4 Downs: Packers pay price for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's mistakes
Every week I’ll share four observations the day after the Green Bay Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers’ 23-0 loss to Baltimore on Sunday:
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had a nice interception covering Ravens third-down back Danny Woodhead on a wheel route, but he also had a couple of costly mistakes that continued what has been a mostly disappointing season for the 2016 Pro Bowler. In the first quarter, Clinton-Dix dropped an interception inside the Packers’ 10 that would have kept points off the board — the Ravens ended up with a field goal that was the first score of the game. Then in the fourth quarter, with the Packers still down only 13-0, he picked up a bad penalty for unnecessary roughness that helped the Ravens kill clock and get another easy three points. The Ravens were at the Packers 29 when running back Alex Collins picked up three yards on a run out of bounds. But after he was at least a couple yards out of bounds, Clinton-Dix gave him a hard shove to the ground for the blatant penalty. The 13-yard penalty put Baltimore in position for a short field goal that increased its lead to 16-0 with a little less than five minutes to play.
Even if Kenny Clark’s ankle injury turns out to be as severe as it looked when he was carted off the field Sunday, the Packers have to be relieved the ascending defensive lineman wasn’t injured worse. Clark was hurt when a player fell on the back of his leg, which often can mean a torn ACL. The second-year pro has been one of the Packers’ best defensive players this season, so an ACL injury would have been especially bad because it almost surely would have meant he’d miss the start of next season. The recovery from ACLs usually is at least 10 months and often closer to 12.
Coach Mike McCarthy made a game-management decision out of desperation that cost the Packers valuable field position on a day when his defense was playing well. The Packers were down 13-0 about five minutes into the second half when McCarthy went for it on fourth-and-6 from Baltimore’s 41. Hundley took an eight-yard sack. If McCarthy had punted, he could have pinned the Ravens inside the 20 or maybe even inside the 10. With the way his defense was playing, he had a decent shot at a three-and-out that would have given his offense excellent field position. His defense got the stop after the failed fourth down, but Baltimore still flipped the field with a touchback punt.
Jason Spriggs struggled in his first game since coming off injured reserve (hamstring). Spriggs went in at right tackle when Justin McCray went out in the third quarter because of a knee injury. But Spriggs had the same problems he’d had before he went on IR. He was on skates several times against bull rushes that collapsed the pocket from his side, and he gave up a sack when Terrell Suggs beat him badly on an inside move. Spriggs set so far outside on Suggs’ initial move than he barely got a hand on the defensive end as he went by him on the inside.