GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The Green Bay Packers, humbled by the Minnesota Vikings in their own backyard, limp into their bye week with bruised egos and battered bodies, courtesy of the new kings of the NFC Central.
“Whenever you lose going into the bye week it’s a bad thing, because you have so much time to think about it,” defensive tackle Santana Dotson said.
At least they’ve got extra time to recover physically and regroup from the psychological pain of their 37-24 whipping at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings.
Coach Mike Holmgren is giving his players four days off. They’ll return Sunday to begin preparing for a Thursday night game at Detroit, where they never seem to play well.
And they sorely need the time off.
The list of casualties from Monday night’s loss that snapped their 29-game home winning streak includes wide receiver Derrick Mayes, who tore ligaments in his right knee returning a punt late in the game.
Mayes was in because Roell Preston had cramps. It was a curious call by Holmgren, what with flanker Robert Brooks hurting. Brooks hasn’t practiced in three weeks and is limited in games because of soreness in his post-operative back. Now, Bill Schroeder is the No. 3 receiver.
The Packers also lost their backup quarterback, Doug Pederson, for six weeks with a broken jaw, courtesy of cornerback Corey Fuller, who blitzed with under a minute left and the Vikings up by 20.
He smashed Pederson on the chin with his helmet as the quarterback released a touchdown pass. The Packers expect Fuller to be fined by the NFL.
Linebacker George Koonce sustained a severe hamstring pull, tight end Jeff Thomason got a concussion, safety LeRoy Butler sprained an ankle and was walking with a crutch on Monday.
“It always seems like when you lose big, you lose players, too,” said safety Pat Terrell, who bruised his ribs.
“Yeah, we lost all the way around,” receiver Antonio Freeman said.
And how will the Pack recover from what backup quarterback Randall Cunningham called “the greatest night in my football career?”
“We have to bounce back, we can’t play like this anymore,” Reggie White declared.
The ineptitude wasn’t limited to the defense.
The Packers failed to convert a fourth-and-inches for the third time in two weeks, and Brett Favre threw three interceptions for the second straight week.
“Well, he hasn’t had to bounce back too much the last few years,” Holmgren said. “He’s a tough guy mentally. He’s going to be fine. The team’s going to be fine. Last night, we just got it taken to us pretty good.”
The Packers were torched by the lethal combination of no pass rush and a suspect secondary. That allowed Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Jake Reed to combine for 17 receptions for 398 yards and three long touchdowns.
The defense, which prided itself on not allowing big plays, gave up six receptions of 30 yards or more, including touchdowns of 56, 52 and 44 yards to go along with a 24-yard score on a screen pass.
Never before in Holmgren’s seven seasons had the Packers allowed four TD passes in one game, and no quarterback had thrown for 442 yards on them.
The feeling that no team can come to Lambeau Field and dominate the Packers is gone. Suddenly, the Packers look vulnerable.
“It was a tough day to come in here and watch that film,” Terrell said. “I woke up this morning, and I was like, `Man, please tell me I was dreaming what happened last night.’ But reality is I was not dreaming and we’ve got to get better.”
The Packers insisted this was an aberration and not the first fissures in a foundation of a team that maybe isn’t as good as it thought it was.
“We just have to keep pushing, keep fighting, keep working hard, stay together,” Freeman said. “It’ll be all right in the end.”
The Packers had greatness in their grasp. Their home winning streak, which included four playoff victories, was two shy of Miami’s NFL record set from 1971-74.
Holmgren, who is 42-5 at Lambeau Field, was eager to break that record, but he feels 29 is worth celebrating, too.
“One of our goals when we got here was to establish Lambeau as a tough place to come in and play,” he said. “And I think we’ve done that.
“Now, we just have to start on a new streak.”