GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers are a disappointing 4-3 after seven games. Their running back is on injured reserve. Like dominoes, other starters and key reserves have gone down, knees and shoulders buckling and tearing.
Their two-deep in a constant state of flux, the Packers fight on and hope to take a modest winning streak into their Week 10 bye.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears have assumed control of the division.
That doesn’t sound like the blueprint for a Super Bowl victory, does it?
But it is . . . or, at least, it was.
Just two years removed from their championship season of 2010, the Packers are déjà vu-ing their way toward the bye in Week 10.
If they beat the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lambeau Field on Sunday they will be 5-3, the same record they had after eight games in ‘10. They’ll have a chance to be 6-3 going into the bye — just as they were two years ago, when the bye fell, coincidentally, in Week 10.
The eerie similarities have not gone unnoticed by some of the players who were around two years ago.
Guard T.J. Lang said he thought about it before the Houston game Oct. 14, when the Packers were 2-3.
“That popped into my head,” he said. “Just two years ago we were kind of in the same position.”
Said receiver Donald Driver, “I guess it’s happening the same way it happened two years ago. Now, does that mean we’re going to go back to the Super Bowl? No one knows.”
After seven games in 2010, the Packers were ranked 11th in total offense and 18th in total defense; this year they are 14th in both.
When it comes to injuries, the names and numbers have changed since 2010, but the net effect is the same: Mike McCarthy’s “next man up” mantra is being put to the ultimate test.
In 2010, starting running back Ryan Grant was lost for the year in the season opener. This year, Cedric Benson was placed on injured reserve Oct. 10 with a foot injury.
Two years ago, the following starters went on injured reserve before the end of October: linebacker Nick Barnett, safety Morgan Burnett, right tackle Mark Tauscher and tight end Jermichael Finley.
Desmond Bishop replaced Barnett, Charlie Peprah filled in for Burnett, rookie Bryan Bulaga stepped in for Tauscher and the Packers used three tight ends in Finley’s stead: Donald Lee, Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree.
This year, Bishop (hamstring) and his replacement, D.J. Smith (knee), are on injured reserve and safety Charles Woodson (collarbone) and wide receiver Greg Jennings (groin) will miss significant time.
“It’s all just a coincidence,” said guard Josh Sitton. “I guess the biggest thing you learn from that year is just look at all the guys that we pulled up to play and they came in and played big roles for us. They were active game-day players. Even in the Super Bowl.
“There were guys they pulled off the street.”
True enough. Among the many personnel moves general manager Ted Thompson made in 2010 was signing castoff linebacker Erik Walden and claiming defensive lineman Howard Green off waivers from the New York Jets.
Both played important roles down the stretch and Green made a key play in Super Bowl XLV when he hit the arm of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter, resulting in a wobbly pass that was intercepted and returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Nick Collins.
This year, the Packers are counting on depth in their secondary and receiver corps to make up for the loss of Woodson and Jennings, both of whom could return before the end of the regular season.
Alex Green has replaced Benson and the Packers hope to get out of him what they got out of Brandon Jackson and later James Starks in ‘10. Jackson rushed for 703 yards as Grant’s primary replacement and Starks added 315 in the playoffs. Dimitri Nance, signed off Atlanta’s practice squad, also contributed.
“A lot of guys that are going to have to step up due to injuries this year, a lot of them weren’t around two years ago,” Lang said. “But the older guys, the leaders on this team, we were all here two years ago when the same thing was happening. We can kind of show those guys what we expect.
“We’ve done it before. We’ve got plenty of talent in this room so I don’t think there’s any need to worry about who’s out there playing.”
In 2010 the Bears won the division with an 11-5 record and the Packers had to win their final two regular-season games, including the finale against the Bears, just to qualify for the playoffs as a 10-6 wild card.
Then Green Bay won three consecutive playoff games on the road, beating the Bears, 21-14, in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field.
“We’re not sitting here thinking that’s what’s going to happen again just because that’s what history shows,” Lang said. “But it shows us that we’ve been in this position before and we can battle through the adversity and switch the season around real quick.”
Several players marveled at the similarities between the two seasons in the locker room last week.
“You do think about it,” Sitton said. “It’s very similar.”
Kicker Mason Crosby said the parallels hadn’t dawned on him until he was asked about them.
“Obviously, there are some comparables there,” he said. “You look at the comparables and that’s not a bad year to compare to.”
“Similarities?” said wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett. “I guess. Let’s hope. Let’s hope. The core of the team is still here that experienced that. So you can kind of draw on that experience as far as lessons learned.”
Crabtree, however, dismissed the similarities as mere coincidence.
“I guess you can make that comparison,” he said. “But that was two years ago. Two totally different teams. It doesn’t mean anything, in my opinion.
“It’s fun for some people to talk about, I guess. But it doesn’t mean anything going forward. We’ve got a long way to go.”