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Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

After the Green Bay Packers' 7-3 loss to the Detroit Lions, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. There can be no argument that the Packers opened this game flat, giving an amped up 2-10 team every reason to believe an upset could be achieved. Rookie tight end Andrew Quarless' first-quarter fumble, along with receiver Greg Jennings' inexplicable mishandling of what would have been a 73-yard touchdown, were the two most obvious examples. I realize most Packers players weren't on the roster the last time the team lost to Detroit, and maybe they thought a victory Sunday was inevitable. But when you're already trailing the division lead by a game and aren't high on the list of NFC wild-card contenders, you can't afford to take anything for granted. For reasons that can't be explained, it sure seemed the Packers did.

  2. With three games remaining, the Packers need to prepare themselves for the real possibility of not making the playoffs. Sure, there are scenarios in which they can either win the NFC North or clinch a wild-card spot, but both would require help from other teams. They could be eliminated from contention for the division title as early as next week if they lose in a difficult game at the New England Patriots, and the Chicago Bears defeat the Minnesota Vikings. We won't jump the gun on analyzing the impact of missing the playoffs, especially considering the crippling list of injuries the Packers have suffered. So we'll just say the Packers have their work cut out for them to avoid serious disappointment.

  3. Just last week, we noted quarterback Aaron Rodgers' running prowess and that he has been mostly smart about avoiding major contact. Sunday was not one of those cases. And in this instance, no one could blame an uncalled blow to the helmet, either. Instead of sliding at the end of his 18-yard run, Rodgers dove forward through two converging defenders. One of them, Lions linebacker Landon Johnson, hit him hard but cleanly on the shoulder as Rodgers fell to the ground. Rodgers' concussion appeared to occur when his helmet bounced off the turf. The most important priority for any quarterback is to be available, not to fight for extra yards at the end of a scramble.

And here is one issue I don't get:

The Packers' offensive line has been pretty stable this season, so it was a little surprising to see it get manhandled by a Lions defensive line that was playing without one starter (defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch) and another (defensive end Cliff Avril) whose playing time was limited by injury. I realize that left guard Daryn Colledge left with an injury, and that the Packers tried two replacements in Jason Spitz and T.J. Lang. But I think the Packers were still expecting more than 66 rushing yards against an opponent that entered the game with the NFL's No. 25 ranked rush defense. And giving up four sacks, all to Lions backups or injury replacements, was also unexpected.