Packers left grasping for answers to explain embarrassing loss
GREEN BAY – The theme track to “Mission Impossible” played over Lambeau Field’s loud speakers. On the scoreboard, this situation shouldn’t have called for such dramatics. There were 101 seconds left Sunday, and the Green Bay Packers trailed by three points against maybe the worst team in the NFL.
With Aaron Rodgers, this mission should’ve been very much possible.
Except, of course, it’s a different season in Green Bay. So before the Packers' last-ditch drive to salvage their 2018 ended with Mason Crosby’s 49-yard field goal attempt sailing wide right, you probably already knew. The way this season has gone, the surprise would have been Crosby’s field goal splitting the uprights.
Now the Packers are 4-7-1 after an embarrassing 20-17 home loss to the 3-9 Arizona Cardinals, and the charade of thinking even a miracle is possible can stop. With a month to go, their season is over.
“Stating the obvious, that was clearly a very disappointing loss," said coach Mike McCarthy, who was fired later Sunday. "That was a game we needed to win. We’re all disappointed. I did not do a good enough job. We didn’t do a good enough job as a football team.”
The loss was only slightly more disappointing than how the Packers played. A win might have technically extended hope of a miracle finish this season, especially with the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers losing. Reality would be different.
Even if Crosby made his field goal and the Packers survived in overtime, they would still be a team going nowhere.
Fans wanting their team to run the table late in 2018 might get exactly what they wish. After Sunday’s performance, it’s conceivable the Packers will lose the rest of their games. The Cardinals, led by rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, seemingly represented the easiest win left on the Packers' schedule. None of the others were particularly close. Even when the Packers play the 3-8 New York Jets before Christmas, that game will come on the road.
To understand the full depth of Sunday’s defeat, you can start with the Cardinals’ record. No team in the NFL had won fewer games entering the weekend. The Cardinals showed just how desperate they were for victory, celebrating Crosby’s miss like it sent them to the Super Bowl. That’s what happens when, before Sunday, your lone wins in the season came against a San Francisco 49ers team playing without franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Even that doesn’t do Sunday’s loss justice.
A week earlier, the Cardinals lost 45-10 to the Los Angeles Chargers. A week before that, the Cardinals lost at home to the Oakland Raiders.
It could be argued a team tied for fewest wins in the NFL that loses at home against the dysfunctional Raiders is the very worst in the league.
And yet, here the Packers are.
“It’s not ideal,” left tackle David Bakhtiari said. “It’s not a situation that I expected us to be in. but we are who we are. We have to own it. It’s as simple as that.”
Despite losing four of their past five before Sunday, the Packers were two-touchdown favorites for a reason. Inside Lambeau Field, they had a distinct advantage. The Cardinals, who play their home games indoors, were coming from the Sonoran Desert. They had to play through a mix of sleet and snow for most of Sunday, with freezing-point temperatures about half the high in Phoenix.
It’s the type of game, McCarthy knew, his team should dominate. Instead, the Cardinals turned Lambeau Field into their desert oasis.
“We clearly did not play our best football,” McCarthy said. “We have benefited from a tremendous home-field advantage. We didn't take advantage of that today. December has always been a huge strength in our success, winning games over the past. But we did not play to that formula.”