The Hits Just Keep On Comin'.Posted:Nov 22nd, 2021 8:42 am
To be honest, this one didn’t sting. It was a coin flip game as I figured it would be and the Pack had too many things go against them.
They committed too many penalties, they just missed on a couple of game changing interceptions. That late completion to Adam Thielen was this close to being a pick six. They missed another field goal. And on and on.
There is no shame in losing on the final play of the game to a divisional rival in their house with their season on the line. But this one was there for the taking. Despite falling behind by 13 points twice and despite the constantly expanding injury list that is threatening to blow up the season, the Pack came this close to heading home at 9-2, thanks to a near perfect second half by Aaron Rodgers—the best 30 minutes of football we’ve seen from the offense in a long time.
But the latest injury, to Elgton Jenkins, is all I could think about after the game. If it is a torn ACL, which is what the Packers are fearing it is, then the team faces the very real possibility that it may have to play the rest of the season without its two best offensive linemen. Sure, David Bakhtiari may return, Ian Rapaport reported on Monday morning that the team hopes to get him back sometime in December, but I don’t think a return this season is guaranteed.
Here’s the problem with rolling the dice on a “Last Chance” season, where you push all your chips in and know that you will have to deal with very real salary cap implications next season with or without Aaron Rodgers. Injuries can kill you on the river. And the Packers have reached the point where they appear to be snake bit in that department this season. They’re not the only team for sure. Baltimore comes to mind. But here’s a list of the currently injured Packers, in no particular order:
Offense: Elgton Jenkins, David Baktiari, Aaron Jones, Allen Lazard, Robert Tonyan, Josh Myers, Kylyn Hill and Malik Taylor.
Defense: Jaire Alexander, Za’Darius Smith, Rashan Gary, Whitney Mercilus, Will Redmond, Randy Ramsey, Chauncey Rivers.
Six of the Packers top 10 or 12 players are on that list and it’s likely that at least half of them won’t return this season. In an ultra-competitive NFC, the Pack’s road to the Super Bowl get murkier without so many of their game-changing stars. The hits have come hardest on offense; the team might need to rely on the defense to get them where they want to go.
Oh, and Rodgers is dealing with a painful toe injury that will likely only improve with a lot of rest. It didn’t seem to bother him in an electric second half, where the game script caused Matt LaFleur to be more pass happy than anyone would have liked. AJ Dillon finished with just 11 carries, but was once gain integral in the passing game. But Rodgers and his weapons were up to the challenge, keeping pace with the red hot Kirk and JJ show. The 75 yard one play TD drive that tied the game at 31 happened too fast, giving Cousins two minutes to win it. But to see MVS and Davante Adams both have big afternoons was a long time coming.
And then that agonizing final drive, where it looked like Darnell Savage had yet another pick, but the call was reversed. I ultimately agree with the call—it was razor close—for me, it looked lmore like a pick than the one Kevin King was credited for against Russell Wilson last week in the end zone. And then a few plays later, that 26 yard catch and run by Adam Thielen that set up the game winning field goal was this close to being taken the other way by Rasul Douglas.
The defense did a great job on Dalvin Cook all afternoon, holding him to less than four yards per carry. But as we feared, they couldn’t get a consistent pass rush on Cousins, without three of their preferred outside linebackers in uniform. And Jefferson was a problem all afternoon, as he is for everyone he faces. Looking forward to the rematch on a cold Sunday night in January, with Jaire Alexander hopefully charged with slowing him down.
The picture may look a lot brighter coming out of the bye, with three of the final five at home and a finale in Detroit. Rodgers’ toe may feel better. Aaron Jones should be back and Bakhtiari may follow soon after. Gary and Alexander could return some serious bite to the defense.
But first they’ll have to deal with a rested Rams team coming off their bye, ready to hit someone after looking abysmal in two straight losses. Hopefully the old axiom that Matthew Stafford doesn’t win games at Lambeau will hold true, because this next game has serious playoff seeding implications. Finding a way to win, improving to 9-3 and then getting a chance to heal and rest would put the Pack in the driver’s seat as they hit the home stretch.
Provided that injury list stops growing each week.