Depending on who’s reading it, the headline above can either be bulletin board material that induces instant rage, or yet another bland, generic locker room comment, the kind that’s heard often after a crushing playoff loss.
And if Clay Matthews said that line in the immediate aftermath of a playoff loss, maybe it wouldn’t be getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment among the New York media as it is today, and spun as a lack of respect for opponents. Instead, Matthews’ words would have been viewed as the product of a player venting frustration.
But the game — the Packers’ 37-20 loss to the Giants last January that ended Green Bay’s title defense — wasn’t played yesterday, or last week, or last month. It was played seven months ago during the divisional round, and now a new season is beginning, providing plenty of time for sober reflection. After that win, the Giants continued on a run that at the time seemed improbable given the way they finished the regular season, beating the 49ers and Patriots to win their second Super Bowl over the past five years.
For Matthews, though, time heals zero wounds.
Here’s the full comment said to Yahoo’s Michael Silver as part of a story that looked back on the Packers’ 2011 season.
“We picked the most inopportune time to play our worst ball. The fact is, [the Giants] didn’t beat us; we beat ourselves. We need to play our best ball when it counts. This year, I expect us to be right back where we should be.”
Again, you can hear the frustration, and despite how much time has passed, that’s understandable. I’ve never gone through the experience of training for a season, maybe getting injured and rehabbing to full health, winning a lot of games while carrying the expectations of a town so crazed with titles that it actually calls itself Titletown, and then losing in the playoffs promptly. But yeah, I can imagine how that would suck, and a feeling of bitterness would linger.
The reality, though, is that during that divisional round loss to the Giants, the Packers may not have played their best game, but it wasn’t their worst game either. They played a very typical game, or a game that was only slightly worse than typical.
The eulogy for the Packers’ 2011 season is an easy one to write. During the regular season their defense allowed an average of 299.8 passing yards per game, and during that game Eli Manning passed for 330 yards. They also allowed an average of nearly two passing touchdowns per game (1.8), and Manning met that average, and then exceeded it by one, throwing for three aerial scores.
The deficiencies of the Green Bay defense were largely blamed on the secondary, but a poor pass rush deserved the bulk of the blame following the departure of Cullen Jenkins. After 47 sacks in 2010 the Packers had only 29 in 2011, and Manning was brought down just once.
It was a very bad game defensively by a defense that had been very bad, which is exactly what we expected.