Packers' first loss must be put in proper perspective

Posted Dec. 19, 2011 @ 6:11 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

It turns out Mike McCarthy definitely wasn't pulling a fast one when he seriously suggested a little less than a week ago that the Chiefs could be more motivated to make life miserable for the Packers with Romeo Crennel replacing Todd Haley as the head coach. With brilliantly constructed game plans on both sides of the ball, Crennel made a strong case for remaining the Chiefs' head coach for a long time to come, as Kansas City made the Packers look very ordinary in a 19-14 victory Sunday that shattered Green Bay's quest for a history-making 19-0 season.

While the Chiefs deserve major credit for quite simply rising to the occasion behind a safe-but-sure performance by QB Kyle Orton, who was burnt to a crisp by the Packers (three intereceptions) earlier this season when he was battling Tim Tebow for playing time in Denver, the Packers looked out of sorts from the get-go, pretty much to a man.

Aaron Rodgers, who all of the sudden has completed only 52.3 percent of his passes in the past two games, completed only 6-of-17 passes for 59 yards in a shockingly listless first-half performance. His receivers didn't help matters with a slew of dropped passes, particularly TE Jermichael Finley, who had a few big gains but treated the pigskin like a greased pig for the most part with at least four drops.

In addition, injuries are starting to take more of a toll on the Packers at just the wrong time. Already missing No. 1 WR Greg Jennings, who is expected to be sidelined until the postseason with a knee injury, the Packers' offensive line was dealt a costly blow when starting ORT Bryan Bulaga was forced to the sideline with an injured knee on the third play of the second half, and his backup, first-round rookie Derek Sherrod, suffered a season-ending broken leg in the fourth quarter.

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Could the war of attrition that is the NFL put the previously perfect Packers on the road to perdition?

Hell no.

Not unless, God forbid, the injury bug zeroes in on Rodgers, who suddenly has Drew Brees breathing down his neck for league MVP honors with two weeks left in the regular season.

But the injuries to Jennings, Bulaga and Sherrod are definitely cause for concern, especially the latter two, which could put Rodgers more in harm's way.

While it's unlikely that even Walter Jones and Tony Boselli in their prime could have stopped Chiefs DE Tamba Hali on Sunday, Green Bay's offensive line looked greatly overmatched, especially late in the game after Sherrod went down, and Rodgers actually looked desperate and quite uncomfortable for perhaps the first time this season.

The Packers must hope that Bulaga can make a quick recovery. In addition, a little Ted Thompson magic could come in handy right about now, as the need for another big-bodied lineman looms large with Sherrod now out of the mix, and veteran OLT Chad Clifton's return from a significant hamstring injury that has sidelined him the last nine games continuing to look iffy.

The subpar performance of Green Bay's receiving corps on Sunday made Jennings' absence look like a potentially crippling blow. More likely, though, it was a case of the Packers' passing offense looking merely human for the first time this season — reason enough, it says here, for at least one mulligan. But another collectively bad day at the office by the Packers' pass catchers on Christmas night against the wounded Bears would be another thing altogether, although Jennings' anticipated return to full strength for the postseason should keep complete panic from settling in.

Less than 24 hours after taking their first bullet this season, it's important to put the Packers' first loss in its proper perspective. It's quite possible, after all, that, by the end of the night the Packers will have clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs should the Steelers take down the Niners in San Francisco. Even if the Niners win, Green Bay is still sitting pretty as far as playoff positioning is concerned.

The last time they lost a game before yesterday — Week 15 last season against the Patriots — the Packers responded with one of the all-time fantastic finishes in league history, running off one victory after another before picking up where they left off this season with 14 weeks of dazzling football magic.

A complete disappearing act hardly seems likely now, especially since Green Bay's next game is against the reeling Bears.

Now there's a team that has been forced to contend with really bad news.