The late-season run resembled the ‘Run the Table’ mantra the team embodied a few years ago. And yet, the Green Bay Packers found yet another way to disappoint when the perfect opportunity was ripe for the taking.
It’s not that they lost to the Detroit Lions, it’s that they lost to the Detroit Lions when all they needed to do was win and they would have earned the seventh and final seed in the NFC playoff bracket. The perfect opportunity to turn a 4-8 season into a postseason-bound season was right in front of them, and all that stood in front of them was a Lions team that was eliminated earlier in the day.
Sloppy play, inexcusable penalties, copious turnovers, and acting like the team did not want to win dominated their 20-16 loss to the Lions on Sunday Night Football, ending a season that was one of the most roller coaster-y seasons in recent memory.
Matt LaFleur will have plenty of spots to look back through the game that he called and see how poor some decisions were, especially in the red zone. His play calling lacked any sort of consistency throughout the game, and on certain short yardage or fourth down opportunities, he went away from a few sure-fire ways to convert.
A 17/27, 205-yard performance is fine for Aaron Rodgers, as his years of lighting up defenses for 300+ yards are long gone. But he seemed far more inaccurate than what the box score shows, a performance that included far too many close calls.
In a game where Green Bay needed to rely on its veteran skill players, Rodgers failed to step up into the spotlight yet again, consistently keeping this team behind the sticks. A late-game interception was the final straw that broke this season, as that was all the Lions needed to salt the fourth quarter away.
A costly fumble by Aaron Jones in Detroit territory halted a good-looking drive for the Packers, and while he was mildly efficient (15 touches, 68 yards), that turnover was what will be remembered from this game. AJ Dillon was not used enough (9 carries for 33 yards), and he was not on the field or used for a few short-yardage situations, compounding poor playcalling.
Christian Watson was one of the lone bright spots on the offense, hauling in 5 catches for 104 yards, including a 45-yard bomb that he hauled in basically only with one arm. Watson tied Allen Lazard in targets (6), but with the amount he got behind the secondary, he should have seen a bunch more work.
The team’s leading tackler was a bit of a surprise, as Darnell Savage had one of his better games. Flying all around the field, Savage also had a tackle for loss and broke up two passes, a surprisingly-good performance for a player that saw plenty of curveballs thrown his way this season.
As a whole, the defense was fine, allowing 323 total yards – but allowing over 4 yards per rush is an easy way to lose at the point of attack, and that played in Detroit’s favor.
A healthy 25 rushing attempts helped keep the pace of the game siding with Detroit for most of the game, as they fed Jamaal Williams (2 TDs) and D’Andre Swift (25 rushing yards) 22 total carries. For the Lions to be efficient, they try to rely on an even game script, and their ability to run the ball in mostly any down and distance helped keep the Green Bay defense guessing all game.
Only getting to Jared Goff once (Devonte Wyatt’s first career full sack) for a sack is a big reason why their offense was able to dictate the game’s pace – Goff is not the type of QB that operates super well under pressure, but only being hit three times and sacked once helped keep him confident and calm.
Boneheaded moves by Rasul Douglas (touching the ball on a field-goal attempt) and Quay Walker (pushing a Detroit athletic trainer) were the cherries on top of this incredibly-disappointing performance from Green Bay. Having a team act like they don’t belong is not the type of team the Packers are known for having, but LaFleur and Brian Gutekunst will need to take a hard look in the mirror this offseason to see who they are currently as a team and who they want to become next season.
Plenty of words will be coming from the PackersTalk staff this offseason, recapping the season and looking ahead to free agency, the trade market, and the NFL Draft, so stay tuned!뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23