For those who expected the Green Bay Packers to reach the Super Bowl this season, last Sunday night in Atlanta might have been a rude awakening. But as one of those observers who considers Green Bay a decisive favorite in the NFC and a slight favorite to win it all, the 34-23 loss to the Falcons did not shake me. If anything, confidence in Packer prospects are stronger now. Here are the reasons…
*Green Bay was playing without offensive tackles Bryan Bulaga and David Bahktari. The defining characteristic of Sunday night’s loss was the Packers’ inability to protect the perimeter and keep Aaron Rodgers from having to throw off his back foot or get crushed all night. Since neither Bulaga nor Bahktari are going to be out for any extended period, this alone suffices as a reason not to read too much into the Week 2 result. But there’s still more…
*Mike Daniels, the outstanding defensive tackle, was also out and Devonta Freeman was able to have consistent success running inside. Freeman’s final stat line read 84 yards on 19 carries and it seemed like more, for how big the holes suddenly seemed in the interior of the Packer trenches.
*Green Bay was hurt badly by two offensive pass interference calls that were, to put it mildly, utterly atrocious. One of them came late in the first half after a big play that had the Packers knocking on the door of field goal range. Instead, it pinned them deep and a subsequent turnover resulted in a Falcon touchdown. A later call nullified a Green Bay touchdown and forced them to settle for a field goal.
*The most significant officials’ call of the game wasn’t a bad one, but it was a 50/50 call. It was on whether Rodgers fumbled or got the ball moving forward as he was being sacked early in the third quarter. Given that the fumble was returned for a touchdown, this call was basically the ballgame. Replay was inconclusive, so the call on the field stood.
So if my math is correct, the two bad calls resulted in a 14-point swing and the gray area call was another seven. Put that on top of playing on the road without your two offensive tackles and a good defensive lineman, and nobody is going to win the football game in those circumstances.
Early season results are notoriously hard to read in any circumstances, but especially in one like this were the deck seemed stacked against the Packers in every way. This is a team that still has work to do—the defense hasn’t stopped the Falcons in three straight trips to Atlanta. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers seems to be more adept than a Congressman at holding onto his job without any tangible results.
But every team has work to do. Green Bay’s issues still fall in the category of what’s called “First World problems” in everyday parlance and that’s why I still consider them the favorite to win the Super Bowl.