‘Annihilated’ doesn’t quite describe the Packers’ loss to the 49ers well enough. Let’s open the thesaurus, shall we? The Packers got demolished, obliterated, extinguished, eradicated, decimated, and flat out massacred on Sunday Night Football. Whatever adjective you want to use, you can get your point across. It was an ugly night in every way for the Packers. Yes, the 49ers have perhaps the best defense in the league and yes, Bryan Bulaga was lost to injury early in the game, and yes, the officiating was as horrible as it always is. But I don’t think anyone, not even the most delusionally-optimistic Niners fan could have expected what unfolded Sunday night.
The 49ers exposed the Packers. There is no other way to put it. The Packers’ fatal flaws were put on display in front of the entire country: their coverage over the middle of the field, and their lack of depth on offense. Anyone who has followed the Packers over the last several years will tell you that the team has utterly neglected the inside linebacker position. Blake Martinez is a tackling machine, but he is clearly a liability in pass defense. Oren Burks was taken in the third round in 2018, but he can’t consistently see the field and has yet to prove he can be a contributing member. Josh Jones could have been a legitimate safety-inside linebacker hybrid, but he was let go after just two seasons. I’m not saying Jones would solve the Packers’ problems, I’m just saying he’s another example of how the organization has just has such a carefree attitude towards their most glaring defensive problem.
All season, the Packers have given up too many big-yardage plays. For the most part, they have been able to get away with it because they have pressured quarterbacks and taken the ball away. But when they faced arguably the best team in the league, the 49ers, they didn’t have enough to mask their major problems. It is starting to feel like this defense is the same ol’ less-than-mediocre Packers defense, just with two better edge rushers.
Offensively, I’m at a loss. After Davante Adams went down against the Eagles, I was worried about the offense’s production. But those worries quickly subsided and Aaron Rodgers spread the ball around and utilized Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in the passing game more than ever before. And the offense absolutely thrived. However, in the three games since Adams’ return, Jones has seen just four targets, and he and Williams have combined for 73 yards. Jones himself has amassed -1 yards in that time. I mean, what the hell is going on? In the five games Adams missed, including the game he was injured in against Philadelphia, Jones totaled 28 catches on 34 targets for 317 yards and three touchdowns. Since Adams came back, it’s as if Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur have tried to force feed the ball to him at the expense of the rest of the receiving corps. And that brings us to glaring issue number two.
The Packers don’t have a legitimate number two target. Yes, Jones and Williams are extremely valuable weapons in the passing game, but it’s obvious they just won’t be used as much as long as Adams is on the field, and that’s a god damn shame. As for the rest of the wide receivers and tight ends, there is just nobody who can consistently step up and perform. Rodgers relies almost entirely on Adams to get open, and if he can’t get open, the team reverts back to the ol’ wide receiver screen. Only this time, the screens are being set for 6’5″, 227-lb. Allen Lazard. The team’s young receivers have all had their flashes and certainly possess potential, but potential is meaningless to a team that is in win-now mode. This all makes you wonder how valuable Randall Cobb could be, given that he has been one of Dak Prescott’s favorite targets all season.
The final five games of the season are all winable for the Packers. They should beat the Giants and Redskins. If they don’t, you can go into full panic mode. The Bears are still quarterbacked by Mitchell Trubisky, so that’s a game that should be won, especially at home. The Vikings are easily the toughest opponent left on the schedule and I would expect them to be favored at home. Then it’s the Lions to end the season, and Green Bay has not enjoyed a lot of recent history at Ford Field, but it’s still a very winable matchup. The bottom line is this: the Packers should still win at least 11 games in the 2019 season. An 11-5 record probably won’t be enough to get a first round bye in the top-heavy NFC, but it could be enough to get a home playoff game. But if (or when) the Packers play the 49ers, Seahawks, Saints, or Vikings in the postseason, it could very easily be yet another titleless season for Titletown.