Packers Insider: Thumbs down to Kizer, up to end of dismal season
Clearly motivated last week to finally get a road victory, the Packers were running on empty Sunday. The knee injury that landed Davante Adams on the inactive list robbed the Packers receiver of a shot at two team records and took away quarterback Aaron Rodgers' only reliable target. Rodgers departed after only three series with a concussion, fueling the argument of those who insist he should've been shut down for the season after Green Bay was eliminated (the Lions, on the other hand, let Matthew Stafford play the entire game). Now that the games are mercifully done, no one else can get injured and the Packers can turn their full attention to finding a new head coach.
Any chance the Packers might've had evaporated when Rodgers sustained his concussion, which may have occurred when Jarrad Davis sacked the veteran quarterback on his first drop-back of the day. Rodgers lost his helmet in the process and, although he was able to complete a 16-yard pass to Jimmy Graham on the next play, it was short of a first down and resulted in the first of what would be seven consecutive drives ending in a punt. The Lions put together a 13-play, 56-yard touchdown drive shortly afterward to go up 7-0, and when they scored again on a fake field goal to take a 14-0 lead as Rodgers was being escorted to the locker room, it was all over.
Packers outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell took down Stafford early in the third quarter, giving him double-digit sacks (10.5) for the year. Oh, and cornerback Bashaud Breeland returned a kickoff for 38 yards, a season-high for the Packers. But the best news for Packers fans? This season is finally over.
It was like watching Brett Hundley in 2017 all over again, only worse. Called upon after Rodgers left with a concussion, backup quarterback DeShone Kizer gave an abysmal performance (16-for-35, 132 yards, one interception and a passer rating of 44) that made it clear the Packers need to keep looking for a backup quarterback. After spending a season as Rodgers' understudy, Kizer should know the value of ball security better than to throw one up for grabs, as he did while being taken down in the fourth quarter (resulting in a Quandry Diggs interception).
» Rodgers' season ends early: Early in the second quarter, Rodgers’ injury-plagued 2018 season ended with another injury. Rodgers walked through the tunnel back to the locker room, where it was confirmed he suffered a concussion. He finished 3-for-5 for 26 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions and a 73.8 rating. His season ended just shy of 4,500 yards (4,442) with 25 touchdowns and two interceptions.
»Adams’ season ends even earlier: In what was the biggest surprise Sunday, Adams did not get a chance to take his shot at a couple of single-season team records. Adams entered with 111 catches, one shy of Sterling Sharpe’s record of 112 catches set in 1993. He was only 134 yards shy of Jordy Nelson’s record of 1,519 set in 2014, and considering Adams reached 130 yards in four games this season, that mark was certainly in his sights. Instead, a knee injury that prevented him from practicing last week also kept him inactive Sunday. Adams injured his knee a week ago against the New York Jets, but he stayed in the game and caught the winning touchdown in overtime. Fittingly, perhaps, it was the final catch of his Pro Bowl season.
» Big hole in Packers' offense: Speaking of Adams, if ever there was any doubt Adams belonged with the NFL’s elite receivers this season, his absence Sunday served as Exhibit A. Despite their struggles, the Packers mostly moved the football this season (they were ranked ninth in total offense entering Sunday). That changed with Adams on the sideline. The Packers finished with 175 yards in an offensive showing that looked even more anemic. Without Rodgers, Kizer remained a chuck-it-up-and-pray quarterback, flinging one interception to Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs. But this wasn’t just on Kizer. Adams has openly discussed how playing with Rodgers is both a blessing and a curse, that any production he has can easily be attributed to the quarterback. Without Adams, the Packers had just 13 yards in the first quarter with Rodgers on the field. So here’s the best thing the Packers' offense has going for it entering 2019: Adams will be just 26 years old.
» Tanking season: The Packers would never admit to tanking, and just last week showed a surprising amount of fight. Yet their season-ending loss came with some April-wrapped benefits. Carolina thumping a New Orleans team that did not play Drew Brees slid the Packers up to 13th in the first round of next spring's draft, and Atlanta rallied to beat Tampa Bay, which moved the Packers up to 12th.
» Holy Fackrell: In the holiday spirit, here’s a little optimism from Sunday. In the third quarter, Fackrell sacked Matthew Stafford, giving the third-year Packers outside linebacker 10.5 this season. That’s rather remarkable, considering Fackrell had five sacks combined his first two seasons and he’s hardly a finished product. If Fackrell can build off this season, perhaps he’ll be the consistent, disruptive edge rusher former general manager Ted Thompson thought he was drafting in the 2016 third round. Certainly, it wouldn’t hurt to put more pass rushers around him. Fackrell has shown this season he has the potential to be part of a quality edge-rush rotation. For a defense that sorely lacks edge rushers, that’s no small thing.