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Green Bay Packers: Year in Review

Asking a die-hard Chicago Bears fan to write an article on the Green Bay Packers, in a year which they won the Division North crown, is like asking a Hatfield to speak fondly of a McCoy.  It’s like putting Suge Knight in the same room with Diddy or trying to convince water it would mix well with oil.  When duty calls, one needs to put in the work – so Bear Witness as I try to piece together a complimentary article about the Green Bay Packers.  Just keep in mind my blood is boiling and my stomach is turning while acknowledging every accomplishment and victory the Packers achieved along the way.  . .

The Packers entered this season with some uncertainty.  Not much was put into a questionable defense in the off-season, the offensive line was suspect, they no longer had Greg Jennings who was a fan favorite in Green Bay and they drafted two running backs (James Franklin and Eddie Lacy) of whom they expected to help out the offense.  When it was all said and done though, the Packers were never truly doubted because they had Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.  Rodgers is the kind of player who can mask the flaws of his team and the Packers have never struggled to put up points with him and coach Mike McCarthy at the lead.

Green Bay opened this year at  1-2.  The two losses came to teams who had high expectations coming into this season, San Fran and Cincinnati.  To the surprise of many, Colin Kaepernick actually outgunned Rodgers in the opening week shoot-out and in the Cincinnati loss, it seemed the Packers found something in James Franklin at running back  as he carried for over 100 yards and a TD – until that is, he fumbled the ball late in the fourth which was returned for a Bengals touchdown – ultimately deciding the game.

The Packers bounced back and put away division rival, the Detroit Lions and also beat the defending champions, the Baltimore Ravens.  In those two games is when Green Bay saw the rise of their young stud running back.  No, not James Franklin, but Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, who rushed for 99 and 123 yards respectively in the two victories.

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The Packers were 5-2, on a four game winning streak and with the emergence of Lacy – the Packers were showing a more balanced offensive attack than they’ve shown in recent seasons.  Everything was going their way – until the Bears came into Lambeau.  The Bears arrived in Green Bay with a 4-3 record and with their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler out with an injury.  In the opening drive, Green Bay was pretty much doing whatever they wanted against the Bears defense until Aaron Rodgers got hit by Chicago Bear lineman Shea McClellin.  Rodgers was taken out of the came for what appeared to be a shoulder injury at the time.  The Bears went on with back up quarterback Josh McCown to top the Packers 27-20 on the Monday Night affair – but the bigger story for the Packers wasn’t about the loss of the game, but the loss of Rodgers.  What was said to be a shoulder injury turned out to be a collar bone injury and Rodgers’ return date was up in the air.

The Packers started to feel the loss of Rodgers immediately.

The Packers coaching staff showed their support and belief in back up quarterback Seneca Wallace.  Wallace looked shaky when stepping in for Rodgers against the Bears and the following week was injured against the Eagles, which led to the Packers going to relatively unknown, Scott Tolzien, an undrafted rookie from Wisconsin, to go under center for the Packers.  Tolzien did throw for 339 yards in a loss to the New York Giants, but also threw 3 interceptions in the game.

November 24th ended up being the most important game of the season for the Packers, with Scott Tolzien’s responsibilities being very limited, the Packers played a very simplistic offensive game against the one dimensional Minnesota Vikings.  It was unwatchable football for the most part, but in the end the Packers didn’t lose. . .  they also didn’t win.  The game ended in a 26-26 tie which ended up being more like a win for the Packers when it was all said and done. . . stay tuned.

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The Packers had re-signed long time back up to Aaron Rodgers – Matt Flynn and assigned him the job to lead this team on the field at quarterback.  Since his departure at Green Bay, Flynn was in Seattle where he lost his job to a rookie  and was in Oakland, where the team had two inexperienced quarterbacks  they valued more than Flynn.  Flynn needed this homecoming more than anything else.  What he didn’t need was the 40-10 beat-down the Detroit Lions welcomed him back with.

Green Bay’s offense was struggling and their defensive inadequacies were being exposed by teams talented enough to test their secondary and run off the corners.  The fact that their best defensive player, Clay Matthews was hampered by a thumb injury for most of the season didn’t help matters either.

The Packers were able to escape by the skin of their teeth with back to back one point victories over Atlanta and Dallas.  They were able to re-establish some kind of balance to their offense with the veteran Flynn, not trying to do to much and letting Lacy continue to go on a tear in his rookie campaign.  Some thought losing to Pittsburgh in week 16 was the final blow to this team that was struggling to stay alive in their division – but the tie, kept their hopes alive for a week 17 do or die showdown in Chicago.

If the drama of having the NFL’s oldest rivalry play in a game determining the winner of the division wasn’t enough – Aaron Rodgers was finally cleared to play and he had his sights set on the Bears, the team that sidelined him in week 9.  The two rivals played a game that will be remembered as one of the best they’ve had in their history but it ultimately ended with a Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass to a (for some reason) wide open Randall Cobb late in the fourth quarter, which sealed the game and the division for the Packers.

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The Packers finished the regular season 8-7-1  (that’s as in ONE for a TIE. . .ugh) and played the 49ers in the first round of the playoffs. For the Packers, their season ended as it had began – a close loss to San Francisco.  The Niners delivered the most brutal of book ends for a season.

Packers fans should come away with something this season that not many people spoke of during the year.  Mike McCarthy was able to coach a team that lost, not only it’s starting quarterback but also the offenses best player and for much of the season was without his defensive MVP.  He used a total of four quarterbacks, numerous offensive schemes and was not able to “mask” a lot of the weaknesses his team was able to overcome previously.  He coached up an offensive rookie of the year in Eddie Lacy and McCarthy’s name was not mentioned once in coach of the year talk.  If the Packers front office gets it together, gets a better offensive line and a competent defense, maybe McCarthy wouldn’t have to work so hard to not be appreciated.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio


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