The Green Bay Packers fell to the lowly Kansas City Chiefs yesterday, and it was the best thing that has ever happened to them.
From Day 1 of this season, the Pack has looked as good as any team in the history of football, but they started to show more and more holes as the season has progressed….bad running game, suspect offensive line, suspect passing D. We saw similar things down the stretch with the 2007 New England Patriots. They were smoking teams by multiple touchdowns, but after a near loss to the Ravens late in the year, teams started to figure out how to slow down their offense and put some points up on their slower, veteran defense. As they continued to win, you could feel the pressure mounting. Once you get to 18-0 and you’re in the Super Bowl, there’s no way that you can just treat it like it’s the “next game.” The Patriots ran into a buzz saw. The Giants had a phenomenal second half of the season, and the Patriots seemed tired and tight in that Super Bowl. They just didn’t look like the same team that put 50+ on the Bills in three quarters earlier in the season. They weren’t just trying to be the best team that year, they were playing to be the best team EVER, and it obviously got to them. If that Giants team and that Patriots team played ten times on a neutral field that year, the Pats probably win eight or nine times. They were that much better than everyone else, but a team can only take so much pressure before cracking.
We’ve seen this type of undefeated run a few other times in recent history…
2009 Indianapolis Colts – 14-0, lost last two games. Lost Super Bowl to New Orleans Saints.
1998 Denver Broncos – 13-0, lost two of their last three. Won Super Bowl.
2005 Indianapolis Colts – 13-0, lost two of their last three. Won Super Bowl.
2009 New Orleans Saints – 13-0, last three straight. Won Super Bowl.
2011 Green Bay Packers – 13-0, lost in Week 15…Super Bowl – TBD.
Do you see a pattern there? Every other team in this modern era that started the season 13-0 went on to win the Super Bowl. Would anyone care about the 72-10 Chicago Bulls if they had ended up losing in the Finals? We all know the answer to that question. As much as the regular season matters to these teams, I can assure you that Tom Brady would have loved to drop a game or two in the regular season in 2007 if it meant winning the Super Bowl that year.
There is something that happens psychologically and emotionally to these teams when perfection is at stake. As soon as that is off the table, teams have the time and the ability to play loose, just like they’re just another team that is part of the chase. They also have a chance to look internally to see what those teams did to beat them…what are their weaknesses, what are their strengths, what kind of gameplan works best. The Patriots played so well for so long in 2007 that they just kept doing the same thing knowing that it had worked so many times before, but like the Chiefs showed this last weekend, there are certain schemes and scenarios that can shut you down regardless of how much better your are than everyone else.
The Packers are the best team in football. As long as they can be healthy for the Super Bowl run they’ll be our world champions. And they’ll probably look back on this one week and realize how helpful it was for them to get healthy over the final three weeks, refocus on their gameplans, and remove all the pressure of playing for perfection.