teams without a QB (sorry Bears) and one without any receivers after the complete mess of game one where we were so badly prepared it’s hard to read much of anything, again. In those games, it’s the ground game that’s given us a chance to squeak over the line, and chiefly Jones’ individual brilliance. We can’t rely on that or him to be as healthy. We have no other plan it seems but Lazard and Cobb.

We aren’t helping Watson grow, just letting him run. We are using Doubs in ways that aren’t calculated to help him contribute consistently but at the same time asking him to make something out of nothing or, more rarely, pull off low percentage plays with nothing in between. That’s just magnified with Watson and Toure is just a bench warmer.

Yes, it’s going to be ugly because it’s an offense that it’s t based upon a realistic assessment of reality and consequently lacks plan to use its assets and develop potential through the season as much as possible in the hope of being a contender by December. That’s a result of a coach lacking vision, conviction and the ability to shake how his team plays.

It’s ugly as a result. The ugliest part of it is that LaFleur got extended this off season. Thus was the big test of whether he could lead. It appears he probably can’t even conceive of the challenge he had very obviously failed to rise to.

Rodgers should still be good enough, Jones still sufficiently healthy and the D and STs adequate enough to get us past our next few opponents, but at some point we will face teams that can function on O and can stop the run. This is a Frankenstein offense and no one thought that a thing of beauty but his Ill fated creator.

2 points
2
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GP1's picture

October 06, 2022 at 05:33 pm

Best summary of the Packers I've read this year.
Rogers is old and getting older.He only gets worse
Defence is full of very good players who play as very good individuals; Come on coach.
Offence has a lot of new faces who have to learn and have to be given the ball occasionally.
We will get better but a SB run?
Be a long season

-6 points
2
8
LambeauPlain's picture

October 06, 2022 at 06:23 pm

What is encouraging is both the Packer O and D played well for long stretches. The STs, especially the kicking operations, are much improved and have bona fide ST playmakers.

That's why it is so frustrating when the O and D play poorly for long stretches.

The coaches need to shoulder most of the blame for this early season inconsistency. This can be a very good football team.

3 points
4
1
Starrbrite's picture

October 06, 2022 at 06:53 pm

Geez Ken—do you seriously believe the Giants can score 27 with a 3rd string QB?
If that happens, then we have vastly overrated our defense—-and maybe we have?

2 points
3
1
vin0770's picture

October 06, 2022 at 07:59 pm

I’d do cartwheels….The Pack scores 31

4 points
4
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ArlenWilliams's picture

October 07, 2022 at 12:32 am

Nice set of opines. Our man Aaron might do best forgetting much of what he knows during plays and instead, focusing more on looking at the entire field of receivers. Yes, it's tough, but can't he do it? Find the open man, Aaron.
Packers 27 Giants 20.

4 points
4
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croatpackfan's picture

October 07, 2022 at 03:14 am

By my opinion it will be again close game with winner scoring maximum 25 points. We do not have offense, at this moment, to score more than 25 points per game.

-1 points
2
3
PhantomII's picture

October 07, 2022 at 06:04 am

Packers have been winning ugly for years. I have gotten used to poor game plans, lack of coaching adjustment, injured players and slow starts. I have not seen more than 1 well executed sustained drive per game. I'm glad we finally have a ST coach though after decades of Managements neglect for it's relevance. Maybe in a few years after AR retires they may look at a better HC and DC. These guys are NOT close to MIKE HOLMGREN' Quality.

3 points
3
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PewAuKeeFan's picture

October 07, 2022 at 08:06 am

"They lost one of the best receivers in franchise history, a guy whose resume’ will be strong for the Pro Football Hall of Fame"

Let's wait before we put Davante Adams into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So far this year, with a great QB (Derek Carr) Adams has not been elite. With an elite QB (Rodgers) Adams was also elite. If Adams is able to repeat his elite level of play this year and a few more years with Derek Carr, then he may possibly get in.

1 points
1
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Coldworld's picture

October 07, 2022 at 08:42 am

Carr is a great QB? He’s been struggling mightily with timing and accuracy in their new system, so he’s not looked good this year, it is true. I’d not have deemed him great before this season though.

0 points
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PatrickGB's picture

October 07, 2022 at 09:44 am

The draft order is that the worst team gets to pick first. And to a large extent so is the wavier wire. Teams that won their division get the tougher matchups the next year. The league has a salary cap. The league strives for parity. “On any given Sunday” is true. The league loves close games and competitive plays. Winning is not easy.

1 points
1
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SinceLombardi's picture

October 09, 2022 at 08:07 pm

Now the last word is losing .. get used to it. The bubble has burst. We are seeing the end of another HOF QBs long career with only one Lombardi. Gutey is the culprit. Poor coaching. Pettine, Drayton, Barry.. and yes ML too. Wasn’t McCarthy Gutey.. it was you!

0 points
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