I can't decide. Was the Green Bay Packers' loss overtime to the Tennesee Titians (yes, I'm directly misspelling that team's name to make it sound like a particular Venetian Renaissance-era painter), a disappointing blown opportunity or an encouraging sign of progress? I mean, taking the "NFL's Best Team" (personally, I think the Giants are better, but whatever) to overtime in their home stadium, is pretty impressive, right?
But man, they had some blown chances, headlined by Aaron Rodgers' almost inexplicable Favre-esque bomb to a double-covered Greg Jennings in the end zone, on a drive where the offense was clicking. The Pack had the ball at the Titians' 40, and came away with nothing. And how many short field goals did Crosby kick? It felt like half a dozen. They'd get down to the Titians' end zone and then stall. Maybe it's because they run out of room for their passing game, or maybe it's because they aren't that great of a running team, or maybe it was the play calling. And how frustrating was it for the Packers' D to do such a great job in the second half, only to roll over when it counted the most? Argh.
Personally, I felt the play-calling broke down a bit on the Packers' last possession. They had a first down on the Titians' 45 with less than 3 minutes left on the clock. Get a first down or two, work it into field goal range, milk the clock, and win this thing. So maybe run the ball, right? After all, it's toward the end of the game, the Titians' defensive line is probably tiring, and Grant's had some success lately (his previous four carries at that point were for 3, 13, 0, and 6 yards). Instead, first down, broken pass play, Rodgers throws the ball away. Only six seconds ticks off. Second down, Titian linebacker Tulloch (who played a great game) tips a tight crossing pass for Jordy Nelson. Incomplete. Third down, predictable screen pass to Brandon Jackson, who goes two yards. 4th and 8 at the 43, out of field goal range, and the Packers punt it away with enough time left so the Titians can put together a field goal drive. The D rolls over twice, and the offense never sees the ball again. Frustrating stuff.
But should we take heart? If we're blaming the Packers' own mistakes for this close of a loss, doesn't that mean the team has really progressed? Isn't this performance a world away from the Cowboys loss? Nearly 400 yards of offense against a top notch defense? Justin Harrell on the field, making stops for no gain, looking like a legit defensive tackle? Forcing overtime, even in a game where your defense doesn't create one turnover?
Maybe it's because the weather has been deliciously mild here in the Chiccy-G the past few days, or because I'm enlivened by the start of college basketball season, but I'm going with "Both/And." This was both a disappointing loss and an excellent sign of the team's progress. Stay healthy, stay hungry, Pack. Get focused on the Vikes.