Monday, November 5, 2018

Green Bay: On the Road to Nowhere

By Eric Goska

The Packers 0-4 road record does not bode well for the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, from a playoff standpoint, the Green Bay Packers’ season is over.

Unless Green Bay becomes the 1995 Lions, the 1996 Jaguars, the 2015 Redskins or a reasonable facsimile thereof, the Packers will fail to reach the postseason for a second consecutive year.

Sunday in Foxboro, New England shot down the Packers 31-17. The win was the Patriots’ sixth in a row and improves their regular-season record at home under head coach Bill Belichick to 121-28-0 (.812).

Gillette Stadium ought to be renamed Gillette Academy. Year in and year out, visiting teams go there and get schooled.

The Packers were the latest to be subjected to a rigorous field study of the NFL’s flagship franchise. They received hands-on experience and, as most teams do, they failed the final in a course best summed as: “We’re the Patriots, and you’re not!”

Green Bay acquitted itself well for three quarters. Running back Aaron Jones staked out 71 yards rushing on 12 carries including four chain-moving gains. Marquez Valdes-Scantling streaked to 101 receiving yards in the third quarter, his 51-yard advance on third-and-six key as the Packers tied the score 17-17 on their opening drive of the second half.

The Packers refused to be budged on four consecutive plays from their 1-yard line in the third quarter. Defensive lineman Mike Daniels and linebacker Blake Martinez stuffed running back James White on first down. Safety Josh Jones deposited wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson short of the goal on the next snap.

On third and fourth downs, Tom Brady threw incomplete. Those errant throws were part of six straight tosses by the future Hall of Fame quarterback that did not reach their intended targets.

As the fourth quarter opened, Green Bay had moved 59 yards to the Patriots’ 34-yard line. On first down, Jones churned for six . . . and fumbled.

Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy forced the turnover. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore recovered the ball for New England. The Patriots turned that miscue into seven points. White plowed into the end zone from a yard out to cap a 10-play, 76-yard drive.

Brady then added an insurance touchdown on the team’s next advance with a 55-yard scoring toss to receiver Josh Gordon.

Sufficiently chastened, the Packers managed just 16 yards on their remaining 12 plays. Their last gasp was a weak throw by Aaron Rodgers as he was pressured by defensive end Adrian Clayborn with three minutes, 52 seconds remaining.

The loss dropped Green Bay’s record to 3-4-1. The team sits ahead of only the Lions (3-5) in the NFC North Division.

Of greater concern is the Packers’ miserable road record (0-4). By opening with four consecutive setbacks away from Lambeau Field, Green Bay has all but eliminated itself from postseason consideration.

Had the Green and Gold somehow persevered Sunday night, their future would have been considerably brighter. The difference between 0-4 and 1-3 is the difference between a flicker of hope and darkness.

Since 1978, the year the league went to a 16-game schedule, 353 teams lost exactly three of their first four road games. Almost a quarter (87) managed to post winning records, and 63 reached the playoffs.

A total of 179 teams lost all four of their first four road games. Just eight posted winning records and three – the 1995 Lions (10-6), 1996 Jaguars (9-7) and 2015 Redskins (9-7) – squeezed into the playoffs.

Only the Jaguars tasted victory once there. They defeated Buffalo and Denver before yielding to the Patriots, 20-6, in the AFC championship game.

That’s three playoff teams in 40 years. Anyone want to put money on Green Bay becoming the fourth?

Here’s how the 0-4 crowd breaks down. Nearly two thirds (117 of 179) won five or fewer games. Fifty-eight teams managed three or fewer victories. And three – the 1982 Colts (0-8-1), the 2008 Lions (0-16) and the 2016 Browns (0-16) – couldn’t record a W to save their season.

Care to hazard a guess as to which teams have gone the longest without an 0-4 start? Dallas (1989) and, surprise, surprise, New England (1992).

Green Bay has experienced 0-4 before. The team floundered about in this manner nine times previously dating to 1921.

Only once did such a poor start lead to a winning record. After dropping decisions in Los Angeles, Minnesota, Miami and Detroit, the Don Majkowski-led Packers of 1989 rebounded to finish 10-6.

But even with 10 victories, Green Bay needed the Bengals to topple the Vikings on Christmas Day in order to gain entry into the postseason. The Vikings declined to cooperate winning 29-21, and the Packers stayed home.

Green Bay has now completed the first half of its 2018 schedule. It’s beginning to look a lot like help —perhaps along the lines of a miracle—will be required if the Packers’ are going to continue to play into January.

Oh-Four Naught
The 10 seasons in which the Packers started 0-4 on the road.

Year    Record         PF        PA          Diff.
1950      3-9-0           73        128         -55
1955      6-6-0           61        131         -70
1958     1-10-1          45        141         -96
1976      5-9-0           27        102         -75
1979     5-11-0          34        79           -45
1984      8-8-0           54        95           -41
1985      8-8-0           65        129         -64
1989     10-6-0          94        121         -27
2005     4-12-0          66        93           -27
2018      3-4-1           84        122         -38

PF = points scored by Green Bay in its first four road games
PA = points scored by the Packers’ opponents in those four games

1 comment:

  1. I think Minnesota is going to win the North Division. The 5 seed likely is coming from the South. So that means the Packers will battle it out with other teams for the 6 seed where maybe they will get to play the Vikings in the first round.

    Packers at Vikings would be fun.