Well, here we are.
The end of January, and subsequently the end of another Packers season. An unconventional season in some ways, yet it can only be described as a typical Packers season–full of surprises. Before we reflect on the events of the season, we have to put a stop to a rumor that has been circulating–this season was a complete failure.
Wrong. The season was absolutely NOT a failure.
A disappointing ending, yes, but if reaching the final four is considered a failure, you must be a pretty darn good team. Of course, Super Bowls are the goal every year, especially with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, but Atlanta was the far superior team on Sunday, and should represent the NFC proudly in the Super Bowl. But we won’t discuss the Falcons; rather, we take a look back at this wild Packers season.
Before the Packers offense took the field against the Jaguars in week one, the last meaningful play they had run was in Glendale, Arizona, the greatest throw ever made. Though the end result was a loss, this was supposed to catapult the offense back into form. Over the offseason, Jordy’s ACL would be fixed, Cobb’s lungs would be repaired, Eddie Lacy would be in shape, and this team would be ready to roll come the 2016 season.
Only they were not “ready to roll”. They came out sluggish against a Jaguars team that was supposed to be a solid team (they finished a whopping 3-13). After another dismal offensive showing against the Vikings week two, Rodgers came out firing on all cylinders against the Lions in the first half. Voices began to stir again – this offense was back. But all of that was a big slap in the face when they came out of the locker room and scored all of three points in the second half. Rodgers didn’t even put up a SINGLE 300 yard game until week seven against the Bears.
Yet after a victory over Chicago, they stood at 4-2. Why? The defense was healthy, and though they weren’t perfect, they were able to come up with opportune plays needed to win games. But the key word in that last sentence is healthy. The concussion suffered by Sam Shields early in the year was the difference maker. With Shields, Burnett, and Clinton-Dix all in the lineup at the same time, the defense looked good. But with Shields down and out, Burnett in and out of the lineup, the Packers turned to Ladarius Gunter and Quinten Rollins, who, along with Damarious Randall, just weren’t ready for the big time. Once we hit week eight against Atlanta, just about everything began to unravel.
Since the time of the Great Vincent Lombardi days, minus a few good years here and there (see Super Bowl winning years) “defense” hasn’t been a term thrown around the Packers organization. And why would it, when you have a 25-year run with two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game? But Rodgers and Favre cannot play defense. You have to have eleven players on the other side of the ball, and at times this season, it seemed like the Green Bay Packers were playing with ten men on defense. In the week eight matchup with Atlanta, the offense began to click. Even through the four game losing streak, points were being scored. But far more points were being scored against. Stephen A. Smith had this to say in regards to the Packers secondary performance against the Redskins: “My brothers…ya’ll should be so ashamed of yourselves…it was bad, I mean THEY WERE HORRIBLE.” Yes, we surely can’t expect to be a shutdown defense with backups in, but we as fans expect NFL players to perform, backups or not. At 4-6, the season was surely in the bag. On the bright side, we’d get a good draft pick, draft a corner, get ready for next season.
Ah, but alas, the fortune-teller had resurfaced in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Sensai Rodgers was back to his old prophetic ways when he predicted that he felt that this team could run the table. And when Rodgers talks, this team seems to listen. The media laughed at him, fans questioned him. Beating the Eagles and Texans didn’t turn many heads–those were supposed to be easy W’s. But the thrashing of the Seahawks put the world on notice–this team could actually make the playoffs. Detroit was losing, and Green Bay was winning. And sweeping the division at the end of the season was enough for the Packers to not only make the playoffs, but to host a playoff game. It’s quite amazing that one more loss in the regular season would’ve kept the Packers out of the postseason, kept Rodgers from adding to his Hail Mary total, and kept the nation from witnessing one the greatest playoff games of all time in Arlington, Texas.
Unfortunately, the Packers, an unstoppable force, ran into an even more unstoppable force in Atlanta. They got beat – bad. Not a single thing went right in that game. But so it goes in sports–teams lose. 31 of them. People place so much emphasis on the fact that Rodgers only has one Super Bowl, and to that I counter with the fact that that’s more Super Bowls than 13 NFL franchises have. Packerland has been blessed with eight playoff appearances in a row. We have to learn to enjoy the runs while they last. This team went from 4-6 to NFC championship, and if that’s not something to celebrate, then I couldn’t tell you what is.