Duane Burleson/AP
Duane Burleson/AP

A Horrible Holiday

The Packers were blown out in Detroit on Thanksgiving, Green Bay's fifth straight game without a win. And while it'd be easy to blame everything on the absence of Aaron Rodgers, it's actually the other side of the ball that is embarrassing itself

By
Greg A. Bedard
· More from Greg·

When Mike McCarthy and his family sit down to have their day-after Thanksgiving meal, as is the custom for those whose teams get called to play in the holiday games, it’s going to be very difficult for the Packers head coach to fathom an appetite.

What he saw from his team in Thursday’s 40-10 debacle against the Lions made him sick. It will have him rethinking everything he’s done in building the Packers from also-rans in his first season of 2006 into Super Bowl champions and perennial contenders.

The absence of star quarterback Aaron Rodgers does not excuse the pathetic display the Packers put out on Ford Field. The Packers were the sacrificial turkeys on Thanksgiving, taken to the slaughterhouse without much of a fight.

Let’s put aside the offense, which gained less than two yards on seven of its possessions and totaled 126 yards for the game. Without Rodgers and injured targets Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley, that unit is average at best. The effort was there; the talent was not.

It was the defense that was the real embarrassment. It was the unit that had all 11 starters on the field.

The Packers defense being unable to stop anybody is not some new revelation to anyone who’s been paying attention. In Week 9, after Rodgers went down, the Packers trailed by seven points in the fourth quarter. The Bears held the ball for 8:58— all but the final 50 seconds—to win 27-20 at Lambeau Field. The next week, in the same place, the Eagles held the ball for the final 9:32 to secure a 27-13 victory.

That is what’s called gut-check time. It’s the period when a defense shows what it’s made of. Offensive teammates are counting on the defense to get one stop to give them a chance to get back into the game.

The Packers were gutless and weak. Their fearless leader goes down, and the Packers defense didn’t even mount a stand for the greater good.

Back to Thursday. Everyone knew the Packers had their work cut out for them with Rodgers at least another week from playing. It was going to take a Herculean effort by the defense to keep the Lions at bay in a crucial game to the Packers’ playoff hopes. But championship teams find a way. The offense needed help with takeaways and short fields, and it was up to the defense has to find a way. Play the perfect game, or at least close to it. Give your team a chance. The Packers certainly had enough money, draft picks and talent to do it with B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal, A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. Those guys have a lot of wins between them.

The Packers are 0-3-1 without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)
The Packers are 0-3-1 without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. (Leon Halip/Getty Images)

The Packers defense delivered just the opposite. They showed themselves to be pretenders. They all talk a good game, but that’s it. They’ve all been living off the 2010 Super Bowl title and 13-0 start to the ’11 season for far too long.

Their teammates needed them, and the Packers defense didn’t even bother to show up.

Oh, there will be loads of talk in Wisconsin in the coming days—as there has been for weeks—about defensive coordinator Dom Capers and his scheme (and there is something to be said for the waning success of the zone blitz with the rise in quarterback play across the league). But this decidedly was not about Capers nor his scheme.

“Scheme is not a crutch,” McCarthy told the media after the game. “When you’re in run defense, you play with leverage. You’ve got a gap, you need to get off the damn block and tackle the ball-carrier. So you can cut it any way you want, but we’re not doing that right now. We haven’t done that in a month.”

McCarthy can be stubborn and loyal to a fault at times, but he was absolutely speaking the truth there.

The Packers were pathetic against the run, which was the part of the game that doomed the Packers. The Lions had 43 carries for 241 yards (5.6 average) and ran the ball into the end zone twice. Gap control was nonexistent. There was no getting off blocks. The tackling was terrible.

I know Capers and his assistants—top-of-the-line teachers like Winston Moss, Mike Trgovac, Darren Perry and Joe Whitt Jr.—have taught that defense better than that. But their troops have abandoned them. There is little cohesion in that unit. Instead of playing as one, the Packers look like an 11-cabs-for-11-guys defense: everybody is worried about themselves, trying to make a play while leaving their teammates out to dry. There’s no Do your job mentality in that group. Instead, it’s I’ll do me, and you do you.

Maybe Thursday’s embarrassment will shock the Packers’ defense back into better performances, but it’s probably too late for this season. Green Bay is 5-6-1 and on the outside of a packed NFC playoff race.

McCarthy has to digest whether those defensive players have the heart to become a future champion. He thought they did, but it’s now obvious to everyone that’s not the case. 

GET YOUR POPCORN READY

The one-on-one battle to watch closely in Week 13:

Rams RDE Robert Quinn vs. 49ers LT Joe Staley

Quinn is coming off the best pass-rushing week that any player has had this season, and he did it against a decent left tackle in Jermon Bushrod of the Bears. Staley was The MMQB’s midseason All Pro left tackle because of his all-around play as a pass and run blocker. He’s superb and has given up two sacks all season. Quinn is second in the league with 13 sacks (three in past two games), and is the second-best edge rusher per snap to the Ravens’ Elvis Dumervil. These two have already faced off once this season, and while Quinn had a sack, it wasn’t against Staley, who dominated the matchup. One big advantage Staley has against Quinn: this game is not on the fast turf in St. Louis. Just five of Quinn’s sacks have come on the road.

  • Last week’s verdict: Steelers WR Antonio Brown defeated Browns CB Joe Haden. Haden had shutdown all comers entering the divisional showdown, but Brown got the better of this matchup with five caches for 80 yards and a touchdown against Haden in nine targets.
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20 comments
DrewCote
DrewCote

I am an avid reader of MMQB, and was expecting to log onto this site and read an article that described the team that destroyed a division rival in a dominating performance on both sides of the ball.

What a disappointment.

