Green Bay Packers: Three answers, one question
After Green Bay's 20-17 loss at Chicago, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
1. Is it possible for a coach to have too much faith in his place-kicker? If so, Mike McCarthy fits the bill. I've seen him play for a field goal twice this season where the distance or conditions suggested a conversion was far from a sure thing. Mason Crosby is a good kicker with a bright future, but a 38-yard attempt at the end of regulation Monday night should not have been considered a slam dunk. Not, at least, after seeing how Crosby reacted to the Soldier Field conditions on a 46-yard attempt that wouldn't have been good from 26 yards earlier in the game. The same goes for a 52-yard attempt at the end of the 28-27 loss at Minnesota last month. But instead of aggressively pushing to get an easier attempt or to score a touchdown, McCarthy dialed back and called running plays to run down clock. After an offseason review, I wonder if his strategy will change next season in those situations.
2. It got lost in the shuffle, but the Packers finally connected on that fade route they've been throwing to rookie tight end Jermichael Finley all season. Finley has caused trouble on the field and in the locker room, but it's pretty clear the Packers like his potential and are trying to develop him. I can see why: He's a big, fluid body who presents a mismatch for linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks.
3. You have to credit the Packers' defense for stifling the Bears for almost all of regulation. It was a nice comeback for a group that has been under fire for the past month. Were it not for special teams, the Bears might not have scored a touchdown Monday night. Most impressive was the run defense, which gave up a 28-yard run to Matt Forte but limited him to 45 yards on his other 22 carries. The Packers didn't win the game, but they at least showed some resiliency on defense.
And here is one question I'm still asking:
How extensive of an offeseason overhaul do the Packers need? They'll finish no better than 6-10 this season, and not many 6-10 teams stand pat. So I would expect some level of shuffling. But how many starters will be involved? Will the Packers take this opportunity to replace tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher or try to get a few more years from them? Will they move cornerback Al Harris? Will they actually use some of their salary-cap money on the free-agent market? Or will they cling to a nucleus that is among the NFL's youngest? There are no easy answers to these questions.