Commentary

What does Packers' loss mean?

The tangible effects are easy to figure, but the psychological impact is guesswork

Originally Published: December 20, 2011
By Ross Tucker | ESPN.com

What if the Packers' loss to the Chiefs on Sunday was just that -- a loss?

Unless the Packers go into a free fall from here, which is highly doubtful, all the psychoanalysis about the psychological impact of losing their perfect season seems like a huge waste of time. The answers are usually much simpler, and thus much more logical, than many in the media want to acknowledge.

Do the Packers feel less pressure now because they no longer have the specter of an undefeated run hanging over them? I suppose you could make that argument, but isn't there still a lot of pressure and don't they still have a bull's-eye on them as defending champions?

I was once on a 2005 Patriots squad aiming for a third straight Super Bowl title, and there was a certain level of expectation for that team. Even more importantly, other teams were eager to be the one to knock us from our pedestal.

But even with that, I don't think it had anything to do with our falling short in the divisional round to the Denver Broncos. You know what did? The five turnovers we committed on our way to a 27-13 defeat.

It was a bad game that came at the wrong time. For the Packers, maybe Sunday's loss to the Chiefs was a bad game that came at the right time. Maybe they were due to lay an egg in one of these games and needed to get it out of their system. Or maybe the Chiefs showed a formula for beating the Packers that other teams can now attempt to replicate when they take on the Pack. We won't know the answer for weeks.

Someone also might make the case that the Packers will not be as razor-sharp mentally, especially for the remainder of the regular season, now that the opportunity for a perfect season no longer exists.

I believe these are all things that we attach meaning to in hindsight, after we know the outcome. If the Packers win it all, we will all talk about how losing to the Chiefs was the best thing that could have happened to them and list all the reasons why. Heck, even some players may say that, but the truth is that nobody really knows for sure.

The only effects of Sunday's loss that I believe in are the tangible ones. For one, the Packers will have to take a long look at why they struggled against the Chiefs and what they need to correct. That is valuable because it is better to make those corrections now than after a playoff loss.

With a perfect season off the table, if they beat the Bears on Christmas night and lock up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, they will be able to rest some of their starters in Week 17 against the Lions. That will give them more time to heal for the playoffs and also limit their exposure to injury.

That is a very real benefit, unless they go out and get beat in their first playoff game. Then all the second-guessers will suggest that they were flat because there was "too much of a layoff" between games and that Packers coach Mike McCarthy should have played his starters in Week 17.

You know what really matters? How you play in the actual game. Do you execute the game plan? Do you turn the football over? Everything else becomes merely talking points -- or, as the case may be, writing points.

Just like all the discussion about the long-term effects of Sunday's loss to the Chiefs.

From the inbox

Q. This may sound dumb, but is a walk-through practice? I have been following football for over 30 years and I always wonder what people mean when they say this.

Chris from Marysville, Calif.

A. Not dumb at all, Chris, and in fact these are the types of mailbag questions I love answering, because how else would you know? A walk-through essentially means that the players go through the plays and their assignments at a walking pace. Sometimes it is before lunch during the week and there are no helmets or shoulder pads. Sometimes it is right before the start of practice and the players are wearing shoulder pads, but even then there is no contact and the tempo is conducive to working on the mental aspects of your assignment, not the physical ones.

Q. Joe Webb is one of the most amazing athletes I have ever seen. I know there is much more to the quarterback position than just athletic talent, but it seems strange that the team is unwilling to even try with him. Do you think Joe Webb can be a quarterback? Do you think he will ever get the opportunity now that Minnesota has drafted Christian Ponder? And do you remember playing with any supremely talented teammates who were buried on the depth chart and never got an opportunity to start?

Jacob from Maitland, Australia

A. Unlike the Vikings' decision-makers, I do not have access to how Joe Webb performs in the meeting rooms and on the practice field. With that rather sizable caveat out of the way, I do have access to his performance in games, and I agree with you 100 percent. I would like to see Webb get an opportunity to show what he can do because I have been impressed by what he has done in limited chances. In fact, I have a theory that he could do everything that Tim Tebow is doing in Denver, only better -- if given a shot. He is clearly faster and more athletic in the run game, though he probably lacks Tebow's raw power. His arm strength and accuracy are far superior to Tebow's. Why not give him that chance?

Q. I was reading your archived articles and I came across a post about how success in the two-minute drill is the best indicator of how good a QB really is. I agree with you, but does that mean Tebow really is a good QB?

Justin from Baltimore

A. That is an excellent question. Although I do think the two-minute drill separates the elite from the merely good among NFL QBs, Tebow is clearly a unique example. I say unique because, until recently, he has been dreadful for the first three quarters before performing at a high level once the chips are down and teams start to play softer coverages. Although I think Tebow deserves a lot of credit for his two-minute performances, I think he needs to continue to improve his level of play throughout the game before I can say that his two-minute performances cement him as one of the best QBs in the game.

Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams in a seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com.

Ross Tucker, who played on the offensive line for five teams during his seven-year NFL career, writes regularly for ESPN.com. Tucker, who also hosts ESPN.com's Football Today podcast, graduated from Princeton.