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By CHRIS HAVEL
Vikings lose fourth straight, Green Bay suffers big-time blowout
When the NFL’s playoff picture is eventually decided perhaps the NFC North’s Vikings, Lions and Packers could play “paper, rock, scissors” to settle it.
Let’s face it, that would be more fun than watching them play football.
The NFC North is weak and the soul-searching Packers seem determined to fit in. They just got pounded like free beer by the Tennessee Titans 47-25 Sunday in a game that wasn’t that close.
Nashville is the home of country, the “Music City Miracle” and most recently the Packers’ own “Music City Meltdown.” Unlike last week’s 31-26 stunning home loss to Indianapolis, the Packers appeared to have plenty of energy and effort this time. It was efficiency and execution they lacked.
Tennessee (5-5) opened the game like a team desperate to win. They brazenly attempted an onside kick, which the Packers (4-5) alertly recovered to start with great field position.
Instead of taking advantage the Packers went three-and-out. Then their punt team failed to down the football inside the 1.
Then their defense watched Titans’ running back DeMarco Murray gallop untouched 75 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.
Then Randall Cobb slipped and was unable to catch a third-down pass to turn it back to the Titans once again.
It was pretty much all Tennessee after that. The Titans’ next drive was capped by a Murray-to-Delanie Walker 10-yard halfback option pass to make it 14-0. When the first quarter mercifully ended the Packers were down 21-0.
“We dug ourselves a huge, huge hole, and frankly it comes down to the basics of football,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters. “It comes down to the basics of football. We weren’t nearly to the standard that we expect from ourselves.”
The Packers have lost four of five and are below .500 for the first time since Aaron Rodgers’ first year as a starter in 2008.
So where does Green Bay go from here?
The nation’s capitol on Sunday night to play the Washington Redskins on national TV, and the next week it’s at Philadelphia for a Monday night matchup. Washington handled the Vikings 26-20 while the Eagles knocked off Atlanta 24-15 on Sunday.
Both the Redskins and Eagles feel their upwardly trending. With the Packers, it’s not so much.
Rodgers completed 31 of 51 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions and naturally appeared entirely frustrated with the entire affair.
Davante Adams hauled in six passes for 156 yards and Jordy Nelson also put up big numbers by catching 12 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.
The running game was non-existent. James Starks returned from injury to rush seven times for 33 inconsequential yards. Ty Montgomery had three carries.
Meantime, the Titans’ Marcus Mariota hit 19 of 26 passes for 295 yards, four touchdowns and a whopping 149.8 rating.
The Titans’ left tackle, Taylor Lewan, was playing as well as anyone in the NFL when he got ejected early in the game. The Titans replaced him with Dennis Kelly, but it was as if the Packers didn’t notice. They got one sack from Datone Jones and that was it against the backup.
The Titans racked up five sacks, including two by Brian Orakpo, and were able to turn up the heat on Rodgers when necessary. While Orakpo was doing his thing on the field, the Packers’ Clay Matthews was still sidelined with his hamstring.
The Packers’ injuries continue to pile up, just like the losses. They were without leading tackler Jake Ryan who was injured on the Packers’ first punt. Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas stepped up with 10 and nine tackles but it wasn’t enough.
T.J. Lang also limped off early and Don Barclay played hard but again proved he’s no T.J. Lang. Right now the Packers are a shadow of what was expected.
There have been calls for change on message, comment and chat sections throughout the internet. Irate fans want GM Ted Thompson fired. They want McCarthy fired. They want Rodgers traded – and I love this – “while he still has some value.”
Talk about overreaction. The Packers have taken a lot of hits on the field but I’ll be surprised if McCarthy doesn’t retool his staff while Thompson retools the roster.
Fans don’t want to hear it, but the reality is this: Either the Packers rebound and make something of the season, or they continue to slide en route to its painful conclusion. The cries demanding a new GM, coach and quarterback are better saved for the offseason after this all plays out.
Until then, the Packers and their fans have no choice but to suck it up, get ready for the Redskins and pray for the best.
Last year, the term “Hail Mary” meant something quite different.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games. Also check out our new Podcast: Between the Lines for more Packers insights. New episodes every Wednesday.