When it all came apart

When it all came apart

First, there were the two losses to the hated division rival and the former face of the franchise, Brett Lorenzo Favre. Then, there was the demoralizing loss to the only winless team in the league, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Most recently, there was the “come-to-Jesus” offensive meeting during which several players “really had it out” with one another.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2009 Green Bay Packers.

In the wake of their embarrassing loss to the Bucs on Sunday, it is abundantly clear the Packers are in deep trouble. They sit at .500 with one of the easiest schedules in the league, with three of their four wins coming at the expense of teams that are a combined 3-21. Now that the Chicago Bears are, as Denny Green would say, who we thought they were, the Packers do not have a single quality win on their schedule. This team has the same glaring holes week in and week out, leading many to question whether it has the wherewithal to beat anyone down the stretch. With three of their next four against the Cowboys, 49ers, and Ravens, the Packers could begin December at 5-7, all but out of the playoff chase.

Just where did it all go wrong?

Close your eyes, if you will, and remember back to week two. It was a balmy 68 degrees on the not-so-frozen tundra, as the Packers prepared to host the visiting Cincinnati Bengals. The two teams had gotten off to very different starts – the Packers had dispatched Jay Cutler’s new-look Bears team, while the Bengals had watched Brandon Stokley’s last-second tip-drill catch sink their hopes of beating the Broncos at home. The franchises had also come into the game with very different expectations – the Packers were riding the wave of their dominant preseason, while the Bengals were being compared to the team that began last year 0-8.

We all know how that one ended.

Ever since Antwan Odom went off the Packers for four sacks and Chad Ochocinco faux-Lambeau leaped, the two squads have gone in completely different directions. Despite having similar strengths at quarterback, wide receiver, and in the secondary, the teams’ respective performances show the difference between quality and mediocrity. A quality team protects its franchise quarterback – in the six games since week two, the Bengals have given up seven sacks while the Packers have allowed 27. A quality team knows the importance of division games – the Bengals recently completed a season sweep of the Ravens, while the Packers dropped two to the Vikings. A quality team avoids bad losses – The Bengals’ worst loss is to the 5-4 Texans, while the Packers’ banner meltdown came against a Bucs team that had lost 11 straight, dating back to last season.

Following the fates of these two teams, one can’t help but wonder if things could have been different. Imagine if the Packers had parlayed their late onside kick into a game-tying touchdown, then beaten the Bengals in overtime. Rather than falling to 1-1, the Packers would’ve needed only to beat the Rams to set up a showdown of undefeateds with the Vikings in week four. Perhaps Green Bay has more confidence going into the most watched game in history and sneaks out of the Metrodome with a win. The Bengals, on the other hand, would have found a way to lose two heartbreakers in a row heading into a crucial matchup with the Steelers. Believing they were snakebitten, the players may have quit on that game early, dropping the Bengals to 0-3 and perhaps 0-4, if their ill fortune continued against the lowly Browns. In the blink of an eye, the much-ballyhooed Packers and their abysmal schedule could have sat atop their division while the Bengals once again wallowed in their own incompetence.

Instead, the two teams wrote a different story. And as Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson may soon find out, in this league, there’s no room for woulda, coulda, shoulda.

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