DENVER — All the issues that have haunted the Green Bay Packers’ offense this season were magnified on Sunday night against the top defense in the NFL.
A multitude of missed opportunities culminated in the Packers hitting another low in a 29-10 loss to the Denver Broncos in front of 77,075, the fourth-largest crowd at Mile High Stadium. Denver played the role of the NFL’s stingiest defense to perfection as did the Packers’ 22nd-ranked passing offense.
The return of second-year receiver Davante Adams did little to alleviate the problems the Packers have persisted for the past month. Receivers couldn’t get open, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was unusually inaccurate and hit far too often.
The reigning NFL MVP threw for only 77 yards as the Packers amassed just 140 for the game. Despite coach Mike McCarthy’s decree to increase their offensive opportunities, the Packers ran only 46 offensive plays.
The Packers' top three receivers (James Jones, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams) combined for only eight catches for 37 yards. With the defense locking down Rodgers, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning put his rough start behind him in completing 21-of-29 passes for 340 yards and a late interception.
Rodgers’ 77 passing yards are the fewest he’s thrown in game he didn’t leave because of injury. His previous low happened in a 28-27 loss to Minnesota on Nov. 9, 2008, when Rodgers managed just 142 passing yards.
The Packers’ offense was non-existent in the first quarter with Rodgers getting hit on three occasions during the opening series. Green Bay managed one first down — off an 11-yard Eddie Lacy carry — but the drive halted after a 2-yard loss on a screen to Randall Cobb and a false start penalty on Richard Rodgers.
On the other hand, Denver moved the ball at will on the Packers’ defense for most of the game. After not scoring a touchdown in the first quarter all year, Peyton Manning changed that on Denver’s second series when he led a nine-play, 83-yard series that ended with a Ronnie Hillman 1-yard touchdown.
The Packers’ offense managed only one first down on its next two possessions, effectively ending its NFL-record streak of 22 consecutive regular-season games with a touchdown in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Denver extended its streak of holding opposing offenses scoreless in the initial 15 minutes.
Trailing by 17 in the second quarter, the Packers’ offense finally woke up on its last series of the half. The turnaround began after safety Omar Bolden was flagged for roughing the quarterback on Aaron Rodgers. The 15-yard penalty wiped out an incomplete pass that would have ended the drive.
The Packers gained 10 yards on the next play with an end-around by Randall Cobb. After a 15-yard carry by Eddie Lacy, Rodgers caught the Broncos with 12 men on the field and offsides to set up first-and-goal at the Denver 3.
Two plays later, Lacy scored on a 2-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 17-7 going into halftime. The Packers still platooned Lacy with James Starks, but his eight carries for 35 yards were the lone bright spot in a first half where Rodgers completed only 8-of-12 passes for 37 yards.
Receivers Randall Cobb (four catches for seven yards), James Jones (nothing) and Davante Adams (one catch for eights) struggled to gain separation from Denver’s secondary in the first half. On the other sideline, Demaryious Thomas had four catches for 101 yards at halftime alone.
The Packers, who deferred after winning the coin toss, started with the ball in the second half. The Broncos were a defensive pass interference call on T.J. Ward away from forcing a three-and-out. Rodgers got into Denver territory with a 17-yard scramble after James Starks picked up Ward’s blitz.
A holding call on right tackle Bryan Bulaga nearly pushed the Packers out of field goal range, but a 5-yard screen pass to James Starks on third-and-13 set up Mason Crosby’s 56-yard field goal to slice the Broncos’ lead to 17-10.
The defense lost Clay Matthews momentarily to an ankle injury on the next series and Denver running back C.J. Anderson immediately gutted the Packers defense for a 26-yard touchdown up the middle. Former undrafted free agent Joe Thomas replacing Matthews at inside linebacker to retake a 24-10 lead.
The Packers’ offense looked lethargic again on the next series with Aqib Talib’s holding penalty on Randall Cobb giving Green Bay its only first down. After burning the team’s second timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty, Broncos defensive end Antonio Smith burst through the line for an 8-yard sack.
Things got worse for the Packers after a 24-yard field goal by Brandon McManus put the Broncos ahead 27-10. On the first play of the next series, DeMarcus Ware shot past tight end Richard Rodgers to force a strip sack of Aaron Rodgers. Richard Rodgers eventually recovered the ball in the end zone for a safety.
With the game over, the Packers sent in backup Scott Tolzien with 1 minute, 9 seconds left and the Packers fell to 8-2 under McCarthy in games after the bye week.