Undisciplined moments haunt the Green Bay Packers defense in their season-ending loss
GREEN BAY − Rasul Douglas didn’t want to tiptoe around the topic. Asked after the Green Bay Packers season-ending loss to the Detroit Lions about untimely penalties on defense, Douglas interrupted before the question could be finished.
“You talking about me and Quay? You can just say that. Me and Quay.”
Douglas and rookie linebacker Quay Walker both committed consequential penalties in the Packers' 20-16 loss, finishing Green Bay’s regular season at 8-9 and keeping them from claiming the final NFC wild-card playoff spot.
“That was bad for both of us, me and Quay, we know better. We shouldn't have did it,” Douglas said.
Walker was not available for comment during the open portion of the postgame locker room.
Walker’s flag subsequently led to an ejection. It came in the fourth quarter, with Green Bay leading 16-13 and just less than 8 minutes to play. The Lions were facing first-and-10 from the Packers 11-yard line. Detroit quarterback Jared Goff threw a short pass to D’Andre Swift for a 2-yard gain. Swift was injured on the play and a Lions athletic trainer jogged onto the field to check on the running back.
Walker, who played college football with Swift at Georgia, was leaned over the third-year player, when the trainer moved Walker out of the way. Walker retaliated, pushing the trainer. It’s the second time this season Walker has been ejected for touching a non-player. The first came in Week 8 against the Buffalo Bills, when the rookie shoved a Bills practice squad player on the sideline.
“That is unacceptable,” coach Matt LaFleur said of the penalties. “I’ve got a much higher standard for our players than to do silly things like that. I mean, we’ve had a guy (Walker) get ejected twice. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in my career. We’ve got to be much more mentally tough.
“Any time our guys commit personal fouls, I take that very personally. Because I think that’s always a reflection of myself and the standards that we set for these players. We’ve got to be better, and we’ve got to learn from that because that is unacceptable.”
Following the Walker flag and ejection, the Lions moved into first-and-goal on the Packers 4. Three plays later, former Packers running back Jamaal Williams walked in for a 1-yard touchdown, his second of the night and the go-ahead score. Williams also passed Barry Sanders for a Lions season record with 17 total touchdowns.
Rasul Douglas pushed back and that got him in trouble
For Douglas, his unnecessary roughness call came as the first half was closing. The Lions were facing a third-and-3 from the Green Bay 30. With time expiring in the half, the Lions were content to try what would’ve been a 48-yard field goal attempt. The Packers called timeout to ice Lions kicker Michael Badgley, who had missed a 46-yarder earlier.
The Lions stayed in field goal formation after the timeout was initially signaled, with the intent getting a practice kick before an official could run in. Douglas, on the field goal blocking unit, walked to the line of scrimmage and moved the ball out of the center’s hand.
“My thing is, we call timeout. I’m not about to let you snap and get a free kick,” Douglas said. “You already missed one earlier. There's no free kicks. When you kick, it's going to count for something. It ain’t about to be no, ‘you snap the ball, I’m kicking it, I got to push it right a little bit.’ I'm not doing that. So I smacked the ball out of the center’s hands, (No.) 70 pushed me, and I (pushed) him.”
The retaliatory push caused a flag to be thrown and the ball to be moved up 15 yards. Badgley was able knock in the 33-yard attempt, cutting the Packers lead to 9-6 going into halftime.
“(The officials) were like, ‘we gotta call it on you. You know how it is, it’s the second one.’ I was like all right, it’s all good,” Douglas said. “It’s always on the second person. It ain’t ever on the first. So that's on me. I’m a way smarter player than that. I can't even allow him to push me and make me get upset. I just gotta let it go.”
Those two penalties extended or assisted and drives that resulted in 10 points in a 4-point game. Still, Douglas points to the rest of the game as testament that the loss falls on more than those moments.
“I don't think either one of those two plays changed the game,” Douglas said. “So I think we just got to play better as a defense. We got a chance to go out there, get a stop in the 5-minute mark. Or whatever time we got it, and we ain’t do it.”
It was actually at the 3-minute, 27-second mark of the fourth quarter. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had thrown an interception to give the Lions the ball back at the Green Bay 45-yard line. The Lions picked up two first downs, allowing them to tick the clock down below 2 minutes. On fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 15, Jared Goff hit DJ Chark for a 9-yard gain. It was enough to run out the rest of the game.
“On defense that's what we want; the ball to be on us to get off the field. We ain’t do it. I think we all feel some type of way about that,” Douglas said. “We ain’t played good enough to win. That simple.”
No turnovers and one big pass play hurt the secondary
In total, the Packers defense held the high-powered Lions offense to 328 total yards and 20 points. But after a winning stretch in which the Packers defense was feasting on turnovers, they came away with none Sunday night.
“They were being safe, being smart with the ball,” safety Adrian Amos said. “They ran their play action … they had the big play, they had the one big post that we could be a little bit better on. For the most part, I think we played solid on defense. Didn’t get those takeaways, but I think they did well with protecting the ball as well.”
The “one big post” Amos referenced was the fourth game-changing defensive moment. The Lions were down 9-6 in the third quarter and had just taken over on downs after Mason Crosby missed a 53-yard field goal attempt. With a first down on the Green Bay 44-yard line, Jared Goff rolled out and heaved a rainbow to wide receiver Kalif Raymond.
Safety Rudy Ford was the only defender near Raymond, who hauled in the pass for a 43-yard gain to the 1. One play later, Jamaal Williams walked in for a 1-yard touchdown.
“That was a good scheme as far a play where he just gets isolated,” Amos said. “What did they run, a corner post? And that’s a good play design, a throwback boot. That’s a tough play.”
Now, the Packers head home, missing the playoffs for the first time under coach Matt LaFleur. It was the only place cornerback Jaire Alexander wanted to be after the game, answering every question with a variation of “I’m just ready to go home.”
They’ll have a whole offseason to ponder what went wrong this year, and what needs to change for next season. They’ll have weeks and maybe even months to decide which free agents they would like to return to 1265 Lombardi and which new faces to add. But for now, they’ll sit on this loss for a while, and the four big moments that changed the game on defense.
“There's some good things you could take away from (the season). But at the end of the day, we going home right now,” Amos said. “I probably have to go reflect over the year, look at everything … but like I said, it hurts right now.”