- Steve Palazzolo, NFL
Questions abound after the Green Bay Packers' 45-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Despite the 49ers' superior record, many analysts expected the Packers to come out of San Francisco victorious and primed for another Super Bowl run behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Instead, Green Bay is left to wonder how it gave up an astounding 579 yards in the losing effort as it searches for solutions this offseason.
The truth is that the Packers aren't nearly as bad as Saturday's game would lead you to believe, though they certainly have holes on the roster that must be addressed. For starters, the front seven can play better, both on the defensive line and at the outside linebacker spot opposite Pro Bowler Clay Matthews.
Offensively, it's hard to complain about a unit that averaged 27.1 points per game, but there is still room for improvement. The offensive line has had more success in pass protection than it's had moving defenders off the ball, leaving the Packers without the necessary running attack to take some pressure off Rodgers.
If there's a quarterback who can handle that load, it's Rodgers, but if Green Bay hopes to make another Super Bowl run, it can find better balance in a few key spots.
It's not as if the Packers haven't tried to find an outside linebacker to pair with Matthews, as they spent their first-round pick in last year's draft on Nick Perry. He was entrenched as the starter at LOLB on opening day, but after a rough start, Green Bay quickly realized that he may not be ready for a full-time role. Perry played all 67 snaps in his debut in what turned out to be his worst game as a pro. The Packers decreased his workload, and he showed signs of improvement, both as a pass-rusher and a run defender, before going down to injury in Week 6. Perry's development will go a long way toward shoring up perhaps the biggest weakness on the roster.
12hEric D. Williams