Green Bay Packers lose third straight game, fall to the Washington Commanders as downward spiral continues

Ryan Wood
Green Bay Press-Gazette
View Comments

LANDOVER, Maryland − Six years ago, the Green Bay Packers left the nation’s capital in disarray, falling to 4-6 through 10 games in the 2016 season after being blown out of FedEx Field.

It was perhaps the lowest moment in Aaron Rodgers’ career to that point, at least when a broken collarbone wasn’t involved. The Packers were rudderless. Left for dead.

They almost ran the table from there, winning their next eight games before falling just short of the Super Bowl with an NFC championship game loss at the Atlanta Falcons.

It might take nothing short of that kind of miracle if the Packers want to salvage this win-now season after their 23-21 loss Sunday at the Washington Commanders. Against one of the NFL’s worst teams, the holes on the Packers roster were exposed in their third straight loss. A week after the Packers lost two straight regular-season games for the first time in the Matt LaFleur era, it was no coincidence their unprecedented losing streak extended Sunday.

Here are some observations from another low point in Rodgers’ career.

Packers head coach Matt LaFleur reacts after a play during the first quarter against the Washington Commanders on Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.

Packers use new offensive line with David Bakhtiari inactive

All week, it was clear the Packers intended to change their offensive line. They had no choice after a complete no show last week against the New York Jets, a performance so poor Matt LaFleur said it was the worst by the group in his tenure. Their plan hit a massive road block when David Bakhtiari was downgraded to questionable because of his knee Saturday. What that means for Bakhtiari long term – especially his usage after he did not miss a practice the past two weeks – will be a topic to discuss later. After practicing with their changed lineup all week, LaFleur chose to insert rookie Zach Tom to replace Bakhtiari and leave the rest of the remade offensive line intact. That meant Elgton Jenkins returned to left guard, where he was a Pro Bowler in 2020. Jon Runyan slid over to right guard, where he has almost never played in the NFL. And Yosh Nijman got his first start at right tackle, replacing Jenkins. Center Josh Myers was the only starter who played in the spot he lined up at last week. Other than two holding penalties on Nijman, the reworked offensive line held up. For one, Aaron Rodgers did not take a sack all game and was hit just once.

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones scores a touchdown against the Washington Commanders in the first quarter on Sunday.

Aaron Jones was heavily involved in rushing and passing game

The offensive line wasn’t the only change LaFleur made on offense. After struggling to get his best player the football most of this season, LaFleur made sure Aaron Jones was heavily involved Sunday. He had seven touches to Aaron Rodgers’ six passes through the first two drives, the last a 4-yard touchdown catch from Rodgers that opened scoring. With Washington loading the box, Jones was held to just eight carries for 23 yards Sunday. The Packers still got him the football. Jones added nine catches for 53 yards and both of Rodgers’ touchdowns. It didn’t make much of a dent on the scoreboard, not surprising given the nature of today’s NFL. In this league, if an offense’s only playmaker is running back, it’s a problem.

Analysis:The Packers are on life support after another poor offensive performance, other takeaways

Vote:How do you think the Green Bay Packers played against the Washington Commanders?

Packers' wide receivers struggle with dropped passes, highlighting the need for a trade at the position

The Packers historically do not make significant midseason trades, but if this season is going anywhere, it needs to be the exception. After seven games, it’s clear the Packers lack of a No. 1 receiving threat is debilitating, and trading for a receiver is a necessity. Rodgers finished 23-of-352 for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Through the first three quarters, he completed only one pass to anyone other than Jones and Allen Lazard. Even Lazard left plays on the field, dropping the game’s initial third-down pass on an open slant. Rookie Romeo Doubs dropped a screen pass in the second quarter. In the third, Rodgers missed him wide open for a first down on third-and-2. In the fourth, Doubs dropped a first down on fourth-and-1. The Packers’ lone deep shot all day was to Sammy Watkins, who returned from injured reserve Sunday. Watkins was blanketed on the play, and Rodgers’ pass was so overthrown it was deemed uncatchable despite clear contact. No matter what the Packers do to their offensive line, defenses are not going to respect their passing game unless there is more explosive threat. They’ll continue packing the line of scrimmage, which makes life more difficult on the offensive line and nullifies their best playmaker.

Green Bay Packers linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (59) intercepts the pass intended for Washington Commanders running back J.D. McKissic (23) and returns it for a 63-yard touchdown in the second quarter Sunday at FedEx Field.

De'Vondre Campbell comes up big for Packers defense in first half with a pick-six

De’Vondre Campbell finally broke the ice for this Packers defense that can’t take the football away, intercepting Taylor Heinicke and returning it for a 63-yard touchdown in the first half. It was by far the biggest play this season for a Packers defense that has struggled to turn momentum. Before that, their lone interception this season was Week 2 against the Chicago Bears. They hadn’t forced a turnover in the past two games. The Packers kept knocking on the door against Heinicke, dropping three interceptions (two from Rasul Douglas, one from Jaire Alexander) before Campbell finally got one. They had a chance to make another scoring play, but Douglas’ fumble returned for a touchdown in the first half was wiped out because of an Eric Stokes penalty.

Amari Rodgers shouldn't be on the field after he fumbles another punt

After changing their offensive line and making sure Jones got the football, the Packers’ next adjustment needs to be punt returner. Amari Rodgers flipped the momentum of Sunday’s game in the first half when he was unable to field yet another punt, giving Washington possession inside the red zone. It was Rodgers’ second fumbled punt in seven games this season, the first he’s lost. The Packers made clear there is no other alternative on this roster when it continued dropping him back deep to field punts. On his next chance at the end of the first half, Rodgers ran away from the football like it was a live grenade, allowing the Commanders to down it at the 1-yard line. His presence on the field has been a liability for some time now, and it doesn’t appear to be getting better.

View Comments