The win at Soldier Field on Sunday can be read either way: as a half-empty or half-full glass.
Let’s get the reasons for pessimism out of the way first.
This was a game I had to watch at a sports bar – and our Packers regulars had an enjoyable day of it. However, I recall saying, late in the third quarter, “I feel like I’m watching the 49ers play the Browns.” The quality of football by both combatants was befitting of teams on their way to six- or seven-win years.
Green Bay gave us plenty of examples of the bonehead plays we have to watch week after week.
Big Mike came up with something new: using Randall Cobb as a wildcat running back. Four carries netted eight yards. On three of the four, Brett Hundley moved away from over the center, leaving Randall to take the direct snap. Given the shift, there was no element of surprise, and it left the Packers essentially playing 10 versus 11. It also left Cobb with only a run option and with no backfield blockers. To me, this example of faux creativity has no upside – and it’s not a role well-suited to Cobb. But who knows, maybe he’ll launch a pass to Hundley next week.
Another example: with 2:12 left in the game, the Packers faced a 3rd-and-5 at their own 40. With the success the team was having on third downs (7 of 16 for the game), there seemed to be a decent chance of getting those five yards – which would have all but assured a win. Green Bay also had the benefit of a timeout by the Bears, giving ample time to choose and execute a good play. What happens? Delay of game. Did no one on the Packers sideline see the clock clicking down? Good teams don’t do this.
Then with barely a minute left, the Packers messed up another chip-shot field goal – the fault this time being on holder Justin Vogel.
Regardless of their good plays and players, Green Bay’s lack of good fundamentals and propensity for mental errors worsens every year – making it more of a chore each season to sneak into the playoffs.
Reasons for Optimism
Brett Hundley had his best game as a pro – and he still left plenty of room for improvement.
Both Ty Montgomery and Jamaal Williams had solid running games. They are saying Aaron Jones’ knee injury will sideline him three to six weeks.
Though the coverage by the defensive backs continues to be way too loose, Nick Perry saved the day with his constant pressure and three sacks of Mitchell Trubisky.
Davante Adams has assumed the role of being Green Bay’s go-to receiver. He seems to make a couple of beautiful plays every game. This of course comes with a downside: Jordy Nelson and Hundley have yet to establish any chemistry.
Finally, the draft class of 2017 is coming along. The progress might be slower than we had hoped, but the long-term prognosis for this group is positive – more on this in my next post.
Based on the quality of the opponent, Sunday’s win doesn’t cause me to believe the Packers will win more than two more games the remainder of the year.
But this was a watchable and entertaining game, and Green Bay gave its fans several plays to cheer about.
I believe the pressure is off the team for the rest of the year, and this offers some benefits. Everyone can play a little more relaxed. Younger players will have more chances to play and develop. Mike McCarthy can do more experimenting with his play calling – if he only has the willingness to take the opportunity.
It’s AFC North time for three of the next four weeks for the Packers. Green Bay is back home next versus the 4-5 Ravens – another opponent coming off a bye week. After that, it’s a trip to Pittsburgh (7-2), and then the Bucs (3-6) and the Browns (0-9). Maybe we’ll get to watch three competitive games?