McGinn: Packers' season careens out of control
LANDOVER, Md. – No one wants to be labeled as a bad football team. If the Green Bay Packers aren’t one now they’re getting extremely close to it.
Playing a critical November game against a solid but beatable opponent from within the conference, the Packers ultimately were blown away, 42-24, by the Washington Redskins on Sunday night at FedEx Field.
The Redskins (6-3-1) amassed 515 yards against a defense that collapsed like a cheap suit in the fourth quarter. Exposed by a pass rush that bordered on non-existent, cornerbacks Quinten Rollins, LaDarius Gunter and Micah Hyde could hardly have played any worse.
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BOX SCORE: Washington 42, Green Bay 24
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Pierre Garcon’s 70-yard touchdown reception 40 seconds into the fourth quarter opened the floodgates.
Jamison Crowder hauled in a 53-yard over route to set up another touchdown, and Robert Kelley ended a shameful performance by Dom Capers’ unit by charging 66 yards up the middle.
Kelley, the rookie free agent from Tulane, carried 24 times for 137 of Washington’s 151 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins finished with a passer rating of 145.8 on a windy, cold night, completing 21 of 30 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns.
Jay Gruden, the Redskins’ coach, was stunned by Cousins’ accuracy in the blustery conditions.
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“I don’t know how he did it, especially the one to Pierre,” said Gruden. “And the one to Crowder was a great throw.”
The Packers drooped to 4-6 with their fifth defeat in the last six games. They’re two games behind Detroit and Minnesota in the NFC North and in a four-way tie for 11th place in the NFC.
Of the 16 teams in the conference, the Packers find themselves ahead of only Chicago (2-8) and San Francisco (1-9). Yes, their situation is that bad.
“Six losses puts your ass against the wall,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Disappointing. Reality is we are 4-6. We understand clearly what is in front of us.
”This is no time for personnel evaluation or coaching evaluation. This is our football team, the 2016 Green Bay Packers. We are going to rally and stick together.”
It’s the Packers’ worst position after 10 games since McCarthy’s first season, when a 4-6 record turned into 8-8.
Playoffs? Playoffs? It should go without saying that the Packers are playing terrible football. Probably their only chance is to hope the Lions and Vikings fall apart and they can sneak into a division title.
The defense now has allowed 153 points in the last four games. It can’t stop anybody anymore.
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The offense, with Aaron Rodgers (115.0 rating) playing solid football, can’t protect or run the ball behind a beat-up offensive line.
Even the old reliable, Mason Crosby, has fallen apart. He missed a field-goal attempt from 36 as the special teams turned in another subpar showing.
In their last 22 games, the Packers are 9-13 (.409). In the 22 games before that, they were 18-4 (.818).
“Pass defense is all about getting the quarterback off his spot and having the pass rush to do that,” McCarthy said. “And be able to cover, especially on the up-field shoulder. They definitely have a perimeter group that is explosive, and they got behind us today.”
Ten months ago, the Packers beat the Redskins, 35-18, in the NFC wild-card playoffs, so this result represented a 35-point shift. Last Sunday, Tennessee’s 47-25 drubbing of Green Bay marked a 70-point difference from the teams’ last meeting.
The Packers also lost the turnover battle, 2-0, and plummeted to minus-6. That, perhaps, is the most telling sign of all that a team is playing bad football.
The Packers couldn’t have been more inept offensively in the early going. On their first three possessions, they ran nine plays without registering a first down and gaining a total of 6 yards.
“They can’t run the ball and they have trouble pass protecting,” an executive in personnel for an NFL team said. “Not a good combination.”
McCarthy trotted out a new personnel grouping on the second snap, with Randall Cobb, James Starks and Ty Montgomery with Rodgers in the backfield.
But it failed and wasn’t seen again after nose tackle Ziggy Hood beat Corey Linsley with a back-door move and tackled Starks for minus-1.
“We’re just not playing for 60 minutes,” Rodgers said. “We just need to find a way to get off to a better start.”
The offense actually took flight when McCarthy inserted Richard Rodgers for Jared Cook at tight end and began throwing an avalanche of short passes to blunt the Redskins’ heavy rush.
Rodgers’ fourth-and-7 pass for Cobb fell incomplete but cornerback Bashaud Breeland was penalized for illegal hands to the face of Davante Adams.
McCarthy went for it again on fourth down a few plays later. With two yards to go, Rodgers eluded onrushing linebacker Trent Murphy and scrambled right for seven.
A first-and-goal pass to Cook clanked off his hands when he and Rodgers couldn’t get together on a wheel route to the left that was wide open and should have been a 6-yard TD. Then Don Barclay’s holding penalty against former Packer Cullen Jenkins put the Packers into a third-and-goal hole at the 13.
Once again, Rodgers eluded the rush and eventually found Jordy Nelson in the back of the end zone for the TD. Cornerback Josh Norman knocked the ball from Nelson’s grasp but replay supported the call on the field that it was a catch.
