Packers' defense has no answers for collapse

Ryan Wood
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LANDOVER, Md. - Nobody in the Green Bay Packers locker room can provide a solid answer for this mess.

They speak of having too much talent to be this bad. They speak of watching the film, correcting mistakes. They even speak of not giving up on this tired, lost season.

“I don’t see why not,” defensive tackle Mike Daniels said when asked whether their season can be salvaged.

The problem, Daniels said, was the Packers were “just not getting it done.”

Why? How?

“I don’t know,” Daniels said. “We’ve just got to get back to the film and figure it out.”

BOX SCOREWashington 42, Green Bay 24

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Nobody knows. Not after a 42-24 loss Sunday night at Washington. Not after allowing 40 points in back-to-back weeks for the first time since 1950. Not after allowing at least 30 points in four straight games for the first time since 1953.

This defense is doing things that haven’t been done since Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower were in office. Since gas was 18 cents per gallon. From here, you have to look up to see rock bottom.

The Packers' defense has played a major role in their first four-game losing streak since Aaron Rodgers’ first season as starting quarterback in 2008, but their struggles go back further.

Since the middle of October, the Packers have allowed at least 30 points in each of their five games not played against the Chicago Bears, who had Matt Barkley at quarterback throughout the second half. That’s 183 points total in five losses, an average of more than five touchdowns (36.6 points) per game.

McGINNPackers' season careens out of control

INSIDERThumbs down to depleted pass defense

DOUGHERTYDefenseless Packers in disarray

“I don’t know,” defensive back Micah Hyde said. “I have no idea. You can’t win ball games giving up that many points, no matter who’s on offense. Our offense can score a lot of points and move the ball and do what they do, but if we give up that many points, we’re not going to win any games. You’ve seen that the past couple weeks.”

This was once a defense that could hang their hat on solid play. A slumping offense? Sure, the Packers had that. They also had a defense that could give Rodgers a fighting chance.

Defense was the strength of this team. Remember those days? The Packers had a game-winning, fourth-down stop in Jacksonville. They allowed 17 points in a loss at Minnesota. They gave Eli Manning just 16 points.

Those days are done. Finished. On Sunday, the Packers needed one stop to get possession with a chance to win in the fourth quarter. They trailed 29-24, and their offense was heating up.

There were 10 minutes and change left, ball on Washington’s 19-yard line. Keep Washington out of the end zone, and the Packers at least had a chance to tie with a 2-point conversion.

Washington marched 11 plays in 6 minutes, 10 seconds. They converted four third downs, the dagger a 53-yard pass from Kirk Cousins to receiver Jamison Crowder.

At that point, the Packers’ fight was gone.

Washington punched it into the end zone on the next snap, taking a 35-24 lead. Its next drive went 72 yards in three plays and 33 seconds for a touchdown, padding the lead to 42-24.

“They made the plays,” Hyde said, “we didn’t. Simple as that. It wasn’t like we were back there screwing up and all that stuff. They just made the plays, and we didn’t. That’s the story of the past couple weeks.”

Washington sure had its share of big plays. Pierre Garcon burned LaDarius Gunter for a 70-yard touchdown. Crowder gashed Quinten Rollins for a 44-yard touchdown. DeSean Jackson beat Hyde for a 17-yard touchdown on a play where Gunter drew a penalty.

Snap after snap, it seemed, the Packers' depleted defensive backfield was giving up chunks. They looked like a secondary playing its third and fourth corner as starters. Sure, they’re missing Sam Shields and Damarious Randall, but even a little bit of resistance would be an improvement.

On this night, the Packers made Cousins look like Tom Brady. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 375 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 145.8 rating. That’s a whopping 12.5 yards per pass.

“I don’t know,” Rollins said. “If we had an answer for it, we’d definitely be using that right about now. I don’t know. You can say it’s a bunch of different things — the opponent, November, there’s a bunch of different ways you could twist it if you wanted to. But I don’t know.”

The Packers are running out of excuses, and they know it. Clay Matthews returned Sunday night, giving them their top edge rusher for the first time since October. Didn’t matter. Matthews finished with just one tackle.

Not that he was the problem. Right now, the Packers defense sure would be happy to plug the gaping holes in its hull, just as soon as they found them.

“If I had an answer for that,” Hyde said, “then that’d probably be solved a lot easier. Same guys on defense. Yeah, we’re a little banged up, but just like every team in the NFL is right now. Same calls. Same everything. We’re just, I don’t know. Can’t really answer that for you.”

No answers. Just problems. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence the Packers can salvage this sinking season.

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