Packers may have learned about themselves in loss
Mike Conklin, Packers Contributor
Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
There are no moral victories in the NFL. A win is a win and a loss is a loss.
The Packers were a five-point underdog going into Sunday's game against the 49ers (although "nobody's Underdog" Mike McCarthy surely didn't see it that way).
After such a disappointing showing the last time the two teams met, all eyes were on the Packers defense to see if they would show signs of improvement.
The run defense certainly showed up.
Even though Colin Kaepernick had a career day through the air, the Packers held the mighty 49ers and their star-studded offensive line to only 90 yards on the ground.
Last year, the 49ers were among the league's best in that category. They churned out over five yards per carry, en route to a 156 yard average output per game.
On Sunday, the Packers held the 49ers to 2.6 yards per carry. The rush defense appeared stout throughout the game, and held Frank Gore to only 44 yards on 21 carries.
The Packers went big up front, rotating in Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, and Johnny Jolly early and often.
The big guys up front played well, allowing inside linebackers Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk to combine for 19 tackles.
The strong start for the run defense may bode well for the Packers, considering many of their opponents this year.
The next opponent, the Washington Redskins, led the league in rushing last season, and the Packers will play last year's second-best rushing team, the Minnesota Vikings, twice.
The defense may have given up many more yards through the air than they would have liked, as they faced a tough challenge in trying to overcome the loss of Morgan Burnett and Casey Hayward. Even so, the Packers were in the game until the end.
Lost amidst the big games given up to Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis, was the fact that the Packers almost won the game. The Packers themselves think they should have won the game, but just made too many mistakes against a good team on the road.
"We weren't sharp enough," said Mike McCarthy after the game. That summary was spot-on.
The Packers turned the ball over twice. The offense went three-and-out five times. They couldn't get anything going on the ground for most of the game.
Jeremy Ross made poor decisions on special teams that put the offense in a difficult position on multiple occasions. Josh Sitton had three holding penalties in the second quarter alone.
And on top of the Packers hurting themselves in all those different ways, one of the big stories on all the national television networks was how the officials blew a call that ended up essentially giving the 49ers and extra four points.
The Packers went toe-to-toe with the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. They didn't win, but they could have.
A loss is a loss, but maybe that is something the Packers can take with them if they happen to play the 49ers again in January.
As Aaron Rodgers can attest, never underestimate the power of an extra little chip on a shoulder.