Hot! Rodgers, Over and Out

When Nick Collins left, so did the Packer defense

Ironically, the last time the Green Bay Packers visited Jerry’s Place in Dallas, Texas, they left with their 4th Super Bowl trophy in tow. It was the christening of Aaron Rodgers among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks, the MVP of Super Bowl 45, resulting in the best performance of his career. The Packers, with the 31-25 victory, became the first team in history to win the title as a number 6 seed.

In a season riddled with injuries, they emerged as world champions, and with Rodgers at the helm, the Packers appeared to be poised for what seemed at the time to be another string of championship seasons. A funny thing happened on the way to the dynasty though, because little by little, things began to fall apart, most notably, on the defensive side of the ball.

First free safety Nick Collins suffered a freak career ending injury that gutted the heart and soul of Dom Capers chaotic, bend-but-don’t- break, defense. It was Collin’s signature interception return for a touchdown off Ben Roethlisberger that swung the momentum the Packers way in that game against Pittsburgh, and showcased his talent as one of the game’s best defensive backs in the league at that time.

That day in Dallas also marked the beginning of the end for Charles Woodson’s impact as a Packer, who exited with a broken collarbone of his own in the first half, and who would leave the team two seasons later, the unquestionable leader and quarterback of a once gambling, aggressive defensive unit that was able to get the offense back on the field with key stops at critical moments. Woodson, a rare, free agent acquisition, took his ball hawking talents and locker room leadership back to Oakland, and his absence left a major void in leadership on the defensive side of the line of scrimmage and in the locker room.

Another key ingredient in the ultimate demise of the Green Bay defense was the departure of Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins took his talents to Philly, and the move left a gaping hole on the defensive line, forcing players like B.J. Raji, the hero of The NFC Championship game against Chicago with a pick return for a touchdown of his own, to do more than asked for in his role among the 3-4 alignment.

General manager Ted Thompson tried to address these shortcomings through the draft rather than pursue the obvious fixes through free agency, and a combination of misguided draft selections and an uncanny string of insurmountable injuries forced Ted to watch helplessly and disjointedly as his defense sunk to the bottom of the NFL rankings in run defense, opponents time of possession, and points allowed. Instead of rallying together to keep this team in games when Rodgers went down six weeks ago against the Bears, Dom Capers outfit began closing out games with signature, 12 play, eight minute drives; at the hands of the opposition.

The 40-10 drubbing the Slackers absorbed on Thanksgiving Day at the hands of the psychotic Detroit Lions illustrated just how far the Packers had fallen defensively. The Lions moved the ball up and down the field at will, only preventing what should have been a 63-10 score by simply shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers early in the first half.

Don’t let the 22-21 win over a hapless Atlanta Falcons team, in miserable, frigid weather at Lambeau Field last Sunday, fool you. The Packers, without Aaron Rodgers, it is true, are 1-4-1, but his absence is not the reason they are not atop the NFC North.

Look no further than the defensive side of the ball, and look for a similar scenario to the one that unfolded on Turkey Day in Detroit to reappear this Sunday in Texas. Just as the Bears went 8 for 8 on drives against the Cowboys Monday night in blustery Chicago, watch Dallas run up and down the climate controlled atmosphere in Texas for a huge offensive day against the beleaguered defense of the Ashwaubenon Eleven.

The media and the front office in Green Bay want you to believe that another miracle lies waiting for this injury plagued version of the 2013 Packers, pending of course, upon the return of number 12. The truth, however, is this season, with or without Rodgers, is over and out.

And For What

Leave a Reply