Injuries just one of Packers problems
GREEN BAY—Losing two quarterbacks on the first drive in consecutive games, not to mention all the other injuries the Green Bay Packers suffered Sunday in one of those kinds of seasons, is one thing.
Missing tackles and poorly defending two freakish touchdown passes is quite another.
The first could make a pro team question the fates, were it so inclined.
The second could cause outsiders to question how that team goes about its business.
That was the confounding nature of the Packers' 27-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. It wasn't as easy to write off the game with Scott Tolzien at quarterback as it was the Monday before with Seneca Wallace against the Chicago Bears. The former Wisconsin Badger, who hadn't played in a real game since the 2011 Rose Bowl, actually did enough with very little preparation to beat the Eagles, who have had quarterback problems of their own.
That was why coach Mike McCarthy was so steamed. Losing Aaron Rodgers on the first drive against the Bears would allow any NFL coach to almost rationalize the defeat. But allowing 204 yards rushing and two scoring catches on underthrown balls by Nick Foles, the Eagles' backup, was inexcusable.
“Losing two games at Lambeau Field in six days is not quite part of the formula we're looking for as the season moves forward,” McCarthy said.
“I felt the game probably came down to a half-dozen critical plays. I think we might have made one of them. They made them, we did not. I'm disappointed as a head coach of this team because we have a recurring problem that I have to get fixed.”
It's not injuries. Even the freakish number the Packers have incurred this season have got to be written off to the breaks of a physical, violent game. And while it's true that the Packers are not quite the Packers until Rodgers comes back, they could have been 6-4 with Tolzien against the Eagles.
“You have to be impressed with his game management, especially for a guy who hasn't had a lot of reps in practice,” McCarthy said. “Take away that interception (in the end zone) and I don't know if the young man could have played any better.”
Afterward, McCarthy immediately announced that Tolzien would start against the New York Giants this Sunday at the Meadowlands. With a week's preparation, Tolzien, who showed he could be more than just an emergency game manager against the Eagles, might give the Packers a chance to stop the losing streak.
But not if they don't stop the bleeding on defense.
“We need to play better,” McCarthy said. “We had an opportunity we let slip away. You've got to win your home games. We've lost two in six days. It stinks. It really stinks.”
The Packers could not blame this one on the replay booth. The end-zone pass from Tolzien to Jordy Nelson they challenged could have gone the other way as easily as the fumble they were awarded a few plays prior could have been upheld. Officials' judgments are like injuries. You play through them.
But let a couple of underthrown balls beat you and the Eagles to drive nearly the length of the field to close it out as the Bears did Monday night, and you get what you deserve.
“Bottom line, we have to keep getting better,” Tolzien said. “It's pretty simple.”
Tolzien is the same even-keel, level-headed guy who had a lot of success in Madison despite the fact he was lightly recruited and buried on the depth chart for a long time. He's smart, has a better arm than he had in college on the rollout and won't make many mistakes. Given the near unprecedented circumstances, the Packers should feel better about him than any realistic alternative at this point.
Even when he took his first pro snap at his own 4-yard line, Tolzien had a grip.
“You've got to prepare yourself for that so it's not a shock when you go in,” he said. “It's not a cliché when they say to practice like you're going to start.”
Yet from here, it is not the Packers' job to rally around their third quarterback. It is their job to concentrate on their own jobs. That didn't happen enough Sunday against the Eagles.
Michael Hunt is a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org