Packers Insider: Thumbs up to offensive line, down to special teams
The Packers can be thankful that the Brewers' playoff run is diverting a little of the sports focus in Wisconsin, but Green Bay looks every bit as underwhelming as its 2-2-1 record would indicate. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers admittedly hasn't been sharp while playing with a brace on his left knee and indicated he tweaked the injured joint during Sunday's 31-23 loss in Detroit. The special teams were awful, the secondary looked leaky and the Packers failed to generate much of a pass rush. With the idle Chicago Bears sitting pretty at 3-1, the Packers must right their listing ship quickly and beat a San Francisco 49ers team that remains dangerous despite losing quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo for the season. The Packers are 1-1-1 against NFC North rivals, with two of the remaining three games on the road.
It quickly became clear Sunday that the mistake-prone Packers were in trouble. After forcing the Lions to punt on their first drive, the Packers gave them a gift when the referee determined that the ball hit cornerback Kevin King while it was bouncing near the goal line and Detroit recovered the muff at the 1. Trailing 7-0 after Detroit scored, the Packers marched 65 yards in 13 plays, only to have Mason Crosby miss the first of what would be four unsuccessful field-goal attempts (plus an extra point) on the day. Two plays later, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford hit receiver Kenny Golladay on a 60-yard bomb down to the Packers 5, and when LeGarrette Blount punched it in from four yards out, the Packers trailed 14-0 and never recovered.
The Packers' offensive line gave Rodgers plenty of time to throw all afternoon. The four sacks that Detroit registered were mainly the fault of young receivers unable to get open and the quarterback hanging onto the ball too long and not feeling the heat coming on the two strip-sacks that resulted in lost fumbles. Mike McCarthy had indicated he wanted to run the ball 30 times partially to benefit the line, but given their large deficits the Packers were only able to produce 20 carries.
Crosby and the kicking game were far from being the only special-teams culprits. Besides letting the ball touch him on the Lions' first punt, King committed a running-into-the-kicker penalty. A holding penalty of Josh Jones nullified a 65-yard Ty Montgomery kickoff return and Josh Jackson was flagged for an illegal block in the back on a punt return. Bad showing all around for Ron Zook's unit on a day when the Packers never punted.
» A total letdown: The Packers' offense has struggled for most of the season — the 24 points scored in the second half of Week 1 remains a season high for a game — and Sunday was no different. They had some success running the ball but a 14-0 first-quarter deficit limited that. Aaron Rodgers lost two fumbles and the receivers didn’t consistently present themselves well. Mason Crosby missed three first-half field goals (five kicks total on the day) and the special teams units as a whole were undisciplined. The defense gave up big plays through the air and resumed making poorly timed penalties. No phase of the team had a good day.
» Crosby's meltdown: The 12-year veteran entered Sunday leading the NFL in field goals made (10) and attempted (11) and was 8-for-9 on extra points. But under the roof of Ford Field, he somehow lost his way in missing a career-high four field goals. He had a chance to get Green Bay on the board trailing 7-0, but missed from 41 yards out. He also had two chances to pull the Packers within 17-3, but missed from 42 and 38. With a missed field goal against Minnesota in Week 2 and missed extra point against Buffalo last week, Crosby has missed seven kicks in five weeks. After the Packers finally scored in the third quarter, Mike McCarthy elected to go for two-point conversions until early in the fourth when the Packers had a chance to draw within 10 points. But Crosby missed the PAT. He missed a 56-yard attempt late in the fourth but did make a 41-yard attempt with two seconds left.
» Kevin King’s inglorious return: The second-year corner played for the first time since injuring his groin against Minnesota and had a tough day. Officials determined a bouncing punt nicked him, leading to a turnover at the Packers’ 1-yard line that set up Detroit’s first score. He was called for roughing the kicker and a facemask penalty and was in the vicinity on touchdowns to Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay. His day ended early when he was carted to the locker room after suffering a facial injury in the fourth quarter.
» Passing game sputters: Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison were inactive and although Davante Adams did play, Rodgers struggled to find rhythm with his receiving corps even though the pass protection was generally excellent. In the decisive first half, Rodgers had plenty of time on most drops, but he often broke the pocket to help his receivers find openings. Too often Rodgers had to throw the ball away or was hit from behind — twice resulting in lost fumbles. Individually, the offense struggled, too. Rodgers wasn’t sharp at times and receivers dropped passes. The aerial attack found some traction in the second half, but it was too little, too late.
» Must-win Monday night: At 2-2-1 the Packers are the definition of mediocre but they get an extra day to prepare for the San Francisco 49ers' visit to Lambeau Field for a Monday night game Oct. 15. They need to win and then spend their bye week preparing for back-to-back road games against the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. After hosting Miami, Green Bay then gets a short-week turnaround trip to Seattle for a Thursday night game in Week 11.