By: Matt Bove
Last night the Packers' worst nightmare became a reality. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on a sack by Shea McCellin of the Bears. The timetable for his return is unknown at this point, but it seems like a return in three weeks would be the best case scenario.
The Packers' "next man up" mantra will be push to its limits over the next few weeks and there is a chance it can reach its breaking point.
The Packers have proved that they can survive without any player other than Rodgers this season after losing Morgan Burnett, Clay Matthews, Brad Jones, Casey Heyward, Randall Cobb, Jermicahel Finley, Bryan Bulaga and James Jones at different points this season. However, losing Rodgers is just a different thing all together.
Rodgers just elevates everybody on the offense so much. He has thrived with a receiving core that has included the likes of Myles White, Jarrett Boykin and Andrew Quarless recently. He has made an offensive line with average talent look solid. The threat of his passing ability has opened up space for Eddie Lacy to run through eight man boxes. All of that will be no more.
Ted Thompson has built and outstanding roster in Green Bay, but if the Packers flounder without Rodgers he deserves heavy criticism for not addressing the backup quarterback spot last offseason. Thompson got very lucky that Graham Harrell did not have to see the field the last two seasons, but his luck finally ran out.
Thompson has hitched his wagon to 11-year veteran Seneca Wallace. It did not go well for Wallace at all last night, as he completed 11 of 19 passes for 114 yards and an interception. He did not have a full week of practice and may have been rusty, but he also did not look like an NFL quarterback.
The Packers are unlikely to look outside the organization for quarterback options because it is just not their way. Matt Flynn is a nice thought, but getting beat out by Jeff Tuel, who is one of the worst quarterbacks I have ever seen, in Buffalo is not a promising sign. The Packers will stick with Wallace and promote former Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien from the practice squad.
The Packers ran for 199 yards, had a blocked punt and a recovered onsides kick, and Wallace still could not lead them to a victory at home against a terrible defense. That is not a good sign. At 5'11", Wallace had trouble finding throwing lanes and was wildly inaccurate. Also, he did not even attempt a pass over 20 yards down the field, which is always a stable of the Packers' offense with Rodgers.
Wallace's trademark skill has always been his athleticism and his ability to make plays outside of the pocket, but that was nowhere to be found last night. Wallace folded under pressure and did not look like he had a clue what to do once a guy was in his face.
The Packers have had an amazing year running the football, as they have averaged 148.6 yards per game, which ranks 2nd in the NFL. Eddie Lacy is a special running back and the Packers offense will now be built around him. However, Lacy will have to deal with loaded fronts on the majority of plays, which has not been the case this season.
The extra men in the box did not bother Lacy last night, as he ran for 150 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Lacy showed incredible patience again waiting for holes to open up and has such light feet for a big running back. Obviously, he ran over and through tackles like he always does.
To survive without Rodgers the Packers are going to need a much greater defensive effort that the pitiful one they gave last night. Dom Capers was simply owned by Marc Trestman all night long. Capers played Josh McCown like he was Rodgers, and McCown picked the Packers to shreds.
Capers played way too many four man rush with zone behind it schemes, especially without Clay Matthews and Nick Perry being there to generate pressure without blitzing. The Bears had receivers running open all night long, and Matt Forte ran for over 100 yards against the Packers' vaunted defensive line.
The consecutive missed tackles by Casey Heyward and A.J. Hawk on the Bears' final drive were embarrassing and eliminated any chance the Packers had of winning. The Packers once again created zero turnovers, and that was the fourth game without a takeaway this season. That will have to change quickly if the Packers want to win games without Rodgers.
The one saving grace for the Packers is their weak upcoming schedule. They play home against Philadelphia, at New York and home against Minnesota before traveling to Detroit for Thanksgiving. The first three games are all winnable.
The ideal scenario would be to go 2-1 over the next three games and have Rodgers come back for Thanksgiving. Is that possible? Yes it is, but the Packers will have to play a helluva lot better than they did last night and have a much better game plan going forward. It just sucks so much that a team that had real Super Bowl chances could have it blown because of a situation like this, especially with so many free agents this offseason.