DETROIT – The Green Bay Packers dug themselves a large hole early in the game for the third time this season, and for the second time it was too big a deficit to come back from in a 31-23 loss Sunday to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
The Packers fell behind 24-0 at the break as the Lions were able to take advantage of a slew of special teams errors and two Aaron Rodgers fumbles to race out to a big lead. Rodgers and his receivers found some chemistry in the second half to pull within 24-14 and then 31-20 but couldn’t stack multiple stops on defense, and the offense couldn’t score quickly enough to outpace the Lions. Five missed Mason Crosby kicks (including an extra point) left 13 points on the table for Green Bay.
"I thought our guys fought ... being down (24-0) was a hole we couldn't dig ourselves out of," coach Mike McCarthy said. "The negatives (were) the penalties and things of that nature. I thought our guys did a lot of good things, we improved in some areas but ... I didn't care for some of the things we know we can do better. These division games are so important. We're 2-2-1 and we've got work to do."
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, "It's frustrating. We've been a one-half team: one good half, one not-so-good half. I was a little off... Myself and our offense, we've got to put a whole game together one of these days."
Asked if he was concerned about the progress of the team since the start of the season, Rodgers said, "I'm aware of where we're at and we have to play better, myself included."
Here are five takeaways from the game:
A total effort
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 multiple fumbles and the receivers didn’t consistently present themselves well. Mason Crosby missed three first-half field goals (five kicks total) and the special teams unit as a whole was 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.
The 12-year veteran came into 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 make it 7-3 Detroit, but missed. Detroit went on to take a 14-0 lead off that. He also had two chances to pull the Packers within 17-3, but missed from 42 and 38 yards. With a missed field goal against Minnesota in Week 2 and missed extra point against Buffalo last week, Crosby has now missed seven kicks in five weeks. After finally denting the scoreboard in the third quarter, Mike McCarthy elected to go for two-point conversions, until early in the fourth when the Packers could draw within 10 points. But Crosby missed the PAT. He missed a 56-yard attempt late in the fourth but made a 41-yard attempt with two seconds left.
Kevin King’s inglorious return
The second-year corner returned to the field 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.
Pass game sputters
Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison were inactive and Davante Adams did play, but the entire pass receiving corps and Rodgers just could find no rhythm — 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 try and help his receivers find openings. Too often Rodgers had to throw the ball away or was hit from behind — two times resulting in lost fumbles. Individually, the offense struggled, too. Rodgers also 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 on Monday night
At 2-2-1 the Packers are the definition of mediocre entering the second quarter of the season, and they get an extra day to prepare for the San Francisco 49ers to come into Lambeau Field on Monday, Oct. 15. They’ll need a victory, and the following off week to continue to improve as the schedule is not favorable beginning Oct. 28 with back-to-back trips to Los Angeles to take on the high-flying Rams and then to New England to face the Patriots. They then get a short-week turnaround out to Seattle for a Thursday night game in Week 11.