The loss to Minnesota can only be compared to a swift kick to the man-region. If you want to subject yourself to further crotchal torture and read more about it, check out recaps here, here, and here. In fact, here's the best way to describe the replay of Mason Crosby's final field goal attempt:
But neither we nor the team can afford to let our disappointment spill over into this week. The loss happened, we cannot dwell on it any further; the team is now 4-5 and one game back in the NFC North. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can focus on the next game.
Next up, we get to take on 5-4 Chicago, the current division leader. Allow me to illustrate the importance of this game:
NFC North Team W L T Pct PF PA Net Pts TD Home Road Div Pct Conf Pct Non-Conf Streak Last 5 Chicago Bears 5 4 0 .556 237 194 43 27 3-2 2-2 3-0 1.000 4-3 .571 1-1 1L 3-2 Minnesota Vikings 5 4 0 .556 210 215 -5 22 4-1 1-3 2-2 .500 4-2 .667 1-2 2W 4-1 Green Bay Packers 4 5 0 .444 237 206 31 27 2-2 2-3 2-1 .667 3-4 .429 1-1 2L 2-3 Detroit Lions 0 9 0 .000 151 277 -126 17 0-4 0-5 0-4 .000 0-7 .000 0-2 9L 0-5
This is a tight division. Like, collapsed-mine-shaft tight. If Green Bay can overcome Chicago next Sunday, that will improve their divisional record to 3-1, giving them the edge in that category. And I can almost guarantee that the divisional record is going to determine a tiebreaker late in the season.
In short, beating Chicago next week is quite possibly the last chance Green Bay has to stay in playoff contention. A win will pull them back up to 5-5 with 6 games remaining and a shot at overtaking Minnesota if and when Minnesota falters. A loss puts them at 4-6 and a full 2 games behind Chicago and playoffs all but an illusion.
The team must improve in order to hang with the surprising Bears. If they do not clean up their run defense and establish rhythm on offense, next week will be a very disappointing one. Here are three things that must happen:
- Force Rex Grossman into mistakes. With Kyle Orton still nursing an ankle injury, the Sex Cannon figures to make another start. If the secondary can get three interceptions off of Gus Frerotte, they can get some picks off of Rex Grossman. Grossman isn't a good quarterback by any means, but he is capable of performing well in stretches. After all, he did play on the same Bears team that made the Super Bowl a few years back. Our defense must continue its admirable performance against the pass and force Sexy Rexy into making dumb mistakes to set up our struggling offense.
- Limit rookie Matt Forte. I purposefully stayed away from him during my annual fantasy football draft. My reasoning: rookie running backs, while they have an easier transition from college to pro-level football, are usually not productive. Matt Forte has bucked that trend to the tune of 713 yards rushing and 282 yards recieving with a grand total of 7 touchdowns. Not as impressive as last year's rookie running back phenom, but he can flat-out play. The Green Bay run defense is abysmal (worsened first with the loss of Cullen Jenkins and now Nick Barnett), and if they cannot keep the Bears from running the ball effectively, this game is in jeopardy.
- Attack, attack, attack! Chicago's defense is uncharacteristically vulnerable this year, mostly due to injuries to major members of their defensive secondary. This vulnerability contributes to their 30th-ranked pass defense, which is an open window for the Green Bay offense. While the Bears boast the 4th-best rush defense in the league, Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and the rest of the gang need to establish some sort of rhythm in the passing game. That means the line must protect the quarterback, Rodgers must get rid of the ball in a timely fashion, and recievers must get open. All three of these things must happen early in the game so the Packers can establish some offensive momentum in the first half, something they have sorely missed in weeks prior.
This is it, ladies and gentlemen. The fate of the 2008-2009 Green Bay Packers' postseason destiny will play out this Sunday at Lambeau Field at 12:00 PM CST. It's time to put up or shut up.