It all happened within a 35-second span at 4:06 p.m. ET — 101 days (or 2,420 hours) after the 2011 NFL season kicked off. The Packers lost for the first time and the Colts won for the first time. Here are the implications:
1. History has been curbed in Green Bay and Indy. Mercury Morris, who was trending worldwide on Twitter for much of the afternoon, can now pop the champagne with his teammates from the 1972 Dolphins. That is still the only team to ever run the table throughout the regular season and playoffs. Members of the 2007 Patriots might not be celebrating, but the Green Bay loss means they’re still the only team to finish a 16-game regular season without a loss.
Meanwhile, Dan Orlovsky avoids having the distinction of going 0-16 with two different teams. Although he’s played half-decent of late, the defense and the running game carried Orlovsky today, which is why he’s probably breathing one hell of a sigh of relief. The 2008 Lions (0-16) and the 1976 Buccaneers (0-14) continue to share the burden as the only two teams to finish an NFL season without a win.
2. Wrench added to the MVP race. Aaron Rodgers was supposedly a lock, but a lot of pundits were using Green Bay’s perfect record in their argument for Rodgers as both MVP and offensive player of the year. Now that Rodgers and the Pack won’t be making that kind of history, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear some suggest that Drew Brees, Tom Brady or even Tim Tebow deserve consideration for major awards.
Rodgers completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes for only 235 yards and one touchdown Sunday. He didn’t make any big mistakes, but he certainly didn’t look like a superstar either. Meanwhile, Brees was lights out (32-of-40, 412 yards, five touchdowns, zero picks) as the Saints killed the Vikings to win their sixth straight game. He’s on pace to absolutely smash Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards record and is now only only three touchdown passes back of Rodgers.
Brees is hot; Rodgers is not. If current trends continue, things could be interesting when the awards are handed out in January and February.
3. Suck for Luck sweepstakes aren’t over yet. The Colts won for the first time in 15 weeks, but they also avoided embarrassment for the fourth time in as many weeks. It’s not impossible to imagine Indy winning at least one of its two final games. On Thursday night, they host a Texans team travelling on short rest after being manhandled at home by the Panthers. And then they have a mini bye week to prepare for the finale against a Jaguars team that has lost four out of five.
With two-win St. Louis and two-win Minnesota both losing today, the Colts are no longer a virtual lock to be picking first overall in next April’s draft. The Rams, who have by all appearances phoned it in, have a slim chance of winning either of their final games against Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and the Vikings, who have lost six straight, will also be underdogs the rest of the way.
The tiebreaker to determine draft order is strength of schedule (the team with the weaker schedule gets the higher pick). At this moment, Indy’s opponents are a combined 101-87 (.537), St. Louis’ opponents are a combined 107-83 (.563) and Minnesota’s opponents are a combined 112-79 (.586). It’s hard to imagine the Vikes catching the Colts, but the Rams have a real chance.
What’s amazing is that the Packers fell to such a bad team. I would have understood if they had lost in New York against the Giants or in Atlanta or San Diego, or even to the Lions, but no one thought the Chiefs stood a chance in this game. Kansas City was playing its first game after firing its head coach and had scored just 45 points in six games, losing five of those six affairs.
Indy’s victory was less shocking — the team had shown signs of life recently with Orlovsky at quarterback and had the luxury of facing a familiar division foe at home. They got some help by way of three Titans turnovers and a disappearing act from Tennessee’s front seven, but it was still a commendable effort from a team that had nothing to play for (especially considering that the Titans were still in the playoff race).
But the Packers claim they don’t care much about regular-season history and awards, and the Colts insist that they aren’t thinking about the draft. If that’s the case, today’s shocking results only served to eliminate distractions for both teams.