They were ready to play. They were so ready to play that Mike McCarthy had difficulty concealing his delight as last week's practices progressed. The coach even took delight in having set a record for lowering the temperature in the Hutson Center, and spoke openly of the difficulty of deciding what players should be inactive, a task made difficult by the fact the Packers were in full health.
Make no mistake about it, the coach had his team ready to play. The Packers were healthy, rested and ready. So what happened?
That's the question Packers fans across Wisconsin and around the world will be asking for the next several days, maybe even the next several months. It's a question, McCarthy said, that might be best answered over the offseason.
Yeah, this isn't one of those Monday-review, fix-it-and-move-on jobs. This is a game that'll be used as a template for achieving lasting improvement. When McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson turn to the task of fixing what's wrong, and there's not much wrong with these Green Bay Packers, this will be the game they'll most closely examine.
The Packers' 37-20 loss to the Giants on Sunday night exposed problems that, frankly, we already knew existed. The Giants finished with 420 total net yards; they had 311 yards at halftime. That's a problem.
That's also been a problem the Packers have spent a season overcoming. They won 15 games with a defense that finished the season No. 32 in the league in yards allowed.
What we found out in this game is what happens when the offense doesn't play at peak performance, which it almost always had. It spoiled us. We came to expect it. But even Aaron Rodgers and the game's best cast of receivers have off days.
"We just turned the ball over too many times to win. That's why our season is over," Rodgers said.
In 2011, and especially in this one-game postseason, winning required that the Packers offense achieve near perfection. It did not achieve near perfection against the Giants.
"You're on top of the mountain and you forget how bad the feeling is. We had a championship-caliber regular season and didn't play well today," Rodgers said. "It's real. We got beat by a team that played better tonight."
If you're looking for something to ease the sting of this defeat, look to the Packers' reaction to it. They made no excuses. They pointed no fingers. They stood tall, led by their quarterback, of course, and answered questions in an honest and forthright manner.
"It's tough. I didn't think it was going to end tonight," Rodgers said.
This was tough on so many fronts, for last week was anything but a normal week for the Packers. It began with tragedy and ended in defeat. The day before the game involved a decision by Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin; it's the kind of decision that is unthinkable.
"Joe called me (Saturday) morning. His family wanted him to be part of the game. He was here all day yesterday to make sure he was ready to go," McCarthy said of Philbin, who lost his son, Michael, when the week began.
"Tough for him and his family and tough for the guys, too. We wanted to get this one for him and give him some happiness. It didn't happen," Rodgers said.
It's not because they weren't ready. It happened for other reasons. They are reasons that will be discovered during the offseason. There's no reason to rush to judgment now. Additional coverage - Packers vs. Giants