Senior writer jclombardi highlights Packers loss to Lions.
Offensively inept Packers fall to Lions: The NFL’s toughest defense to score against did its part Sunday to help the Green Bay Packers continue their dominance over the Detroit Lions. All Mike McCarthy’s offense had to do was produce an average performance against a statistically poor unit and the Packers would have sneaked out of Ford Field with a victory. Instead, the Packers were shut down by a Lions team that entered the game ranked No. 25 in the league in scoring defense. The resulting loss left McCarthy pointing the finger at himself for the offense’s most disappointing performance of a season in which inconsistency has been a major issue. “We played poor on offense today and that starts with me,” McCarthy said after his team was held to a season low in points. “We were poor and I’m not very pleased about it.” It was a bizarre day for the offense, which was more productive with backup Matt Flynn in the lineup than it was with starter Aaron Rodgers, who was knocked out of the game late in the first half after suffering his second concussion of the season. The Packers (8-5) finished with 258 total yards – their second-lowest total of the season – and converted at an abysmal rate of 17 percent (2-for-12) on third down against the Lions, who were allowing 25.5 points per game. Rodgers and Flynn were sacked a combined four times, leading to 31 yards worth of losses. But the most disappointing statistic for Green Bay was its three turnovers. That’s two more than the Packers had in the past five games combined.
Backup QB Flynn struggles leading offense–moves team but not into end zone: Flynn, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 177 yards with an interception, said he could tell Rodgers was “woozy” after he got up from the scramble, but he said by the time he got to the sideline he was talking and acting normally. The backup entered with the game scoreless and the Packers struggling mightily on offense already. On his first series, with the Packers starting at their own 41 late in the quarter, he directed a three and out that included a 7-yard sack. In the second half, he started to warm up a little bit, hitting tight end Andrew Quarless on a bootleg play for a 20-yard gain to the Packers 48 on the first play. He completed two more passes for 11 and 7 yards, but he failed twice from the 24-yard line to get the Packers any further and settled for a field goal. “I thought he did a good job,” McCarthy said of Flynn. “He managed the game very well. He was in some tough spots.” Flynn’s day went downhill after the field goal. Even though he marched the Packers on drives of 43, 81 and 60 yards in the second half, he couldn’t get them in the end zone. Mostly, he was undone by mistakes you wouldn’t expect from a starter. Among the bad mistakes Flynn made was an interception thrown right into the hands of linebacker DeAndre Levy, who was 2 yards deep in the end zone in the third quarter. It was a ball he never should have thrown because receiver Donald Driver wasn’t open. “I didn’t see him,” Flynn said of Levy. Among the other mistakes was a third-down running play in which Flynn went the opposite direction of the rest of the team. He said he thought everyone had heard an audible he had made at the line. On the Packers’ final series, which started at their own 9 with 3:58 to go, Flynn did just enough to get the Packers in scoring position and just enough to keep them from scoring. On a second-and-11 play from the 8, he gave Driver a hand signal to change his route, but it came so close to the snap count that Driver didn’t see it. Flynn threw deep down the middle, but Driver had turned right instead of left. Flynn dug himself out of that hole with five straight completions for a total of 60 yards, getting the Packers down to the Detroit 32 with 1:29 left. After running back Brandon Jackson came up a yard short on second and 2, McCarthy called a play-action pass on third and 1 that had a big gain written all over it. Driver took his route across the field at around the 20 and had a block ahead of him from receiver Jordy Nelson, but Flynn sailed the ball over his head. Given the determination with which Driver scored last week against San Francisco, he would have made it interesting. Finally, on fourth and 1, McCarthy gambled and went for a pass. Jennings ran a slant-and-go pattern and had a step on the defender, but Flynn’s ball wasn’t accurate, and Jennings couldn’t catch up to it. It was a ball you’d expect Rodgers to throw on the money.
Two big turnovers too costly: Two huge first-half turnovers added up to one very bad day for the Green Bay offense. It was so bad Sunday in the 7-3 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field that the up-and-down offense, plagued by injuries all season, seemed doomed even before quarterback Aaron Rodgers was forced to leave late in the first half with a concussion. That you could sense right from the start. On the Packers’ first drive of the game, Rodgers found tight end Andrew Quarless for a 12-yard gain on second and 3 near midfield for what appeared to be a big gain for the offense. But Quarless was hit by Lions linebacker Landon Johnson, lost the ball and it was recovered by cornerback Brandon McDonald. The most damaging turnover occurred late in the first quarter. On second and 3 from his 27-yard line, Rodgers sprinted to his right and threw a long strike to receiver Greg Jennings, who had beaten rookie cornerback Amari Spievey in single coverage. Had Jennings held on to the ball, he likely would’ve scored. Instead, he bobbled it right into the hands of Spievey. “I’ve to make plays when the ball is in the air,” Jennings said. “I’ve been making plays, and that’s what we do. But we didn’t do it today, and I let the team down with that big drop. It was a momentum changer.” Jennings, who had bounced back from a slow start early in the season to become one of the Packers’ top playmakers, had no other explanation for the play that turned the game. “I dropped it, I dropped it, I dropped it,” he said. “Disappointing. Very, very disappointing.” Fellow wide receiver Donald Driver reflected on the effect the two early turnovers had on the Packers. “We started off fine,” Driver said. “Then we got a turnover, and boom. Then we got another, and it seemed like everything went downhill.
A real pain: Suddenly, what had the potential to be a December to remember has now been thrown into disarray after the Rodgers-less Packers fell to the hapless Lions, 7-3. “It’s almost unbelievable,” nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “It being December football – and we know the importance of playing well in December – for us to come out and have a performance like this, it’s just hard to believe.” Believe it. “It’s obviously disappointing whenever you lose. You play this game to win – and to get yourself in position to make a Super Bowl run. Obviously we took a step back today,” outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. “You hoped that we were past this by now, and if we can take away anything, hopefully it’s a real wake-up call, especially coming into these last three games.” “Our guys played resiliently today. That’s something that we haven’t done the whole season. There’s been some fourth quarters that we’ve let one bad play turn into another. In this game, we found a way to make it.” The good news for the Packers was that the Patriots, next week’s opponent in Foxborough, Mass., throttled the NFC North-leading Bears to allow the Packers to stay within a game of the Bears with three to play. The Packers and Bears will face each other at Lambeau Field in the Jan. 2 regular-season finale, but where the Packers are at by then is anyone’s guess. And if they play the way they did Sunday, even before Rodgers’ concussion, it might not matter. “I didn’t like the way we started. They were playing faster than we were and there was no reason behind it,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, whose offense didn’t manage its first first down until 9:25 remained in the first half. “I didn’t see any signs of this during the week of preparation. I thought the week of preparation was a good week. It wasn’t a great week, but I thought they were definitely dialed in. “I made a point of this type of game last night in the team meeting. That’s what’s frustrating to me, to come over here and the importance of a division game and to start the game the way we did. We need to quit having these types of lessons.”