By Drew Olson Special to Published Nov 20, 2006 at 5:15 AM
The “P” words are still flying around Green Bay, but they’re different now.

Just a few days ago, Packers fans were tossing them around almost giddily:


Post-season possibilities.

Well, a humiliating 35-0 loss to the Patriots pretty much postponed that talk on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The words being bandied about the Packers’ playoff chances now still start with “p,” but they are are “premature” and “Pffffft.”

The Packers have shown improvement and a certain degree of pluck this season, but they looked like overmatched freshman scrimmaging the varsity on Sunday.

When your most exciting drive of the game consists of an assistant trainer driving your Hall of Fame quarterback off the field, you know it’s not your day.

In an era dominated by parity, the Patriots’ pounding of the Packers (sorry, we can’t help ourselves) was rare. It was also historic. The Packers had never been shut out twice in the same season at Lambeau Field and it has been a long time since they looked so inept on offense.

With the insult came injury. Quarterback Brett Favre was knocked out of the game when he suffered an elbow injury on a sack late in the first half. It was only the sixth time during his 251-game streak that Favre was knocked to the sideline.

Not that his presence in the second half would have mattered.

Favre was awful in the first half, often missing open receivers by the length of two parked cars. We won’t know for awhile whether he was having a bad day or if the injury problems that began to surface last week played a role in his shaky performance.

What we do know is that neither Favre (5 for 15, 73 yards) nor his successor/heir apparent, Aaron Rodgers (4 for 12, 32 yards) received adequate protection. With underappreciated veteran tackle Mark Tauscher sidelined by a groin injury, the Packers offensive line was overwhelmed by New England’s defensive front.

How horrible was it?

Green Bay’s offense amassed just 120 yards in the game and had twice as many punts (10) as first downs (5). The Packers were 1 for 13 on third down and saw the Patriots control the ball for nearly 40 minutes.

The Packers’ defense failed to pressure Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who threw four touchdown passes and generally had the look of a Super Bowl MVP. Green Bay gave up more long passes to wide open wide receivers

When they analyze the nuts and bolts of this season in January, Packers coach Mike McCarthy and his assistants may come to realize that the biggest “miscommunication” of the year came when they called Marquand Manuel’s representative about a free-agent contract. Manuel has been on the business end of a fair number of the breakdowns and his play is enough to make fans long for the days of Mark Roman.

As embarrassing as the end result may have been, who in their right mind looked at the New England game on the schedule two months ago and expected anything but a loss?

Even though the Patriots had lost two in a row and were being harpooned by fans from Maine to Massachusetts, they still have some talented players and the best coach in the business. With his frumpy sweatshirt and $8 haircut, Bill Belichick may look like a guy from the meat loaf line at the rescue mission but the man knows how to pinpoint and exploit an opponents’ weakness.

He did it Sunday by throwing the ball in the area of Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga, running effective play-action calls made more effective by the running of Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon and amping up the pressure in Green Bay’s rookie-laden offensive line.

The Patriots are back, folks. They might not win the Super Bowl, but they’ll have a strong say in what happens in January when most Packers fans are looking forward to the NFL Draft.

As for the Packers, they head west for a Monday night showdown against a former mentor (Mike Holmgren) and a team that will be seeing red after a bad loss to San Francisco.

Although it’s too early and the NFC is too weak to declare the Packers out of the playoff picture officially, another pathetic performance like the one Sunday will just about seal the deal.
Drew Olson Special to

Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.