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Packers Can't Afford to Downplay Their Serious Issues Following Another Disappointing Loss

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 11/16/2018 Conor Orr
a man wearing a hat and glasses © Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Packers are broken. 

With the game on the line Thursday night—third-and-2 from their own 33-yard line—Aaron Rodgers duffed a short pass to an open Marquez Valdes-Scantling and walked off the field with the look of someone who had just lost his life savings on a horse race.

Despite only having one timeout left, despite possessing a budding star running back averaging nearly four yards a carry that night, despite Davante Adams consistently knifing the Seahawks defense open throughout the evening, head coach Mike McCarthy opted to keep the offense on the sideline and punt the ball to the Seahawks. Seattle, despite all of its offensive shortcomings, has the personnel to run the clock down fairly well. You can guess what happened next.

Throughout most of the season, the Green Bay Packers have resembled a long-distance runner on a treadmill. Three quarters into a game, they are displaying their strengths. They are taxed but rolling. We marvel at their gifts, which are evident. And yet, despite all the flexing, despite the appearance of constant momentum, they are still just running in place. They are nowhere closer to where they need to be after an hour of work. 

On Thursday, Rodgers threw one of the most beautiful touchdown passes of the season to a tight end, Robert Tonyan Jr., who had never caught a pass in the NFL before. He smashed elbows with his offensive linemen and pumped his fist like Tiger Woods. Two quarters later, he was watching the lead slowly evaporate at the hands of a team that averages fewer yards per play than the New York Giants. 

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This was once the most copied offense in football. McCarthy’s system spawned a pair of head coaches (Joe Philbin and Ben McAdoo), despite them never (or rarely) calling plays when they were in Green Bay. It propelled Rodgers to stardom even with a scattered group of wide receivers and an almost laughable absence of a running game.  

Now, it’s not good enough to outshoot Brian Schottenheimer prepping on a short week. Now, against all odds, McCarthy is trusting the defense over Rodgers, or maybe himself. 

The Packers have been sleepwalking for long enough. All hope is not lost sitting at 4-5-1, but only because they are in a division of teams who are either similarly dysfunctional (Detroit), difficult to get a handle on (Chicago) or inconsistent (Minnesota). 

It will be fascinating to find out what has caused such a streak of underwhelming play. Rodgers and McCarthy have spent years insisting that nothing is wrong and yet, there’s no way any reasonable spectator could watch Thursday night’s game and consider this a healthy, operational machine. Stars get old and their talents fade, but not Rodgers. Not yet anyway. In the lifespan of an NFL quarterback, he should still be in his halcyon days. 

Teams go through dips and valleys, but this feels like something else. Like boredom or staleness. After the game, Rodgers said it would take “one galvanizing moment” to get this season back on track. Then again, they might finally be out of short-term fixes bolstered by unbelievable talent. It might be time to really dig in and fix the Packers. 

Related slideshow: 2018-19 NFL season (Provided by photo services)

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