Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

After the Green Bay Packers' 16-13 loss Sunday at the Washington Redskins, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Watching this game unfold was a surreal experience. When the season began, did you think the Packers would target rookie tight end Andrew Quarless on a fourth-down pass on the goal line? Did you think you would see safety Charlie Peprah getting turned around on a deep post pass that went for a 48-yard fourth-quarter touchdown? Did you think you would see quarterback Aaron Rodgers, tight end Jermichael Finley and linebacker Clay Matthews all leave the same game because of injury? Health has now become a short- and long-term crisis for the Packers, one that has now formed a serious hurdle to winning the NFC North. By the way, was I the only one who thought the Packers played into the Redskins' hands on that fourth-down play? Of course Quarless was matched up on a relatively slow outside linebacker (Lorenzo Alexander). The Redskins were more than happy to see the Packers direct a fourth-down pass to their No. 3 tight end, given the alternatives. Quarless, meanwhile, showed some inexperience with a pretty passive play for the ball.

  2. ESPN Stats & Information had Packers receivers with six drops Sunday, including four by Donald Driver. By the same criteria, the Packers had four drops over their first four games combined. It goes without saying that a team with a weakened running game can't have so many botched passing plays. Although they got an early 71-yard run from tailback Brandon Jackson to set up their first score, the Packers still dropped back to pass 51 times in the game. If you believe your offense is buttered in the passing game, it better be more efficient in that area than it was Sunday.

  3. At various points, we've spent time discussing the backup quarterback situations in all four NFC North locales. We might be poised to have a week-long conversation on the Packers' decision to keep Matt Flynn as Rodgers' backup over the past three seasons. We all know the story: Flynn and Brian Brohm were drafted in 2007 following Brett Favre's (first) retirement. Brohm was a second-round bust, while Flynn was a seventh-round survivor. As per his philosophy, general manager Ted Thompson never pursued a more experienced backup for Rodgers. So if Flynn is forced into a prominent role this week, it will be with almost no reviewable body of work that matters. He simply doesn't have enough game experience to merit a thoughtful opinion. It's interesting and scary at the same time.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

How should we judge the Packers' pass defense Sunday? They sacked Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb five times in 54 dropbacks and forced 23 incompletions in 49 attempts. But McNabb also racked up 357 total yards and his lone interception came on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of regulation. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Packers sent at least five pass-rushers on 40 percent of their defensive snaps. But in the second half, McNabb had a 141.4 passer rating in those situations. Obviously he was harassed throughout the game, but the Redskins made enough adjustments after halftime to survive.