COMMENTARY | It was a foreign emotion for the Green Bay Packers once the final whistle blew on Monday night and the final score read 27-20 in favor of the Chicago Bears. Not only had the Packers avoided defeat for roughly six weeks, but Aaron Rodgers wasn't on the field at the end of the game for the first time in nearly three years.
It was the story of the night, as Rodgers was knocked out with an injury on Green Bay's opening drive. In came backup quarterback Seneca Wallace, and out the window went any chance the Packers had at securing a victory over their most bitter NFL rival.
Green Bay did retake the lead in the third quarter thanks to some trickery, but failed to muster a score over the final 23:15 of the game. The Bears imposed their will, putting together an 18-play, 80-yard, 8:58 drive that resulted in three points and all but buried the Packers.
Now, there is a three-way tie atop the NFC North, and uncertainty at the most important position on the football field in Green Bay. What else did we learn from the Packers' frustrating loss to the Bears?
Injuries finally caught up to Packers
After escaping Week 8 without a scratch, the injury bug that has ravaged the Packers all season long made its triumphant return on Monday.
Not only was Rodgers a victim, but Green Bay also lost the services of right guard T.J. Lang (concussion), forcing Don Barclay to shift inside and Marshall Newhouse to enter the game. Andy Mulumba was carted off to the locker room, leaving the Packers with two healthy outside linebackers -- Mike Neal, who was dealing with an injured hand, and rookie Nate Palmer.
It was just too much for Green Bay to overcome. Wallace missed far too many throws, the right side of the offensive line struggled to pass protect and the Packers couldn't generate any pressure on the quarterback from the edge.
That being said, the Packers still only lost by seven to a team with a winning record, but the injury count in Green Bay is becoming downright comical.
Green Bay can't win without Aaron Rodgers
For anyone that believes in jinxes, this column from Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that came out last week followed by the injury to Rodgers sure is a remarkable coincidence.
In the column linked above, McGinn essentially predicts the timing of Rodgers' injury, but goes on to say the Packers are well-enough equipped to handle such a loss.
Now obviously, McGinn had nothing to do with the injury to Rodgers, nor could he have foreseen how poorly the Green Bay defense would play on Monday night. But his premise was completely flawed. The backup quarterback situation for the Packers is rather grim, and nobody, at any position in the NFL, means more to a team than Aaron Rodgers does to Green Bay -- plain and simple.
Perhaps the Packers could win without Rodgers, say, if Matt Flynn was the backup. And sure, with Rodgers out for what could be three games with a small fracture in his collarbone according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Green Bay could still manage to win a game or two.
But the point of McGinn's article was that the Packers can have sustained success and still go places without Rodgers on the football field. Not so much.
Tackling issues have reappeared
This might be hard to believe, but in 2012, the Packers were the second-best tackling team in the NFL according to Football Outsiders. You wouldn't know it from Monday night, as Green Bay missed tackles at the most inopportune moments.
Mike Neal had Chicago quarterback Josh McCown in his grasp, only for McCown to escape and throw a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall. With the Bears facing 4th-and-inches at their own 33-yard line, A.J. Hawk had a chance to bring down Matt Forte in the backfield and failed. The play right before that, Casey Hayward whiffed on a tackle that would have surely forced Chicago to punt.
Those were just a few instances, but the ones that cost Green Bay dearly in crucial moments. Some of it goes back to injuries, but there were simply far too many missed tackles on Monday night.
Personnel use on defense is questionable
Injuries put the Packers and defensive coordinator Dom Capers in a tough spot, there's no doubt about it. But here are some alarming numbers for you. Among corners that typically see time in the nickel package, Casey Hayward received the most snaps with 42. Davon House had 24 while Micah Hyde saw time on 11 plays.
In case you didn't notice, Hayward had a pretty rough night. Meanwhile, House and Hyde were playing solid football leading up to Monday night, and yet the two didn't even combine to play as much as Hayward.
At linebacker, it was nice to have Brad Jones back in the mix, but it meant Jamari Lattimore, who has played some inspiring football himself lately, was the odd man out. However, Lattimore can also play at outside linebacker, and when Mulumba was forced to exit, it was Palmer getting reps in his place rather than Lattimore.
The Packers need to play their best 11 on defense, and that means finding a place for Lattimore and getting Hayward off the field until he returns to his former self.
Special teams, running game are strengths
There were still some bright spots for Green Bay on Monday night, including Eddie Lacy's 150-yard rushing output (Rookie of the Year, anyone?) and the zero penalties committed.
But how about those special teams?
The aforementioned Lattimore blocked a punt to set up a 32-yard touchdown run by James Starks. Tim Masthay pinned the Bears inside the 20-yard line four times. Mason Crosby was 2-of-2 on field goal attempts and executed a perfect onside kick in the third quarter that led to three points.
It was the special teams and the running attack that kept Green Bay in the game until the very end. To say that at this time last season would bring sarcastic laughter, but this is a new Packers team -- one that will have to heavily rely on a successful run game to survive without Aaron Rodgers.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
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