There was some hemming and hawing when it happened but everyone knew the truth: Aaron Rodgers‘ injury in week six doomed the Packers to a nothing season. Sunday’s 35-11 loss to division rival Detroit put a cap on the Packers’ first sub-.500 season since 2008, Rodgers’ first year as a starter. As Green Bay moves into the offseason, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have to ask themselves one big question: Can they continue to bank on Rodgers’ carrying lackluster rosters?
The Packers scored first with a field goal but the rest of the first half drives were ugly, to say the least. Two ended in turnovers inside the 20 and the rest ended in punts with a total of 10 plays run on three drives. The second half was same song, second verse, as Detroit built up a 27-3 lead before Green Bay found the end zone early in the fourth. All told, the Packers turned the ball over four times and punted six times.
Despite the defense’s struggles to slow down Matthew Stafford, the Packer linebackers had themselves a solid game. Clay Matthews and Blake Martinez combined for nine tackles, 3.5 going for loss. Martinez also defended two passes and Matthews recorded a sack and three hits on the quarterback. While Stafford shredded the Packers’ secondary, the Lions never had anything going in the run game, totaling just 51 yards on 23 carries.
It is unfair to pin this anemic offensive showing on Brett Hundley. Randall Cobb was the only top-three receiver who played and even so, Hundley was relatively efficient with 7.1 yards per attempt. No, this award goes to everyone on the Packer offense. They averaged just four yards per play, 4.3 yards per pass and committed four turnovers. Even in a game that was, for all intents and purposes, meaningless, that level of non-productivity was tough to swallow.
Green Bay has a lot of soul-searching to do in the next few months. All signs point to a major down period for one of the league’s charter franchises. Once great players like Jordy Nelson and Matthews are on the back nine of their careers. And Rodgers, while great and the ultimate deodorant, is 34 and not getting any younger. He can make them a playoff-contender by himself, but for how much longer? And how many more years do Thompson and McCarthy have left with the game plan of “Rodgers or bust?”
One thing is clear: the Vikings are not going anywhere anytime soon in the NFC North. The Packers need a lot of work to reach their level again.
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