“He’s got such a quick release,” one scout said. “It makes it tough on the rush.”
That drive took 8 minutes, 29 seconds, covering 75 yards in 17 plays. Then the rejuvenated Packers moved 38 in nine for Mason Crosby’s 36-yard field goal.
Rodgers continued to get the ball out of his hand quickly, and an 11-yard pass to Richard Rodgers gave Green Bay a first down at the 13.
On first down, Barclay was penalized for holding nickel linebacker Su’a Cravens. Rodgers scrambled beautifully for 17 after faking Murphy into the air. Starks bounced outside for minus-2, then Rodgers appeared to be responsible for a 10-yard sack by Ryan Kerrigan when the line slid left.
Defensively, the Packers limited one of the NFL’s more diverse offenses to 171 yards and nine first downs in the first half. Washington punted on its first two possessions before getting started on its third.
Cousins hit Maurice Harris, a rookie free agent from California, on third snd 6 for 14 with Gunter in coverage.
On third and 2, offensive coordinator Sean McVay managed to get DeSean Jackson matched against nickel back Micah Hyde in the left slot. Jackson made a nifty move, broke to the post, made the catch at the 2 and tumbled into the end zone for a 17-yard TD.
Trailing by three with 3 ½ remaining in the half, the Redskins rolled 75 yards in eight plays to take the lead into halftime, 13-10.
On third and 4, tight end Jordan Reed beat Hyde inside for a gain of 28 to the Green Bay 21. When Morgan Burnett missed the tackle in the right flat, Reed was able to turn an eight-yard pass into a gain of 18.
Following a timeout, McVay dialed up a run inside that Kelley turned into a 10-yard TD.
“It was a one-back power play,” said one scout. “The ‘backers overran it.”
Gruden elected to try for two points rather than kick the extra point on a windy (23 miles per hour at kickoff) night. The call, a dive with 5-foot-7 Chris Thompson carrying inside, was turned back by the Packers.
The Packers had the Redskins stopped for a three and out to start the second half. Mike Daniels, however, was penalized for roughing Cousins on a hard knockdown and the third-and-6 incompletion became a first down.
On third and 5, Reed worked free in the middle of a secondary depleted by the loss of cornerback Demetri Goodson with a knee injury in the second quarter.
Reed’s gain was 28 to the 21. From there, Kelley gained six in two carries and Julius Peppers beat right tackle Morgan Moses around the corner for a 4-yard sack.
Dustin Hopkins followed with a 37-yard field goal to cap the nine-play, 63-yard drive that put Washington ahead, 16-10.
The Packers averted disaster on Hopkins’ kickoff that landed and died inside the 5. Jeff Janis seemed to freeze, and Richard Rodgers had to make the recovery at the 2.
Rodgers, on third and 3, found Cook on the right side against free safety Duke Ihenacho and hit him deep for 47. Ihenacho, Will Blackmon and strong safety Donte Whitner have had to alternate at safety because David Bruton and DeAngelo Hall both ended up on injured reserve.
“That is their weakness,” one scout said, referring to the inability of the Redskins’ safeties to match up in coverage. “And Green Bay’s tight ends are good receivers.”
When the drive bogged down, Crosby’s 36-yard attempt missed to the left by a few feet.
The Redskins increased their lead to 22-10 by covering 74 yards in seven plays. On third and 11, Crowder ran by cornerback Rollins from the No. 3 position on the left and hauled in the long pass at the 6 for a 44-yard TD.
Back came the Packers, covering 75 yards in six plays to score when inside linebackers Will Compton and Cravens blew a coverage leaving Starks all alone in the left flat. Rodgers flipped the ball to him and the result was a 31-yard TD.
“One of the linebackers had to pick him up and they didn’t get there,” said one scout.
The Redskins extended their lead to 29-17 on a 70-yard TD pass to Garcon. Gunter was playing off as if he might be in “quarters” coverage and expecting safety help.
When Ha Ha Clinton-Dix moved forward in coverage, Garcon sped inside of Gunter. He made the catch just inside the 30 and scored easily.
On third and 12, Cobb caught a pass for 47 from the left slot. He skipped away from attempted tackles by nickel back Kendall Fuller and Whitner.
Cook beat Blackmon on a 6-yard slant for the TD, culminating an eight-play, 82-yard march as the Packers moved closer, 29-24.
Cousins converted on fourth-and-1 with a 2-yard sneak. Three plays later, Crowder ran an over route with linebacker Joe Thomas giving chase. It was worth 53 yards, and then Kelley barged across for the 1-yard TD.
Hopkins’ extra-point attempt caromed off the right upright, and the Redskins led, 35-24.
Cook then fumbled the ball away on a hit by Norman. Two plays later, Kelley ran up the gut and broke right for 66 yards to the 4, then crashed in on the next play for a 4-yard TD.
“You cannot not take care of the ball,” said McCarthy.