Four Downs: Green Bay at the Bye
Four Downs goes into the bye week with some thoughts on Week 3, dumb, out of control high-scoring games and the 1-2 Packers going forward in 2013. Let us know what you think about the rest of the season, the loss in Cincinnati or anything else in the comments or on our Facebook page.
1. After the Packers and Bengals circled in a whirlpool of disarray for four quarters, the game probably resembling a drunken seagull in flight if we could ever have the pleasure of seeing such majesty in nature, heads spun afterwards to offer takes in sports’ version of Who Wore It Best? – which, by the way, usually comes after a loss. And the outfit in question is blame.
Everyone got an update on Aaron Rodgers’ lackluster record in close games. That stat then split off into other not-flattering sub-stats, all showing essentially the same thing. We don’t think you need a recap of those here.
(Though our stance on the whole thing is this: Yes, there have been times when Rodgers and the offense haven’t put a game away or outright won it. Many times in the Rodgers era, it’s come down to the defense for better or worse, and there are many examples to support each of those outcomes. Finally, though, this is a great big collection of players all affecting their share of moments in a game and while, absolutely, it’d be nice to see Rodgers’ record improve in games that go down to the wire – we refuse to acknowledge the weightless, Skip Bayless-ian alternate phrasing of “Clutch” here – there is always a broader landscape to consider before trampling into a specific neighborhood and demanding one cul-de-sac fixes an entire city.)
2. The loss in Cincinnati was more frustrating because of the chances that came before the final drive. The defense served up opportunities on a platter and the offense, surprisingly, like a teenager deciding to go vegan on the day of the family pig roast, turned up their nose to offerings of short-field touchdowns. Mistakes are tracked harder when tracing the lineage of a defeat (in wins, they are adversity overcome), but those golden opportunities can’t be flubbed on multiple occasions.
Mike McCarthy had to defend his decision to try converting on 4th-and-1 from the Bengals 30-yard line late. This time, through a series of wonky events, that choice led to Cincinnati’s game-winning score. But the decision still rings right to us. Whereas choices can be debated, the consequences of real actions can’t.
Jeremy Ross was released after another costly fumble on a mundane special teams play. A 16-point lead was squandered. Rodgers’ interceptions – be it James Jones running the wrong route or simply an ill-advised throw – were unfortunately timed, especially the second one. In a cluster-mess of a game, best laid plans and fortunate breaks mean less when these mistakes all add up.
Amidst the bad there were still positives. Johnathan Franklin finally got a chance to contribute, giving the offense a unique spark out of the backfield that one would think almost has to warrant him more consideration in the coming weeks, even with the probable return of Eddie Lacy. Franklin has a burst I can’t remember seeing out of a recent Packers’ running back.
Back to Lacy for a moment: that late 4th-and-1 is exactly a situation one imagines him being perfectly suited to smash through.
More good things: there was another ridiculous sideline catch from Jordy Nelson, who, with his body control, could probably get his feet down on a Post-it note. There was also this signature play from Clay Matthews, where he basically leaps like Mufasa would’ve taught it out of high African grassland, forcing a fumble that would get returned for a defensive touchdown.
This play is unbelievable. Matthews makes the turn around the offensive line. Then, rather than taking at least one or two more closing steps towards BenJarvus Green-Ellis – who is running in the opposite direction but makes the unfortunate choice of pausing in the backfield – Matthews literally just pounces from outside the left hash mark. Jarring the ball loose was icing on an incredible, visually stunning, effort. He’s good.
3. Do all high-scoring games have the inherent chance to be crazy, or do the occasions when a game was seemingly raised by a pack of feral cats occur because they feature more points? There is no sane answer to this question, but we ask because recent history shows the Packers have been involved in some heart-rate-unfriendly outcomes.
Bear in mind, this is very specific criteria. But according to Pro Football Reference, since 2008, when Rodgers took over at quarterback, the Packers have played in 10 games (regular season and playoffs combined) where both teams have scored 28 or more points and the final margin was within eight – one score – or less. In those contests, Green Bay is 4-6 after Weeks 1 and 3 of this season.
If there’s a point here – other than sports just get weird sometimes – we guess it’s that a lot of points mean many scoring plays which would suggest highly explosive elements in a game. Those elements can sometimes blow a hole open for chaos to creep onto the field and do its thing. When chaos gets involved, like it did Sunday, anything becomes possible.
Or, lose control when you decidedly have it and be prepared to deal with the potential fallout. Both the Packers and Bengals experienced this Sunday. Cincinnati’s breakdown came early enough to recover from; Green Bay picked a worse time.
4. Turns out the bye week comes at a fantastic spot on the schedule. The Packers need Jermichael Finley back and healthy after that scary hit, threatening defenses again over the middle of the field. They need hamstrings not to be such a topic of conversation, need to hope Lacy is recovered and for more of that shifty-quick stuff, Johnathan Franklin. They (still) need more from the overall defensive front in terms of helping Matthews terrorize quarterbacks, need more consistency from an at-times jittery offense.
They don’t need to care more, or be more passionate; they just need a different end result to make the framework around a sideline argument change.
As they were last season, Green Bay is 1-2 after three games. Three games one could describe as fluky, wild, challenging, promising – but at least they’re all real outcomes. (Unlike last year.) The Packers are here and it doesn’t feel great right now but it’s hard to say it feels wrong either, given their uneven play. Thankfully, we can also just as assuredly say there’s plenty of time to turn things around again.