Green Bay Packers defense raises doubts

Nov. 20, 2011

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Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, right, said Monday night that the Packers' defense had to build on its effort. It didn't on Sunday. Seemingly neither Woodson nor anyone else could stop Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow, left, who makes a first-down catch during the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette


If you don’t have doubts at this point, then you’d better have your significant other check your pulse.

The issue at hand is not whether or not the Green Bay Packers can run the table. That’s merely feather in the cap stuff, entirely secondary to the main objective.

On Sunday, you witnessed exactly how this seemingly dream season could go up in smoke in a three-hour span.

When quarterback Aaron Rodgers is downgraded from otherwordly to merely human, when the defense shows it can’t cover a cough or tackle a turtle, when your punter has to channel his inner Ahman Green to avoid disaster, the Packers are in trouble.

The Buccaneers had the Packers in big trouble in their own back yard, but Green Bay made just enough plays, got just enough stops and benefitted from an abundance of good fortune to walk out with a 35-26 victory and move to an imperfect 10-0.

This epic struggle, mind you, came against a sub-.500 outfit with a history of freezing up in cold weather.

OK, we understood there was a clunker out there and it showed up Sunday. That the Packers still won says something. We’re just not sure what.

On Monday night, cornerback Charles Woodson, after holding the Vikings to 266 total yards in a 45-7 rout that represented a suspect defense’s first solid effort of the season, said in order for it to mean something the Packers had to build on that effort against the Bucs.

Didn’t happen. The Packers defense gave up 455 yards, the sixth time in 10 games they have surrendered at least 400 yards. It allowed a pedestrian Buccaneers offense to pile up 455 yards, just 11 fewer than their season-high of 466 that came against the winless Colts.

That’s the most disconcerting development. They couldn’t even hold their own against Tampa Bay. They went backward.

Woodson was nowhere to be found Sunday, so the question was put to defensive tackle Ryan Pickett. Is this a championship defense, or not?

“I don’t know. We are going to get better,’’ Pickett said. “This is the same defense we had, we’re going to get better. Yes, you ask me if I think we have a championship defense? Yes, I do.’’

The notion that has been tossed about the last few weeks is what will happen to this Packers offense once the temperatures take a nosedive. Could they possibly operate at the same efficiency with the winds whipping and the hands numbing? What will that mean if the defense continues to disappoint. Well, now we know for certain.

For the first time this season, the Packers needed to be more lucky than good.

Punter Tim Masthay fumbles a snap, is forced to run, fumbles the ball again only to see it roll out of bounds. Now that was a discount double check.

“Hands are cold, ball is slippery, all that stuff,’’ Masthay said. “But I just dropped it, plain and simple. As soon as it hit the ground (a second time) I’m praying ‘Please, Lord, get that thing out of bounds.’ ’’

The Lord was listening.

He also listened when prayers were twice evoked for onside kicks by the Bucs when there was no call for risk-taking. And when Kellen Winslow was called for a shaky offensive pass interference call that wiped out a touchdown and resulted in a field goal, and then when Winslow dropped a two-point conversion that would have tied the game.

But unless your name is Tebow, you’re not going to get the good Lord’s ear every time for such trivial matters.

Despite all that the Packers have accomplished, they are a vulnerable outfit. The play of the defense isn’t cutting it. Unless there is a drastic change, chances are better than average it will cost them when it will hurt the most.

“It’s the NFL. Every game you can’t be clean,’’ safety Charlie Peprah said. “We just need to find a way to win right now and that’s what we’re doing. At the end of the day, you keep scoring more points and keep making plays when we need to, we’ll be fine.’’

He may be right. But if you have doubts, you’re right as well.

Mike Woods writes for The Post-Crescent of Appleton

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