That was an awful, awful ending. Terms like "grimtrillescent" come to mind. Seriously, are you kidding me? Fighting that hard and playing that well to get back into the game and take the lead, and then every facet of your team lets you down, just at the wrong time. Ugh. The Packers are now 5-7. The season is essentially over, sad to say, as either the Bears or the Vikings will be 7-5 (barring a tie) in about seven hours, and there will definitely not be any wild card berths earned in the NFC North this year. Random scattershot thoughts---
- I like what Brandon Jackson did today. But I don't know about no Ryan Grant for the entire second half, unless he was hurt. Everybody needs a blow sometimes.
- Obviously, the game went South as soon as the Packers got that last first and goal at the 10. Delay of game penalty (two delays of game?), then Rodgers tattooed out of bounds, first down at the seven. That would be fine usually, but McCarthy seemed afraid to pass after Rodgers took that hit. Jackson makes a nice run to the one. Then two straight runs for nothing, or slight losses, where the Panthers were stacking the box chock full. Field goal, another embarrassing return, the bomb to Smith, the one yard run, game over. UGH.
- I wonder if McCarthy thought about using Grant down at the goal line. Probably not.
- I wonder if McCarthy thought about squib kicking that last kickoff? No offense, but that seems like it would have been a pretty good idea-- all of the Panthers' big returns came from that direction. I bet he would have done it for sure had the Packers scored a touchdown on the previous drive.
- Is anyone else just depressed by this loss? I mean, I know the Packers weren't likely doing anything this year. Winning the division would have probably led to a first-round or divisional round playoff loss, likely a sound beating. But still. The team displayed so much of the good and the bad in this game. The ability and then the boneheadedness-- like Driver's great snag compared with Wells' completely unclutch snap over Rodgers' head. The team really plays like its age. Maybe that's it. Maybe there are too many guys who are fading, mixed with too many young guys who are still figuring it out. I mean, I'm hard pressed to think of more than one important player on the Packers who is "in his prime" right now. (Only Aaron Kampman comes to mind. Jenkins and Barnett would have too, but they're both injured. Donald Lee, maybe?) So the squad plays like a team full of aging but crafty veterans, and talented but inconsistent youngsters-- it sputters. Sometimes the veterans get beat physically, sometimes the young guys make execution errors (or they're just not good enough and get beat physically too).
- I guess I feel especially nervous about (and sad for) the aging veterans who are having renaissance seasons. Charles Woodson has played like the effing man this season. And Driver is simply a fine receiver. Both of them are on the verge though. The river flows faster as it gets close to the water fall.
- And what's scary is that the creaky veterans man important positions-- namely both CBs and both OTs. Ignoring Trammon Williams' unclutchness and penalties today, I feel okay about the replacements at corner. But I have no idea who might replace Clifton (Colledge? The mind reels), and Tauscher's potential replacement (the Brazillian kid from Louisville who was drafted this year) has yet to play a real down. This is all well known, I guess. Sigh. Who knows what the future holds. It's been a tantalizing, but ulitimately disappointing season.