LANDOVER, Md. — Three straight losses — all when they were the favorites — and with perhaps their most dangerous opponent next up on the schedule seemingly has the Green Bay Packers‘ season slipping away.
Or maybe Sunday’s 23-21 loss to the Washington Commanders, which featured more of the Packers’ season-long struggles on offense and dropped them to 3-4, was the worst of it.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers believes it could be the latter even if he wasn’t able to provide much concrete evidence to support it.
Whatever the reason, the struggling four-time NFL MVP insisted this season feels like it can be saved.
“You’re god damn right it does,” Rodgers said when asked if it seems plausible for the Packers to still make the playoffs. “I’m not worried about this squad. In fact, this might be the best thing for us. This week, nobody’s going to give us a chance, going to Buffalo on ‘Sunday Night Football,’ with a chance to get exposed. Shoot, this might be the best thing for us.”
If this feels like a familiar spot, it’s because in 2016 the Packers lost a game here at FedEx Field to drop to 4-6. It was just a few days later when Rodgers offered his now famous “run the table” assertion that ultimately came to fruition. The Packers won their final six regular-season games and two more in the postseason to reach the NFC Championship Game.
“I don’t think anybody thought we’d be in this spot that we’re in right now,” said Matt LaFleur, who is facing his first three-game losing streak in four seasons coaching the Packers. “We’re going to find out what we’re made of in terms of just how we attack Monday, how we attack Tuesday, Wednesday and every day in practice. I do believe that we’ve got the right kind of guys that will continue to battle.”
If only their struggles were one-sided.
The defense was supposed to be the strength of this Packers team; instead, Green Bay has lost consecutive games to teams quarterbacked by Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson and Taylor Heinicke. It finally got a big play — just its second takeaway of the season — with linebacker De’Vondre Campbell‘s pick-6 that gave the Packers a 14-3 second-quarter lead. But even their best cornerback, Jaire Alexander, struggled against Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin (5 catches for 73 yards and a touchdown).
It wasn’t close to enough for a team that:
Is averaging just 18.3 points per game, which would be the Packers’ worst since 2006.
Went 0-for-6 on third downs Sunday, the first time the Packers went an entire game without a conversion since 1999, when Brett Favre was quarterback and Rodgers was 15 years old.
Can’t find a way to get the ball down the field, with Rodgers averaging only 3.2 air yards on his completions Sunday after entering the day with the second-lowest average in the NFL (4.3 yards) on such throws.
It’s an offense that remains unsettled in the post-Davante Adams era. The Packers played Sunday without Randall Cobb (ankle) and Christian Watson (hamstring) but got back Sammy Watkins after a four-game absence. Watkins managed just 2 catches for 36 yards and didn’t come close to catching up to one of the few deep balls Rodgers threw.
Green Bay had planned an offensive line shakeup but couldn’t use it in full because left tackle David Bakhtiari‘s knee acted up and rendered him inactive. And outside of Allen Lazard (7 catches for 55 yards before a shoulder injury knocked him out) and Aaron Jones (76 total yards and 2 touchdowns), the Packers got little production.
“I think outside of those two guys, there’s too many mental mistakes,” Rodgers said. “I talked about simplification last week. I don’t really know where to go when it comes to that. There has to be something inside that has the accountability for performance where we’re just having way too many detail mistakes. It’s just not winning football.”
And then there’s Rodgers, who said he came into the game with the idea that he would try to make more plays outside the pocket but never was able to.
“I think I might need to do that a little bit more,” Rodgers said. “I kind of had a mindset to maybe look to do that a little bit more. Didn’t do it enough today.”
When asked if Rodgers needs to play better to turn things around, LaFleur said: “I think it takes everybody. It takes everybody around him. You’ve got to have the protection in front of you to be able to hold up. You’ve got to have the guys making plays, too. I feel like we had a ton of drops. We had a lot of penalties that put us back behind the sticks.”