Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers blew a chance to make the playoffs.
The Green Bay Packers have had a couple letdowns at Lambeau Field in January late in Aaron Rodgers’ career. On Sunday night, they got the same feeling.
Those defeats had always come during the playoffs. This was outstanding.
The Packers needed to beat a Detroit Lions team that had been eliminated from playoff contention just before kickoff to conclude a spectacular late-season surge and capture the NFC’s final wild-card spot. Everything they needed was right there in front of them.
The Packers lost 20-16. The excellent performance of the Detroit Lions wins the Seattle Seahawks the last NFC wild-card spot. On Saturday of wild-card weekend, the Seahawks will face the No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers. The Lions took the lead with less than six minutes left when the Seattle Seahawks upset the Los Angeles Rams in overtime. Rodgers subsequently threw an interception and was never able to recover. Green Bay, which had been on a four-game winning streak, committed some of the same mistakes that had dogged it earlier in the season when it was 4-8.
The Packers (8-9) were writing a fantastic story before Sunday night. They had a little chance of reaching the playoffs a few weeks ago, but then they went on a winning streak, and everything started to fall into place. Rodgers seemed to be heading yet another late-season assault for an unlikely playoff position.
Instead, Rodgers and the Packers suffered yet another January setback.
In the first half, it was a slugfest. The Packers’ defence came alive late in the season and continued to do so in the first half of their matchup on Sunday night. The Lions struggled to get going. A holding penalty caused the beautiful flea flicker on which Jameson Williams scored a long touchdown to be called back.
The Detroit Lions defence kept the team in the game. A crucial play was Aaron Jones’ forced fumble in Detroit territory. It set up a field goal at halftime, which was helped along by a 15-yard personal foul on Packers cornerback Rasul Douglas, who was involved in a scuffle after slapping the ball away from Detroit’s long snapper during a timeout.
The Packers are up 9-6 at the half. If there was any question that the Lions would play hard despite being eliminated, it was erased early on. With the exception of the long throw to Williams, Detroit was unable to produce any offence. The freezing weather at Lambeau Field didn’t assist either Jared Goff, who was born and raised in California, or the Lions’ offence in general.
The Packers needed 30 good second-half minutes to make the playoffs, but the Lions were not about to make things easy for their division rival.
The Lions take the lead in the fourth quarter.
The Lions eventually scored in the third quarter. The crossbar deflected Mason Crosby’s 53-yard field goal attempt. To start the next drive, Jamaal Williams had a good run, Goff connected with Kalif Raymond for a 43-yard pass, and Williams scored a 1-yard touchdown to put Detroit up 13-9.
Rodgers was startled awake. Christian Watson received a 45-yard bomb from him. When he hit Allen Lazard for a touchdown pass, the Packers were back in front.
Following that, the Lions did not vanish. Kerby Joseph’s interception was called back because defensive lineman John Cominsky committed a hands to the face penalty. They were unafraid. Detroit gained a crucial fourth-and-2 when head coach Dan Campbell chose to pass on a potential game-tying field goal. Following a 15-yard penalty and expulsion for Packers linebacker Quay Walker for pushing a member of the Lions’ athletic conditioning staff, Williams added another 1-yard touchdown. The Lions lead the game 20-16 with less than six minutes remaining.
Rodgers then made a critical error. He threw erratically downfield on third-and-10, and Joseph slid in for a simple interception. The Lions had the ball in Packers territory with 3:27 left in the game. Amon-Ra St. Brown’s incredible grab with his legs gave the Lions a huge first down. The Packers’ rollercoaster season was coming to an end. The Seahawks could get excited.
The Lions were faced with a critical decision in the final two minutes. With 1:15 left, they faced a fourth-and-1 situation. They would have led by 23 points if they had made a field goal. A first down would put the game out of reach, but failing to get one would allow the Packers to win in regulation with a touchdown. The Lions chose it, and D.J. Chark intercepted a pass for a first down and the Seahawks’ first postseason victory.
There will be another round of questions about Rodgers and his future this summer, but it will most likely be much quieter than the previous two. His career is winding down. As he slowly walked back to the locker room with his arm around teammate Randall Cobb, NBC wondered about his future.
After the game, Rodgers stated that, while he wasn’t ready to make a decision, he could “absolutely walk away” from the $59 million owed to him next season if he wanted to retire now.
“It’s still kind of raw,” Rodgers admitted. “Only a few minutes have passed since the game. I want to get rid of the emotion and have conversations to figure out where the organisation is and how I feel after a while.”
We’ll have to see what happens in the coming weeks.
In an NFC full of flawed opponents, the Packers could have been frightening. They’ll never know what happened because they couldn’t beat a Lions team that wasn’t even in the running for a playoff spot.