Quick takes: Packers come out flat, fall to 7-2 after 26-11 loss to Chargers
CARSON, Calif. - When the best phase of your team is responsible for yielding more than 400 yards, it’s bound to be a bad day.
That was the case for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. As a result, the Packers had about as miserable of an afternoon as possible on a warm and sunny, picture-perfect afternoon in southern California. They were a complete no-show in a 26-11 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that dropped them to 7-2 on the season.
That such a letdown came in top receiver Davante Adams’ return to the field after missing four games because of turf toe made Sunday even more perplexing. Adams was not the problem in a Packers offense that played it as loose and easy as the surfer dudes walking up and down Santa Monica Pier, but his presence did not lift the unit, either.
Packers coach Matt LaFleur praised the play of the Chargers, who improved to 4-5.
"They came ready to play, they were more prepared, they definitely coached better than we did today and definitely played better," LaFleur said. "That's life in the National Football League. You'd better bring your 'A' game each and every week or else you'll have a performance like we had today."
Here are five takeaways from the loss:
Rough California homecoming
Aaron Rodgers positioned himself as a frontrunner for NFL MVP at the season’s midway point, but his candidacy took a hit Sunday in his return to California. Rodgers, the northern California native, completed just 23-of-35 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown and his pinpoint accuracy of the past few weeks did not make the trip. He did not get much help from the offensive line. A week after allowing five sacks on the road against Kansas City, the Packers allowed three Sunday. David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga and rookie Elgton Jenkins were each called for a false start in the first half. Still, Rodgers’ streak of terrific play had bailed the Packers out of bad situations recently. That streak ended Sunday.
"This was a good learning experience for us," Rodgers said. "We've got to come ready to play. I don't think we were locked in from the start, unfortunately. I'm not sure exactly the reason, but I don't think the focus was there from the start. So, we've got to look in the mirror and be very honest about our performance, myself first, and then our offense and our energy and our attention to detail and we've got to get better."
The Packers finally got into the end zone for the first time in the fourth quarter after three straight pitches and catches between Rodgers and Jamaal Williams. Before those three catches, Williams and fellow tailback Aaron Jones had combined for just three catches. Their ability as receivers was a big part in the offense’s emergence over the past month. That it diminished greatly in Adams’ first game back might not have been a surprise — the top receiver needs his targets, too — but it certainly appeared to limit the offense. Williams and Jones combined for seven catches for 38 yards, while Adams had seven for 41.
Too much bend
The Packers are not going to dominate many opponents this season. Usually, they don’t need to, not with Rodgers doing his thing with the offense. Sunday was the type of game when the Packers needed their defense to make momentum-changing plays, and it couldn’t. Other than a pair of sack plays from the Smiths, the Packers' defense appeared to be on its heels most of the game. It allowed 442 yards on 68 plays, a 6.5-yard average, and created no turnovers.
Two plays were not the difference in this game, but the special teams certainly contributed to Sunday’s letdown. In the third quarter, the Packers allowed the rush to reach JK Scott, who punted the football 8 yards to set up a short field. The Packers defense had a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter, but an offside on a field-goal attempt set the Chargers up at the 1, and Melvin Gordon scored on fourth down. Tony Brown was also called for an illegal formation on a kickoff.
The Packers blew a chance to take control of the division race. The Minnesota Vikings lost 26-23 to the Kansas City Chiefs — who were again playing without MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes — on a last-second field goal. The loss dropped the Vikings to 6-3. So with a win Sunday, the Packers would have gained a two-game lead in the NFC North. Instead, their season-long lead in the division stays at just one game. A side note: The NFC North, hailed as perhaps the NFL's toughest division, went 0-4 Sunday.
"I'm not really worried about anybody else," LaFleur said. "I'm worried about the Green Bay Packers. We've got to coach better and we've got to play better."