by Troy A. Sparks
GREEN BAY – Remember when people anointed the Green Bay Packers as the team to make the Super Bowl back in August? Fast forward to early December, and the green and gold may be left out in the cold for the playoffs if they don’t take care of business down the home stretch.
Still in the postseason hunt, it wouldn’t look good for the Packers if they lost to San Francisco at home, Dec. 5.
My jaw dropped when I watched the Packers on TV fight back to tie the game at 17-17 with Atlanta on the road only to allow the Falcons to drive for the winning field goal and win, 20-17. It’s too late to look back now.
Green Bay would’ve been in position to get one of the two first round byes in the postseason if they would’ve won. They have to keep pace with the Chicago Bears, just in case those two teams play for the NFC North title when they meet in the regular season finale at Lambeau Field, Jan. 2, 2011. The Bears have the second best record in the NFC behind Atlanta.
What did the 49ers have to lose by rolling into Lambeau and spoiling the playoff hopes of the Packers? Nothing. They’re not going to make the playoffs. Their coach, Mike Singletary, probably will lose his job after the regular season. And Mike McCarthy’s hide could be on the line if his team is sitting at home next month.
The Packers entered the game with the same record (7-4) as the New York Giants and Tampa Bay. So on paper, they’re in the playoffs if the postseason started now.
San Francisco played conservative football in the first half without getting in the end zone in the first quarter and part of the second. Getting two field goals in both quarters gave them a little elbow room until they struck gold before the half.
The Packers started slow, but they eventually got it together. Without an effective running game, there was a lot of passing from quarterback Aaron Rodgers. A touchdown pass to receiver Greg Jennings and a scoring run by John Kuhn gave the Pack a 14-6 advantage late in the half but tight end Vernon Davis’ long TD reception brought the 49ers to within a point at 14-13, which was the halftime score.
I wondered if some of the Packers kept one eye on the field and one on the scoreboard, watching the Chicago-Detroit score that showed up about every 10 minutes. If they were, then the focus should’ve been taking care of business on their own field. The Bears beat the Lions, 24-20.
Green Bay, now at 8-4, with their 34-16 win, won’t look at the big picture because there are still too many scenarios. The final outcome in the last quarter of the regular season will determine which six teams from the AFC and NFC will grab the postseason spots. For now, the Packers will focus on the last four games, one at a time.
“We’re not even talking about it because, in my opinion, until you get to 10 wins, you’re just wasting time,” McCarthy said. “You’re wasting conversation. You need to keep your focus on the next game (at Detroit, Dec. 12). We need to get to nine wins, that’s our focus. We need to go to Detroit, get that ninth win. And then we come back from there and see where we are.
It’s too early to sit there and play what if this or what if that. It’s a waste of time. And as you know in this league, some of the things change from week-to-week. It’s so competitive. There are so many teams that are challenging at this time of year. We need to spend all our time and energy on (the road ahead).”