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Packers vs. Chiefs: The Aftermath

December 18, 2011

The Packers suffered their first loss of the 2011 season at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs by the score of 19-14.

The December Duo

You knew the Packers were in trouble on Sunday when one of the few bright spots was punter Tim Masthay.  Not only did Masthay boom a 71-yard punt, but he helped create the offense’s first first down with a roughing the punter penalty. The Pittsburgh native added to his good day by landing three of his five punts inside the 20-yard line.

The only other player that showed a little flash was running back Ryan Grant. The fifth-year pro totaled 101 yards: 66 on the ground and 35 through the air. Grant showed his usual December burst on many of his runs and athletically bailed out a scrambling Aaron Rodgers early in the fourth quarter with a juggling catch down the right sideline for 22 yards.

Defense Giveth, But Not Taketh Away

Dom Capers’ defense embodied the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy on Sunday, holding the Chiefs offense to one touchdown and four field goals in five redzone trips. Ultimately, however, the league’s best defense at creating fumbles and interceptions came up empty in the turnover department and the Packers were handed their first loss of the year.

The defensive line led the way on the goal-to-go situations, but as a whole, the defense gave up 438 yards and could not stop running backs Thomas Jones and Jackie Battle when it mattered most in the fourth quarter. On any other day this season, holding the opponent to 19 points wins the game, but on a day where the offense sputtered, it simply wasn’t enough.

The Offen-sieve Line:

Sunday’s offensive struggles started up front. Even before injuries forced the Packers offense line to play musical chairs, the unit wasn’t producing. When the dust settled, the Chiefs hit Aaron Rodgers 5 times and sacked him 4 times.

To make things worse, right tackle Bryan Bulaga re-injured the same knee he hurt back in week 3 against Chicago. After the game, Mike McCarthy characterized the injury as a “knee sprain” but Bulaga’s replacement, rookie Derek Sherrod, wasn’t as lucky. The Packers first-round draft pick broke his right leg when Chiefs defensive end Tamba Hali fell into him late in the game.

The pair of injuries forced right guard T.J. Lang to shift to right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith to replace Lang at guard. The new-look offensive line didn’t fare any better than the old iteration, so here’s to hoping that Bulaga’s injury isn’t serious and veteran Chad Clifton is able to come back soon.

Hurry Back, Greg Jennings

Did anyone else notice that the Packers wide receivers didn’t seem to be open on Sunday afternoon? Not only does Greg Jennings make big plays, but his mere presence stretches the defense and accounts for at least two defenders. Without Jennings, the Chiefs defensive backfield zeroed in on the other wideouts and the Packers receiving corps didn’t help themselves with their numerous drops.

The offense’s lone big play was to tight end Jermichael Finley. On the Packers second drive of the second half, Rodgers and the offense faced a 3rd-and-4 from the Kansas City 48-yard line. Finley got a clean release from his three-point stance, and atoning for his earlier drops, adjusted under a deep Rodgers’ pass to make an over-the-shoulder catch for a 41-yard gain. Three plays later, Donald Driver’s touchdown catch finally put the Packers on the board.

Aside from Finley’s grab, the usually high-powered Packers offense couldn’t find the accelerator. In his post-game comments, quarterback Aaron Rodgers summed up Jennings’ absence perfectly, “We miss him.”

Up Next

Next week, the team returns to the friendly confines of Lambeau Field to face the Bears on Christmas. If the Packers bounce back and beat Chicago, they would assure themselves homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, but Pittsburgh could deliver the Green and Gold an early Christmas present with a victory over San Francisco on Monday night. No matter how it adds up — a Green Bay win or a San Francisco loss — the Packers are still on course for the best record in the NFC and a week of rest before attempting to defend their Super Bowl title.

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