LANDOVER, MD. – There was a time not so long ago the Green Bay Packers were a feared team.
There was a time they were a confident team.
There was a time they were considered a playoff team.
The Packers are 4-6, have given up 120 points to their last three opponents and must make up a two-game gap in the next six weeks just to have a chance at the playoffs, where they undoubtedly would be picked to lose their first game.
If jobs weren’t on the line going into this game, they are now after a pathetic finish in an eminently winnable game they wound up losing, 42-24, against Washington Sunday night.
BOX SCORE: Washington 42, Green Bay 24
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A national television audience was witness to how bad the Packers really are and those inside the locker room who had to answer to this latest loss, know they’re on their own. After this latest loss, maybe deep inside they agree with everyone else and aren’t sure if they can win another game.
“If you’re a fan, you can just give up,” linebacker Datone Jones said. “We don’t worry about that. At the end of the day, you have to look yourself in the eye and ask, ‘Am I doing everything I can to help this team win.’
“Every man needs to do that.”
The last time the Packers were this far under .500 this late in the season, they had lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone in the 2013 season. They went 0-4-1 over the next five weeks, were 5-5 after 10 weeks of the season and bottomed out at 5-6-1.
That team won three of its last four and made the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record. That team also knew that it was going to be getting back its star quarterback, who had been playing to his normal Pro Bowl standard.
This team has nothing of the sort to look forward to unless Rodgers goes beyond putting up big numbers and actually wills his team to victory. Whereas Rodgers completed 26 of 41 passes (63.4 percent) for 351 yards and three touchdowns, his counterpart, Kirk Cousins, was even better, completing 21 of 30 (70 percent) for 375 yards and three touchdowns.
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Rodgers’ passer rating of 115.0 was no match for Cousins' 145.8.
The Packers just don’t have what it takes to win a closely contested game.
“I still believe in us,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said. “We just have to find a way to win ballgames. That’s it.’
Many of the Packers said the same thing they’ve been saying after each of their four consecutive losses, which is that they will put this one behind and focus on the next one. But most of them have not experienced a collapse like this and there isn’t a cadre of veterans to show them how to fight through the losses.
Even the veterans don’t really know what it’s like. The Packers have had so much success over the Mike McCarthy era that they had trouble identifying the reasons they’re playing so poorly.
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“It’s hard losing,” said cornerback LaDarius Gunter, who gave up a back-breaking 70-yard touchdown reception to receiver Pierre Garcon. “We have a lot of pride in ourselves and we’re not going to give up.
“Be a professional and come ready to work.”
The Packers have suffered a load of injuries and lost several more players Sunday night – linebacker Blake Martinez (knee), safety Kentrell Brice (back), cornerback Demetri Goodson (knee). At the end of the game, they seemed helpless to stop Washington from sealing the nail in the coffin.
If they didn’t give up, then they were clearly demoralized and beaten.
“I don’t think so,” Jones said, when asked if the team gave up. “We have to find ways to keep fighting and playing hard. We could have finished the game better.
“We have to figure out ways to win these games. Everyone has to give more.”
The Packers go on the road next week to play Philadelphia, which is undefeated at home and in the thick of the playoff race. If the Packers don’t make a late-season run, jobs are going to be on the line and they won’t have any control over who stays and who goes.
The Packers are now one of those desperate teams. They’re not Super Bowl material, division champion material or even above-.500 material.