Packers Insider: Thumbs up to Jamaal Williams, down to Brett Hundley
THE BIG PICTURE
A 2017 Packers season that began with bright promise ended on a dreary note on New Year’s Eve in Detroit. It matters little that the Packers were blown out 35-11, finishing with a 7-9 record. What’s important is what happens next. With the expected departure of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers can take the first steps toward getting better on that side of the ball. The outlook for the offense was bolstered by the contract extensions awarded over the weekend to receiver Davante Adams and center Corey Linsley. A healthy Aaron Rodgers will make Green Bay a preseason favorite again in 2018, but it should be clear now that he will need help from a revamped roster to get this franchise back to its accustomed position as a perennial playoff team.
Although clearly outmanned, the Packers still were competitive midway through the second quarter, trailing just 10-3. A Clay Matthews sack of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford forced a three-and-out, but the Packers muffed the punt return when cornerback Donatello Brown impeded returner Trevor Davis while attempting to block and let the ball bounce off his helmet. The Lions recovered at the Packers 14 and scored two plays later when Marvin Jones Jr. torched cornerback Josh Hawkins on a fade route in the end zone for a 17-3 lead.
SILVERSTEIN:Packers can't ignore warning signs
DOUGHERTY:Leadership changes could run deep
RELATED:No defense for lack of improvement
One of the few bright spots in this Packers season was the emergence of rookie running Jamaal Williams as a viable starter. With fellow rookie Aaron Jones ruled out because of a knee injury and a third rookie, Devante Mays, exiting early with a shoulder injury, Williams again inherited a heavy workload. Despite facing a Lions defense geared to stop the run, Williams carried 22 times for 82 yards, caught three passes for 31 more and was solid in pass protection.
NOTES:Jahri Evans mulling retirement
DRAFT ORDER:Loss earns Packers No. 14 pick
FIVE TAKEAWAYS:Early capsule review of loss
If the Packers’ goal in stubbornly sticking with Brett Hundley through the final two meaningless games was to boost his confidence, it backfired. Hundley was awful again Sunday, extending to seven quarters the Packers' streak of failing to produce a touchdown. Hundley was intercepted on the Packers’ first drive when he threw behind Williams on a crossing pattern; fumbled after being stripped of the ball on an option run and ended a miserable day by throwing an interception right to Lions cornerback Darius Slay. He was 14-for-24 for 172 yards and a touchdown with a passer rating of 59.7 before being mercifully relieved by Joe Callahan on the final series. Given his 3-6 record as a starter and lack of significant improvement, the Packers clearly can’t count on him to be Rodgers’ primary backup again next season.
POSTSEASON:2017 NFL playoff picture
PLAYOFF SCHEDULE:Dates, times, TV
PACKERS CHAT:Ryan Wood at 11 a.m. Monday
VIDEO CHAT:Aaron Nagler postgame with fans
No Adams (concussion) and no Jordy Nelson (shoulder) should have meant a productive day for Randall Cobb and a bevy of young receivers. Instead, Cobb didn’t make his first catch until there were 15 seconds left in the third quarter; Geronimo Allison suffered a first-quarter finger injury and didn’t return until late in the game, and Michael Clark (one catch for 5 yards, two drops) and Jeff Janis (one catch for zero yards, one drop) let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers. Cobb flashed in the fourth quarter with a 17-yard TD reception and subsequent two-point conversion catch, and also completed a 10-yard flea-flicker pass to Hundley. Tight end Emanuel Byrd, just promoted from the practice squad, had a 29-yard catch during which he sprinted out of a shoe while streaking down the sideline.
This game may have been meaningless, but don’t tell that to Stafford. Despite taking a pounding all season, the Lions quarterback started and enjoyed another big day against Green Bay’s makeshift secondary. Stafford hit on 20 of 29 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns (one of 71 yards to Golden Tate, another of 54 to Kenny Golladay) with no interceptions for a glittering passer rating of 140.4. Perhaps as payback for past torment at the hands of the Packers, Stafford capped his big day by scoring a two-point conversion on a razzle-dazzle option pass from Tate.
Packers safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Josh Jones had some embarrassing lapses. Bad enough that the rookie Jones failed to provide cover over the top for cornerback Davon House on a laser-beam throw to Marvin Jones that went for 56 yards and set up Detroit’s first field goal. On Golladay’s 54-yard TD play, Clinton-Dix appeared to give up on the tackle after getting stiff-armed. It was the latest example of season-long lackadaisical play from a supposed defensive leader.
Season-ending injuries to right tackles Bryan Bulaga and Jason Spriggs took a toll on the Packers’ offensive line in this game. Stand-in Justin McCray struggled on the outside, as did his replacement at right guard, Lucas Patrick. Savvy Ziggy Ansah led the Lions' assault with three sacks and five hits on Hundley.
BOX SCORE:Lions 35, Packers 11
GAME BLOG:Review Silverstein's live coverage
BITS AND PIECES
» Cobb’s 10-yard pass to Hundley was his first regular-season passing attempt since his rookie year (2011) and first regular-season completion.
» Mike Daniels’ third-quarter sack gave him five on the season, his most since 2014.
» The Lions completed their first series sweep of the Packers since 1991.
» This was the 15th time the Packers have played the Lions in the regular-season finale. With Sunday’s loss, the Packers’ record in those games is even at 7-7-1.
» Under coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers’ record against the Lions slipped to 18-6.