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Packers 29, New Orleans 51

I looked back as far as the 2001 season and I still don't know the last time the Packers allowed over 50 points. It was too depressing to go back any further. But if you think this game was awful, a true sign the team doesn't have it this season, well here's some recent history.

In 2004, they allowed over 45 points three times (vs. Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Philadelphia) and still won the division with a 10-6 record (only to lose to Minnesota in the 1st round).

In 2005, they allowed 48 points to Baltimore while losing 48-3. Another Monday night disaster. This was probably the worst Packer game I ever watched. The team just quit. It probably was the final nail in Mike Sherman's coffin as the Packers' head coach.

In 2007, they lost 35-7 at Chicago. This one really stands out after watching the loss at New Orleans. The special teams had a historically bad game, but the offense was lousy and the defense couldn't stop Chicago when it mattered. They just found a lot of ways to lose the game. They still managed to make it to the NFC Championship game.

The good news is that this game only counts as one loss. The team in 2004 and in 2007 overcame similar losses to make the playoffs. The 2005 game doesn't matter because the 2008 Packers didn't quit the entire game. They played very hard until the end. The playoffs are still in sight, but the remaining NFC North games against Chicago and Detroit are must wins for the tiebreakers. Chicago and Minnesota are, just like the Packers, losing every other week, which could set up all three teams at 8-8. But the Packers, with wins against Chicago in week 16 and Detroit in week 17 would have the best record against the NFC North at 5-1. That might be the difference and get them into the playoffs.

What happened in the loss to New Orleans was a lot like the loss last season at Chicago. They lost in a lot of different ways. The entire team came together to lose this game. All these problems have been there all season, but never before have they all come together in one game.

  • QB Aaron Rodgers. It was arguably his worst game. It might not have been statistically because he did throw for 2 TDs and run for another. But he only completed 56% of his passes and threw 3 INTs against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. His first INT with 7:52 left in the 3rd quarter was the death blow. He was going to need to keep scoring TDs to keep up with New Orleans. Still it's hard to fault a guy who led the team on four TD scoring drives. His struggles were just part of the story.
  • RB Ryan Grant and the offensive line. Nothing horrible stands out about his performance of 18 carries for 67 yards. But it's not a great. And it came against an average run defense. I counted 7 carries for 2 yards or less, including 2 for negative yards. On 40% of his carries, he struggled to get past the line of scrimmage. Again, it's nothing awful, but he had been running so well the past three games. This wasn't a good game to have a poor one.
  • DE Aaron Kampman and the defensive line. Kampman got pressure on QB Drew Brees a few times, but no other defensive lineman did. Plus New Orleans would block Kampman with TE Billy Miller, Kampman would let Miller release, and before Kampman could get anywhere near Brees, the ball would be thrown to a wide open Miller. As good as he was at times, his overpursuit was a problem on some plays too. The rest of the defensive line worked hard, but had little to show for their effort.
  • Linebackers. LB A.J. Hawk has been battling a few injuries this season. They must still be affecting him. His speed is just gone. It's hard to watch him lag behind as the TEs and RBs blow by him on passing routes. LB Brady Poppinga has always been the weak link on defense, but luckily the Packers have locked him up for the next 5 years. LB Brandon Chillar made a couple big plays; the only sack on Brees and the hit on WR Lance Moore that led to New Orleans' only turnover on a trick play. Still I'm no big fan of Chillar because he doesn't seem to have much speed. GM Ted Thompson is going to have to draft some new linebackers next season and either hope Hawk and Barnett rebound next season or let the young guys take over.
  • Secondary. Everyone who watched the game noticed this. CB Charles Woodson blitzed in the 1st quarter, he left Moore wide open, and he ran around a couple defenders for a big 70 yard TD. Moore also had a 16 yard TD that was all because of his running. It didn't help that S Nick Collins lost his shoe on the play and couldn't keep up. Until this game, Moore wasn't known as a receiver who ran for a lot of yards after the catch. The 70 yard TD reception also showed off S Atari Bigby's lack of speed and he was replaced by S Aaron Rouse shortly thereafter. Although Rouse had the only INT, he also took a bad angle on (another) 70 yard TD pass, this time to WR Marques Colston, and he too showed off his lack of speed. Rouse was then injured and replaced by Bigby for the duration. Woodson was beat on Colston's TD pass, but Brees had an awful long time to throw on that play. Three big plays allowed by a group that had only allowed a couple big plays all season long. They've been playing out of their minds this season. It was a tough matchup, against a QB on pace for a record setting season. Brees has yet to have a QB rating under 116.7 this season in the Superdome. It was a big challenge, but they, along with the rest of the team, picked a bad week to have their worst game.
  • Special teams. P Derrick Frost was awful, again. How can he have such a weak leg indoors? The kick coverage allowed a big return by KR Courtney Roby at the end of the 2nd half which set up a FG. KR Will Blackmon probably had the best game of anyone with a great punt return and great coverage on punts and kickoffs.