In critical stretch Packers will make excuses or find answers
Exactly one month ago, eight weeks into the 2012 NFL season, the dominant storyline coming out of Lambeau Field was the sheer number of injuries the team was suffering.
"Next man up" was the popular rally cry, and there was something heroic about it. How could it not be after the team rattled off five straight wins?
Then there was the debacle on Sunday night, the 38-10 loss on the road at the hands of the defending Super Bowl champions. The Giants were coming off a bye and, while leading the NFC East, were one game behind the Packers in the overall NFC standings.
Green Bay took the field without the 11 players that are on injured reserve, including five starters. Starters Charles Woodson, Sam Shields, Greg Jennings and Matthews didn't play either.
It's a bit premature to say the season was lost Sunday night, but one might say the buildup of injuries has become too large and has finally put a strain on those next men up. After all, they were reserves or practice squad players for a reason.
Maybe the injuries have now become an excuse for inconsistent play or losses.
"No. That's no excuse," safety Morgan Burnett said Sunday night. "If you stand up here after a win and feel good about it you have to stand up here like a man after a loss like that. You can't make any excuses."
So, if it's not an excuse, maybe it's a reason.
To say something is an excuse intimates the end result could've been different in spite of it. To say something is a reason implies direct cause and effect.
Perhaps the loss of right tackle Bryan Bulaga and the ensuing shuffle along the offensive line is the reason why Aaron Rodgers can't find receivers, why the running game can't get untracked.
Perhaps the absence of Jennings – who has appeared in just three games – is the reason why Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley aren't as open as they've been the last few years.
This is hard to swallow, considering people will always remember the 2010 Packers as the little engine that could, the train that kept on keepin' on despite most of the cars falling off the tracks en route to a championship.
This isn't 2010, however.
"It's a long season," Williams said. "It definitely takes special people and a special type of focus to get through a season."
Perhaps that's where the issue is – focus. After the Giants game several players said their fundamentals broke down; that they came out flat emotionally.
"We've got to regroup," Rodgers said after the Giants game. "We've got to get a couple things shored up. You win five in a row and everybody's happy but there's often things, like I said last year during the run, there's things that go under the radar that need to be handled. Sometimes it takes a loss to handle those things."
All is definitely not lost. Far from it. The Packers play Minnesota and Detroit at home before heading to Chicago, and winning three straight would set the team up for another NFC North title. This team has already won five straight games, and it can easily do it again to ride into the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the NFC.
It's just a matter of whether or not injury and a lack of passion or focus was an excuse, and not a reason, for the team's worst loss in years.
"It's something that we love," Williams said. "You've got to take care of your body and do all those things, whether you have go the training room or not, whether you have to go see the chiropractor or all kinds of different things. As long as you take care of your body and just keep that focus, you'll be good."
Postgame quotes courtesy of Packers.com.
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