Packers are a hurting unit
That right there is probably the best imagery available for the state of the Packers at the moment.
"I guess the injury bug is on us this year," said Finley, who confirmed he would miss at least the Miami game, after suffering a knee injury less than a minute into the game against Washington that would excruciatingly stretch into a 16-13 overtime loss.
One of the Packers' leading go-to guys is going to have to get at the end of a long training-room line.
Four starters were already missing by the time they kicked it off on a hot afternoon at FedEx Field. It would get even warmer for the Packers when several others disappeared in various states of disrepair by the time it was over.
That Finley, Aaron Rodgers (concussion) and Clay Matthews (hamstring)—three of the playmaking Big Four along with Charles Woodson, who wasn't feeling so well himself for altogether different reasons_were among the fallen pretty much tells you right here and now that this team might already be wrestling out of its weight class with a beast of a double-whammy.
"Nothing has changed about our goals," Finley said.
Admirable, certainly. But that would be part of the other issue.
There are injuries, which are part of life in the NFL. And then there are expectations, the kind that might as well have put a Super Bowl-or-bust helmet sticker just above the squashed-G from the get-go.
Finley wasn't the only one to say it; he just said it through stadium-size speakers after the intrasquad scrimmage a couple of months ago.
The Packers were feeling the championship vibe, and the media were spreading it around so liberally that you'd thought fertilizing manure was on sale at the Farm and Fleet.
The fans were feeling it, and the football world was feeling it to the extent that maybe even Denny "Crown ‘Em" Green was feeling it.
But there's one slight problem. The league first requires an entire 16-game presence.
Naturally, the questions of expectations irked a coach who had a reason to be upset with other matters.
"I answer expectations questions all the time," Mike McCarthy said. "Our expectations are week to week."
They are now.
But give the Packers a measure of credit for improvising against Washington. They changed their plan with what they were down to after Finley, Matthews and Donald Lee joined Ryan Grant, Nick Barnett, Mark Tauscher and Morgan Burnett on the spectator list. But even with a 10-point lead, it wasn't enough on the road to limp to the finish line as they did the week before at home against the Detroit Lions.
They blew coverages. They missed tackles. They left three huge points on the field by trying to get six with Finley's inexperienced backup on fourth and goal.
They missed kicks. They dropped footballs. They wasted a big timeout with disorganization. They weren't sharp with time management. The committed silly penalties, even if Woodson vehemently protested the obvious interference penalty he drew on the game-losing drive.
No one in 31 other cities gives a rodent's you-know-what that the Packers have an injury list that drops to the floor when held at Finley's pad level.
If the backups can't stop an underdog from making big plays, even if it has a savvy vet like Donovan McNabb, the roster composition must be called into question.
But, the Packers actually ran the ball well enough to beat a team like Washington. Brandon Jackson broke off a 71-yarder. Yet, the Packers wasted it when their passing game wasn't enough to beat a team like Carolina.
Aside from the dropped passes and the four sacks, Rodgers was struggling before he was knocked into the District proper on the Packers' final offensive play.
Consequently, the interception that virtually ended the game wasn't even close to Greg Jennings.
Given the care that must be taken with concussions, who knows when Rodgers will play next? Again, the Packers can't control injuries. But they can do something about the inefficiency of play that is already becoming chronic.
Michael Hunt is a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist.
Last updated: 3:16 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012