Just Another Yawner at Lambeau.Posted:Oct 16th, 2018 2:59 pm
This game had just about everything: redemption for Mason Crosby, late game artistry from Aaron Rodgers and atrocious defense (until the final three drives). Much like the opener, I sat at my seat at Lambeau with the Pack trailing in the fourth quarter, thinking about what a terrible loss this would be.
A loss to the 49ers at home, against a backup QB, would have made for quite an interesting bye week in Titletown. There would have been finger pointing, some calling for Mike McCarthy's head, others declaring the season over well before it was time to go trick or treating.
But Rodgers treated us to yet another vintage fourth quarter performance, with assists from Davante Adams, Jimmy Graham and a beautiful back shoulder catch by EQ. We'll hand out one more assist to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, whose unit failed to protect the sidelines in that final drive, allowing the Pack to coast down the field for the final 1:07 with relative ease, despite their lack of timeouts.
The comeback will not erase what we watched for most of the night though. The defense was putrid against the run (the 49ers came in as the #4 rushing offense, but that should have been the unit's #1 focus), and couldn't stick with former track star Marquise Goodwin, who's missed most of the season dealing with injuries. But they stiffened when they needed to, allowing just three yards in the Niners' final three drives. When they took over near midfield in the closing seconds, I figured it was game, set, match. But McVay took a shot deep and Beathard turned into a backup QB again and Kevin King made him pay, setting up Rodgers' magic.
I found myself thinking that Todd Gurley and Jared Goff may score 100 points when the Packers come to visit in a couple of weeks. So let's look at the big picture here. The defense, other then a shutout of the Bills, has been uneven and slow to get comfortable with Mike Pettine's system. Maybe the bye week will help them get healthy, self-evaluate and be more prepared for the final ten games. Special teams has also been well below average, with ten penalties already and coming off a terrible night in kickoff coverage. Only Crosby's bounce back evening saved that unit from a failing grade on Monday night.
The offense figures to improve with the likely return of Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb after the bye. With three receivers eclipsing 100 yards (first time that's happened for the Pack since '80), the passing game is coming around. McCarthy appeared to be more willing to give Aaron Jones a lead role in the ground game Monday night, but he finished with just eight carries for 41 yards. His usage figures to increase, provided that the Pack doesn't fall way behind in the next couple of stiff road tests.
Which brings us to the schedule. At 3-2-1, the Pack is right in the mix in the North, but they've already played half of their home games and have looked miserable on the road. Now comes four road tests in the next five games, against opponents who sport a 16-7-1 record. Even the one home game looks dicey, against the 4-2 Dolphins. The Packers will be considerable underdogs in their next two games, against the Rams and Patriots and unless the defense has some kind of 'come to Jesus' moment, Rodgers and the offense will need to try to keep up.
After a brutal stretch, the Pack could easily find itself sitting at 5-5-1 heading into December and in need of another 'run the table' rallying cry. But if they don't get considerably better on defense and cut down on the killer penalties and wasting timeouts, it's hard to believe this year's edition has that in them.