I understand that your main function at MMQB is to editorialize, but this morning's article, which was written from the perspective of a heartbroken Packers fan who was personally offended by the performance of a talent-depleted team that talks bigger than they play, is just as embarrassing.

Your piece failed to even make passing mention of anything the Lions did to make Green Bay look so inept: a 30 point blowout, over 550 yards of total offense, allowing less than 130 yards of total offense and no offensive touchdowns, 7 sacks, and allowing only 7 first downs.

The Lions are the superior team in the North, for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they have the best divisional record, and every tie-breaking advantage. The time has come for you and the rest of the MMQB staff writers to afford the Green Bay Packers the same time and attention that you give other losing teams who have lost any hope of making the playoffs: none.

Perhaps if you begin writing about NFL teams that are relevant, your website will hold onto some of its own relevance.

strawwalker
strawwalker

They were double teaming Raji for most of the game, and every time the camera was on the Pack side, C. Matthews was on the bench. Were the Pack just worried about the pass, and were in Nickel, because the Lions made most of running the ball.

MatthiasGiese
MatthiasGiese

Still, they played against the dirtiest team in Football. My wife and son watched the game (he plays OLB in one of our teams in Germany) and they both said that what they saw disgusted them. We are not invested in the Pack, we´re mostly Ravens and Saints, so no issue. But I am fairly sure that someone like Suh is borderline psychotic and that even the NFL has to draw a line somewhere if they want to differentiate their sport from MMA.

BY
BY

I've been a Packer fan my whole life. Their D was sh*t, no doubt. What evidence or examples do you have to back up the "11 cabs etc" statement?

remosu37
remosu37

This is a pretty lazy article.  I was rooting for the Lions, and I'm no Packers fan, but anyone with eyes could see the Packers defense was bad.  This one basically says the Packers defense sucked (obviously) throws in a few quotes, rounds it out with cliches, and calls it a day.  Where's the anaylsis?  What about the Packers' defense was lacking that caused so many breakdowns.  Was it the pass rush?  Was it the coverage?  Was it the communication?  I expect better from MMQB.

KeysSteven
KeysSteven

Maybe so, Greg (“other side”), but we’ve know this for quite a long time now about GB‘ defense, ever since Reggie & LeRoy split Brown County, then the smoke & mirrors (GB not alone), banking on the big play (Woodson (INTs) / The Hair (sacks)). Later Favre & Rodgers could always cover, and Aaron will again, once he’s fit.

What do we expect from an Executive Board that pay-cuts it’s best tackler (Hawk)?

wlewisiii
wlewisiii

Actually it's the absence of a competent coach and gm. But they'll scapegoat the DC, again, for their own failures. 

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

Always a delight when the Packers choke and get whupped.  It brings them and their elitist fans the humility they so badly lack.  


Loved it!  And like we all knew, all along, the Packers are and have been over-rated for a LONG time.  Without their QB, they're NOTHING.  Nada.  Zip.   LOL

CarlDeLuca
CarlDeLuca

@DrewCote The Packers have a tie. Tie breakers do not matter.  Don't pretend like the Lions are a great team too. They are only on top because Rodgers went down. 

Ericfollowedbyanumber
Ericfollowedbyanumber

@MatthiasGiese You root for one team that had its coach suspended and DC fired after putting bounties on players. You root for another team whose defense was anchored by The Stabber for the last decade or so. And you're disgusted by the Lions? OK.

CarlDeLuca
CarlDeLuca

@wlewisiii Yeah, because I remember lots of incompetent GMs and coaches winning Super Bowls...

megalodale
megalodale

A team that loses 40-10 and is out gained by a zillion to one and outplayed in every phase isn't a team that "choked".  If that is the best you have, well...all the others here are correct.  You're just some disillusioned Vikings fan who has no other straws to grab.  It's quite amusing, actually.

titletown_USA
titletown_USA

@RomarioDelLago YAWWWN. It's only the teams other fans envy that get pathetic posts like this: "HA HA! Your team sucks and is made up of up and down players just like everyone else! LOL!!! " All teams have rises and falls, and teams fans are only "elitist" if their teams are often elite. Luckily for Packer fans those rises result in either legitimate threats at or the bringing home of a Lombardi trophy. The falls real fans understand and abide. awaiting the rises again.

 Other teams, no doubt liek the ones these commenter are "fans" of, are reduced to rooting for the other teams to lose as opposed to theirs to win.  I smell some frustrated Vikings fans here... it's the pinnacle of their football seasons to see the the Packers fail because they have little else to cheer for. Boo hoo.

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

Of course in a few minutes some aggrieved, frustrated, and delusional Packer fanboy will come in here and whine about how "well at least we've won Super Bowls."  It's the only thing they can retort with and it's the equivalent of the hobo in the alley pulling their ratty, dirty newspaper over themselves like a blanket for comfort.  LOL

raphael222222
raphael222222

@CarlDeLuca @DrewCote 

Packers won 5 games and played 12.

Don't pretend the packers are a good team.

Lions are a great team.  They have every single judgement ref's call go against them and still have won 7 games.  2 more than your bad packers team.

Chalo16
Chalo16

@Ericfollowedbyanumber @MatthiasGieseThank you Eric, I couldn't have said it better. Mattias, get over it, it's football not ballet. If American Football is so dirty, stick to the other football and quit whining.

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

Crap, I was going to shoot another zinger your way (it's always fun hassling Packer fans) BUT then I saw your most excellent screen-name from one of my all-time favorite KOTH episodes and decided that you may have some redeeming attributes other than your poor taste in NFL teams.  :P

wlewisiii
wlewisiii

@RomarioDelLago Yawn. We know what the problem is. Same as it's been since McCarty came to town. So go back to who? The Vikings? Jags? Or whoever you're overcompensating for and leave the game to the adults. 

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