The Green Bay Packers played the best team in the NFL and played better football than them for three quarters with a backup quarterback.
Unfortunately, professional football is a four-quarter game.
The Packers faltered down the stretch and allowed the New England Patriots to pull out a 31-27 victory on their home field. With the loss, the Packers can pretty much kiss any shot of winning the NFC North goodbye.
Matt Flynn played better than anyone expected in his first career start. Flynn finished 24-of-37 for 251 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. While he played a solid game overall, Flynn occasionally showed his inexperience. In the end, he, and coach Mike McCarthy, showed ineptitude.
The Packers were able to drive the ball inside the New England 30-yard line for what could have been the go-ahead score, but with the clock running down and no time outs, the Packers dilly dallied around as the clock wound down from more than 20 seconds to nothing. If they had been prepared, the Packers may have been able to get off 3-4 plays, assuming they picked up the first down on fourth-and-1, instead of the one play they did get off.
That failure is on the coaching staff.
Although the Packers were well prepared to face the Patriots, the game is a microcosm of the season. The Packers, under McCarthy, cannot break through and get an elite win. A victory over the Patriots would have been huge. Instead, the Packers managed to do exactly what they’ve done in each of their six losses, this season — fall a few points short.
Frankly, it’s time to question if McCarthy is the guy to lead this team.
The Packers seem to do just enough to be able to lose, but not enough to take the next step and become an elite team. The Packers’ defense left several opportunities on the table, but overall, played a solid game, despite giving up 31 points.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop had a particularly solid game, with seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Nose tackle B.J. Raji also played well and finished with four tackles and two sacks.
Erik Walden, making his first NFL start in place of Frank Zombo, finished with four tackles.
The Packers’ defense was able to limit Tom Brady to 163 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, the Packers out gained the Patriots 369 to 249 yards.
Part of the reason for the yardage disparity was that the Packers finally were able to establish a running game. Brandon Jackson gained 99 yards on 22 carries. Overall, the Packers gained 143 yards on the ground.
It was the first time this season the Packers actually made a concerted effort to run the football and the results were surprisingly positive. Of course, while the offensive line decided to show up and block for the running game after basically shitting their collective beds in last week’s loss to Detroit, they didn’t bother to pass block.
While Flynn’s inexperience played some part, the Packers ended up giving up five sacks on the night to a worse-than-average Patriots defense.
Rookie right tackle Bryan Bulaga played especially poorly. Bulaga doesn’t seem to be improving as you’d expect him to and his mental errors and ineffectiveness continue to plague the Packers.
Bulaga isn’t the story, though.
Despite seemingly doing enough to win the game and establish themselves as one of the top teams in the NFC, the Packers instead managed to let a few errors turn the tide of the game, giving the 12-2 Patriots all they needed to win.