Butler: Tough Way To Go Out


The Green Bay Packers' season came to a dismal end Sunday with their home playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The one thing that disappointed me most about this season was having a losing record at home, and the Packers proved unable to protect their home field advantage again this week.

A 4-5 record at Lambeau Field is very disappointing and unacceptable, especially when you're playing in front of some of the greatest fans in the world. If this Packer team were only a little better at home throughout the year, they might not have even had to play last weekend and could have been looking at two weeks to prepare for the playoffs.

The Minnesota Vikings had a good gameplan and they put it to good use. They started fast and they were the team that jumped out to a 17-point lead less than 10 minutes into the game, just as I had hoped the Packers would have done.

Randy Moss was able to give his team a lift by making some big catches and Daunte Culpepper played great. The problem with a defense that regularly gives up big plays like the Packers' defense did this season is that it forces the offense to play catch-up and can lead to turnovers by the offense trying to do too much.

Brett Favre threw four interceptions and that hurt the team, but if you look up at the scoreboard and see that you're down 17-0, it's understandable that you might press a little bit and try to get it all back in one pass.

On the Vikings' first touchdown - a 68-yard catch-and-run by Moe Williams - the Green Bay Packers defense had great coverage, but when Culpepper started scrambling, Nick Barnett left his coverage to come up and play the quarterback and Culpepper dumped the ball to Williams on the sideline who made a few guys miss and then outran the rest for a quick 7-0 lead.

After Moss caught his first touchdown pass of the day, the Vikings were up 14-0 and the Packers were left scratching their heads.

I knew it just wasn't the Packers day when Ryan Longwell was in position to kick a 28-yard field goal and couldn't get his footing on the muddy field and pulled it wide to the left.

The Minnesota Vikings seemed to really be playing with a purpose, going against what all the "experts" thought would happen. The Minnesota defense played really well. They held Ahman Green to 80 yards and they forced four turnovers.

Think about this - the Minnesota Vikings scored 31 points on the Green Bay defense for the third time this season. The defense is definitely where the Packers are going to have to be concerned in the offseason, spending money in free agency and/or bringing in more defensive help in the draft.

I'm not saying the only problems are with the defense, but it just seemed like the defense never really got on track all season. In the NFC, if you've got a good defense and a great running game, you'll be able to go deep into the playoffs or to the Super Bowl on a consistent basis.

The good thing coming out of this season is that the Green Bay Packers are very young and are a team that will have to be reckoned with in the future. They are one or two impact players on defense away from being a very good team.

Mike Sherman has some tough decisions to make looking at the roster and the coaching staff in the next few months. You've got to understand as fans that there will be changes made, you'll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

One thing that bothered me from the game Sunday was the disagreement on the sidelines between Mark Roman and Ahmad Carroll. That shows that the team did not have a lot of continuity and that they weren't really together on the defensive side of the ball. When you're playing in the National Football League, you have to play together, you have to love one another, and you have to have each others' back.

You can't spend time arguing with each other. You've got to work together to beat the opponent on the other side of the field. I think that spelled defeat for this team. They weren't close as a defense and no leaders emerged on the defensive side of things all year.

All in all, I want to thank the fans for reading these articles I write each week. Some of them were fun to do. Some of them were tough to do just like this one I'm writing right now. I want to thank you guys because regardless of the score and regardless of what the team has done, you guys are still great Packer fans and I really appreciate that.

That is the reason why I chose to do this and this and you fans are the reason why I stayed with the Green Bay Packers for 12 years and never wanted to go anywhere else.

*LeRoy Butler played 12 seasons for the Green Bay Packers, helping them to two Super Bowls and earning NFL All-Decade Honors for the 1990s, before retiring in July 2002. This season Butler is again providing exclusive analysis to Packers.com beginning with training camp and later with a breakdown of the upcoming game on Saturdays, followed by a column and Q&A session on Tuesdays during the preseason and regular season.

Butler's autobiography, 'The LeRoy Butler Story ... From Wheelchair to the Lambeau Leap,' is available on his website, leroybutler36.com.*

LeRoy serves as the host on the new DVD, 'Brett Favre - On and Off the Field'. Click here for more information on the DVD.

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