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It's not about 'Skins winning; it's about Packers sinking

by | National Columnist

LANDOVER, Md. -- The one play that perhaps showed the cumulative result of the current physical devastation being endured by the Green Bay Packers happened with a few minutes left in the game. It was a defining moment for what's currently wrong with the Super Bowl favorites.

Washington tight end Chris Cooley made a short catch with about three minutes left, and it should've resulted in a routine tackle. It didn't. One Packer bounced off. Then another. Cooley was a bull, and the Packers were tourists in Pamplona. A third Packer pin-balled and then one more.

The Redskins bury Aaron Rodgers again, eventually concussing the QB. (Getty Images)  
The Redskins bury Aaron Rodgers again, eventually concussing the QB. (Getty Images)  
Cooley's hard run led to a 30-yard gain and put Washington in field goal range. The kick tied the score at 13 and sent the game into overtime. Washington eventually won 16-13 on a Graham Gano field goal from 33 yards.

But the story isn't the Redskins. The story is Green Bay. The Packers are disintegrating right before our eyes in a haze of injuries and mental lapses that are threatening their season.

There was a Philadelphia-Washington game in 1990 that resulted in so many players hurt it was called the Body Bag Game. Redskins-Packers wasn't as bloody, but it was close. Packers tight ends Donald Lee (shoulder stinger) and Jermichael Finley (knee) were sidelined. It got so bad at that position, Mark Chmura was ready to vacate the hot tub and suit up.

Green Bay also lost linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring), linebacker Ryan Pickett (ankle) and defensive back Derrick Martin (ankle). It's no wonder Cooley was able to dance through Green Bay's defense with such ease. The defensive roster was pummeled.

Perhaps the biggest injury was to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The Packers said he suffered a concussion in the final seconds of overtime. It's quite possible Rodgers will have to miss a game.

"I haven't seen anything like this before," Finley said of the injuries.

That's the physical part. Then there's the mental part, and that might be the biggest problem of all with Green Bay.

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The late-game collapses are leading to questions about the Packers' mental toughness and the capabilities of the coaching staff. The Packers are jumping out to quick starts and dominating opponents but failing to close them out. It's a constant issue that hasn't gone away.

"This game was just like the Chicago game," said defensive back Tramon Williams, speaking of the Packers' 20-17 loss to the Bears last month. "We controlled the game and then everything went sour."

"We could have beat [the Redskins] on many different occasions," he said. "We're giving away games. We're a lot better than these guys. It's frustrating because we shouldn't be losing these games."

The Packers coaches have been unable to decode the problem and as a result a team that should be 4-1 (at worst) is just above .500.

McCarthy said he isn't thinking about the heavy preseason Super Bowl expectations (expectations the Packers embraced). He may not be, but many others are.

"We're going to get back, we're going to get our team healthy, and we're going to get our guys ready to play next week at home against Miami," said McCarthy. "I answer expectation questions all the time. Our expectation is week to week."

The Redskins have the opposite issues. They start off sluggish but somehow hang around. The fact that this team, which has a bad offensive line (the Packers sacked Donovan McNabb five times), no elite wide receiver and no elite running back (Clinton Portis is hurt), is tied for first place in the NFC East is a credit to McNabb and a solid Washington defense.

The Redskins are easy to figure out.

The Packers are different story. But someone in Green Bay had better do it. Fast.


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