The Packers had a chance to win their second home game in less than a week, four days after upsetting the Cowboys. As Green Bay looked good against Dallas on Sunday, they were quite the opposite on Thursday night.
After the game, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was confronted with a barrage of pointed questions about the team’s disappointing performance – starting with his own.
“I definitely missed two shots,” Rodgers told reporters. “I definitely missed two shots.”
Actually he did. It became most evident in the fourth quarter, as the Packers attempted to run into a 10-point deficit. On one drive, after an interception by Messenger Douglas Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill made the score at 27-17, Rodgers badly missed a big opener to Sammy Watkins on third and second. Alain Lazard is third and third.
Both results drew a few boos from the crowd at Lambeau Stadium. Rodgers was asked how it felt to hear this reaction from Packers fans.
“Interesting,” he said, after a long pause. “This is the best I can do for you.”
It’s hard to tell if Rodgers is truly capable of giving his best on the court, with a thumb injury dating back to his loss to the Giants in London. He said he would not make excuses on the basis of the outstanding issue, but added that he “didn’t have a firm grip” against the Titans, and that he “threw a lot of wobblers”.
At one point, he was asked, “Where do you go from here?”
He said “home”.
A literal response carries a possible unintended meaning. At 4-7, they teeter on the brink of going home, as their postseason hopes come to a head.
There was still a flicker of optimism from the two-time league MVP.
“If we play to our potential, we can win the next six games,” Rodgers said.
The problem is that they haven’t tapped into their potential for most of the year. He said it would take more than him and the rest of the team captains to get the message across to the locker room in general about the chances of turning it around.
On Sunday, they showed what they can do. But they need to do this constantly. They can run the ball against the cowboys. They couldn’t run it against the titans.
This is the basic fact for every NFL team. The talent gap between franchises is not as great as it used to be. In every match, both teams hope to play to their potential. If one does, the other doesn’t necessarily.
Seven out of 11 times this year, the Packers have not. While it’s not impossible to think they can go six-on-six and make it to the playoffs, each additional loss at this point will close the door a little more.
At some point, they may need to admit that it won’t happen. Maybe it’s when Rodgers heads off to injured reserve, Jordan Love gets some reps in preparation for 2023, and one of the best quarterbacks of all time sees his career end in euphoria, not fanfare.
This possibility is still several matches away. With Rodgers at the helm, they are able to light the fire, putting together a winning streak.
The next opportunity comes 10 days later, when they face the Eagles in Philadelphia Sunday Night Football. After that, the Packers go to Chicago. Then come a bye, followed by a Monday night game against the Rams, a Christmas Day visit to Miami, and season-ending home games against the Vikings and Lions.
The seventeenth game keeps hope a little longer for each team. Prior to 2021, early 2021 will probably already be done, on 4-7. A loss to Philly in Week 12 likely means they will need to go 5-0 and hope to get help to make it to the playoffs with a 9-8 record.
So, basically, the Packers’ playoffs start next Sunday night. If they lose to the Eagles, it might be time to start thinking about turning the page to 2023, which could also mean finally closing the book on the Aaron Rodgers era at Green Bay.
Again, it’s not over. Not by a long shot. After one such upcoming game, however, when Rodgers is asked where he goes from here and says “home,” he can have a greater sense of permanence.
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