If you could take everything that has gone wrong for the Green Bay Packers in 2005 and cram it all into one miserable game, you'd probably end up with something like their crushing 48-3 defeat in Baltimore on Monday Night Football. Offense, defense, special teams, the mounting list of injuries, you-name-it. This was as disappointing a performance as anyone could have imagined. All of the negative things that had been going on really caught up with this team. For the first time all year, the Packers simply were not competitive. It looked to me like the Packers did not have the desire and the effort to win a game. I'm not talking about one or two players, but everybody in all phases of the game. Green Bay did not look as hungry as it had previously, and the result was very hard for Packers loyalists to watch.
This was one of those "snowball" types of games where something goes wrong at the outset and, before you know it, you've got an avalanche of problems on your hands. B.J. Sander's first punt was a perfect example of what I mean. He unloads a booming punt, but poor tackling by the special teams' coverage unit results in a great runback for the Ravens, ending up at the Green Bay 18 yard-line. Sander himself got wiped out by a tremendous block, and the Ravens served notice that this would be a long, long evening for the Packers. As soon as the Ravens scored their first touchdown on the pass from Kyle Boller to Todd Heap it was evident that Baltimore could basically do whatever they wanted. The Packer defense blitzed, and Boller picked it up, tossing an easy touchdown pass. Boller himself had been struggling all season, but he looked like a different quarterback against the Packers, completing 19 of 27 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. The injury bug also hurt the Packers again -- this time with Samkon Gado. He was productive in the first quarter and appeared to be on his way to another excellent game when he hurt his knee.
Meanwhile the Ravens' defense, though depleted by the loss of several players including their leader, Ray Lewis, certainly put a lot of pressure on Brett Favre and they forced him into quite a few errant throws. It was a game of desperation, and Favre was very frustrated and was trying to make something positive happen by just throwing the ball up. There weren't many receivers getting open, and Favre was dealing with constant pressure.
Kyle Boller had no such problem as Green Bay's defense was unable to put any significant heat on him. Nor could the Packers stop the run. Jamal Lewis is having one of his worst seasons ever, but against Green Bay he showed flashes of his former ability, piling up 105 yards in 22 carries. The Packers couldn't stop the run and couldn't stop the pass. At times, it looked like defensive coordinator Jim Bates had the perfect play called, and it would backfire. Case in point: The Packers called a corner blitz with Ahmad Carroll that should have resulted in a loss of yardage. What happens? The Ravens run the ball right past Carroll for a big gain. It was that kind of night.
As I watched this game, I was struck by the similarity between this game and the Packers' win over the New Orleans Saints earlier this season. One thing went bad for New Orleans, and things just snowballed and got very ugly in a hurry. Sooner or later, all NFL teams have games like this. Nothing goes right and, as a player, you wind up asking yourself, "Why am I even here?"
With all of the problems that Green Bay has endured this year, this kind of game was inevitable. This team has played with a lot of heart and desire all season, but they couldn't sustain that against the Ravens.
My radio listeners have been asking for weeks about when Aaron Rodgers would finally get his chance for some real NFL action. It finally arrived in the fourth quarter on Monday night. Although he received a baptism by fire, fumbling the ball away early, I thought he played fairly well. It's never easy being thrown into a game as a backup quarterback when things are way out hand. The defense pretty much knows that you have to pass on every down and can pin their ears back and bring the pressure. That makes it difficult for the entire offense. Rodgers made some throws to prove he has a strong arm, but it's still hard to judge a quarterback under these conditions. Without question Aaron looked more comfortable and more poised than he did the last time I saw him in pre-season. His release seems to have changed a little bit. As he dropped back to pass, he lowered the ball a bit and seemed to be a little more comfortable and more natural in the fundamentals of his delivery. From my point of view, I thought he improved his mechanics and I was happy to see that. I know it's hard to change old habits but it seems like he has, and his hard work was evident against Baltimore.
So now it's on to Lambeau Field and a Christmas date with the Chicago Bears. When Packers fans were hoping for a meaningful December game with Bears, they certainly weren't envisioning this. The game will only be meaningful to the Bears who can wrap up the NFC North Division title with a victory. The Bears are riding high especially with the return of quarterback Rex Grossman. He gives them a chance to be more balanced on offense with more experience, swagger and a greater passing threat than Kyle Orton was able to provide. No doubt, this will be a very difficult game for the Packers. With the injury to Samkon Gado and coming off such a deflating loss to the Ravens, the Packers again have nothing to play for but pride. To their credit, Packers fans still back their team, and you can bet that a Packers win would make a wonderful Christmas gift for Packer fans everywhere.
Don "Majik" Majkowski was inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame earlier this year. His career for the Packers spanned six seasons (1987-92), including being named to the Pro Bowl in 1989 when he led the NFL in passing yards. In addition to his duties with Packers.com, Majik provides football analysis for WSSP-AM, SportsRadio 1250 in Milwaukee, WDUZ SportsRadio 107.5 & 1400 The Fan in Green Bay, WTSO - ESPN 1070 in Madison, WDEZ in Wausau, and WIZD in Stevens Point. Visit Majik's Web site, www.majiknetwork.net, for more information.