The Packers lost their 3rd consecutive game Sunday against Atlanta. The Packers are now below .500 for the first time since 2006. What started out as a promising shot at a Super Bowl title might soon start to slip out of reach. The most immediate question facing the Packers after their lost to the Falcons is this: Is Atlanta a good team? Or are the Packers a bad one?
Green Bay certainly didn’t look bad against Detroit (but then again, who does look bad against Detroit) or Minnesota. But the Falcons certainly didn’t look good getting handily beaten by the resurgent Carolina Panthers. Today, the Packers didn’t have any glaring weaknesses statistically. Aaron Rodgers threw for over 300 yards and 3 TDs while playing with an obviously painful shoulder injury. Ryan Grant did a much better job of hitting the whole today, racking up 80 yards on the ground. And Donald Driver made some great catches, including nabbing two Rodgers TD strikes. The defense played a decent game despite injury problems. So why did the Packers lose? Really, there’s only one reason–and it’s the reason that the Packers have struggled to win games all year–penalties. Holding penalties, facemask penalties, late hit penalties, more holding penalties, penalties, penalties, penalties. In fact, penalties took 3 crucial points off the board for Green Bay, when Mason Crosby easily made a 43-yard field goal, but a holding penalty nullified it. Crosby then badly missed an attempt from 10 yards further back.
That wasn’t the only special teams miscue Sunday. Newly signed punter Derrick Frost had another awful day. The past two games have been huge disappointments for Frost, who had an impressive start to the season, with long punts of 50, 52, and 65 yards in each of his first 3 games. In the past 2 games, Frost has been lucky to average 40 yards per punt. If I were to guess, I’d say that Frost has a confidence problem. Every time he punts he’s worried that he’ll mess up. And if there’s one way to ensure that you’ll mess something up, it’s to constantly worry that you’re going to mess something up. If he doesn’t turn his game around soon, have no doubt that he will be out of a job by November. There’s plenty of free agent punters in the league just waiting for a call.
It remains to be seen if the Packers will turn their season around. They’ve got another should-be-easy matchup against Seattle next week. But this could be a trap game. The Seahawks should have been a very good team this year–and don’t be surprised if they are feeling the same sense of urgency Packer Backers are feeling and fight fiercely in their clash with Green Bay. What the Pack really needs to do is get to the bye week without anymore injuries and with a record over .500. To do that, they’ll need to beat the Seahawks as well as the inconsistent Colts. Beating Seattle and Indy won’t be easy (at least the Colts game is at home), but after those games the Packers will get some well-deserve rest. Hopefully Al Harris will return after the bye, Charles Woodson’s broken toe will have some time to heal, and the rest of the Packers will be healthy and rejuvenated when they travel to Tennessee to take on the tough defense of the Titans.