For a majority of this season, the Green Bay Packers have been teetering on the edge of winning or losing a ball game. And on many of those occasions, it has felt like the Packers invented a new way to lose.
Whether it was Clay Matthews’ hideous roughing the passer penalty against Minnesota, Mason Crosby’s five missed kicks in Detroit, or 115 yards of penalties in Washington, Green Bay’s outcomes have been far from predictable. But after a prime time loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday in which the Packers dropped to 3-4-1, their slowest start since Mike McCarthy’s inaugural season in 2006, the mistakes and missed opportunities have drawn an unwanted comparison to that campaign 12 years ago.
Through eight games in 2006, Green Bay owned a 3-5 record and was coming off a miserable loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Packers out-gained Buffalo 427 yards to 184 that day, seemingly an indicator for success. But they turned the ball over four times, one with the game on the line as Brett Favre threw an interception on a goal-to-go play from the one-yard line. The errant pass was returned far enough to set up a decisive Bills put-away score late in the fourth quarter. Another uncharacteristic mistake occurred earlier in the game when a shotgun snap inside the Bills’ five-yard line went off the facemask of Favre and was recovered by Buffalo. Those type of unfathomable miscues haunted Green Bay, prompting cornerback Al Harris, burned on a long touchdown, to say, “We shot ourselves in the foot all game. It hurts when you go out there and it was a game we should have won.”
Sound familiar to another Packer cornerback? A similar dejected comment came from Tramon Williams, whose missed tackle on a long touchdown by Josh Gordon offered the dagger in the loss to New England last week.
“Everyone is still encouraged, but to lose one when we felt we played so well, we were still in the game. We got a lot of stops, but the ones we needed to get, we gave away. We made the plays but then we gave it away and that’s what hurts the most.”
Wait, there’s more.
Rewinding to Week Five of 2006, the Packers lost another odd game late to the St. Louis Rams. As the Packers have done in several games in 2018, they started slowly against the Rams on offense before heating up in the fourth quarter behind Favre to get back into the game. But hopes were dashed when Favre was strip-sacked on the final drive. Of course, it did not help earlier late in the third quarter when Harris dropped a surefire 95-yard pick-six opportunity that could have swung the game in Green Bay’s favor. But when compared with Green Bay’s 2018 matchup with the Rams, one complete with an ill-timed safety and a loss-clinching fumble on a kickoff return that should have never left the end zone, the 2006 version of errors might actually be more believable.
But is it any more plausible than other 2006 early-season storylines?
- Philadelphia, Week Four - The Packers recovered a crucial fumble by Correll Buckhalter at the Green Bay two-yard line to halt the Eagles’ second possession of the game. Then, on another drive soon after, Buckhalter gave away the ball on a fumble again at the Green Bay three-yard line. But Vernand Morency coughed up the ball himself two plays later. The Eagles scored a touchdown within two plays to take an early lead.
- New Orleans, Week Two - Green Bay lost to the Saints after Drew Brees spotted the Packers 13 points with an abnormal three turnovers on three consecutive possessions to begin the game.
- Chicago, Week One - The Packers’ offense went 1-for-11 on third down for the game and watched Favre throw just five passes in the first half. It was Favre’s first shutout of his entire career as the Packers fell 26-0.
Yes, the first half of the 2006 season was filled with improbable moments and stat lines that doomed Green Bay.
But after Aaron Jones fumbled the first carry of the fourth quarter and trick plays duped the Packers’ defense for big gains twice in New England last Sunday, odd circumstances have once again presented themselves in Green Bay’s ugliest opening stretch in over a decade. And while this year’s Packers may be just as, if not more, talented than that 2006 squad, they have yet to put together a full game from all sides of the football.
Patience is running thin for the Packers’ full gamut of costly errors to be corrected. If the next month is anything like the team’s first two, McCarthy’s run in Green Bay may come to an end with an eerily similar resemblance to his first season.