SEATTLE – The Packers continue to fight through these tough games on the road, but unfortunately they continue to come up short.
Leading the Seahawks for the bulk of the second half at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night, the Packers let another one get away down the stretch and fell, 27-24, to drop below .500 once again at 4-5-1.
"Tough, hard-fought game," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "We still haven't quite got it done on the road."
As has been the case all season, and particularly in the last month, the Packers had their chances.
Leading 21-17 heading into the second half after Aaron Rodgers' threw touchdown passes of 54 yards to tight end Robert Tonyan and 24 yards to running back Aaron Jones, the Packers had multiple third-down possessions in good position but couldn't cash in.
The field then flipped on a controversial overturn of what was originally ruled an incomplete pass from Russell Wilson to David Moore down the sideline. Instead of fourth down from their own 6-yard line, the Seahawks had a 27-yard gain and drove for a field goal to get within a point.
"I didn't agree with the call," McCarthy said of the replay reversal.
The Packers rebounded with a big 57-yard pass to receiver Davante Adams, who had a monster night with 10 catches for 166 yards. But a first down in the red zone was squandered on a third-down sack, one of five of Rodgers in the game, and Green Bay had to settle for a field goal and just a four-point lead again at 24-20.
"It's been the same stuff. Tonight we were terrible on third down," Rodgers said after a 3-for-11 showing on the money down. "Situationally we have to score touchdowns in the red zone. In the fourth quarter we had a chance to go up by eight, didn't get it done.
"We beat ourselves in the second half."
After a more-than-respectable showing for much of the game, led by Kyler Fackrell's second three-sack game of the season, the Packers' defense eventually wore down. The unit had already lost cornerback Bashaud Breeland and safety Raven Greene in the secondary to injuries, and then later defensive linemen Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark exited as well.
Seattle drove 75 yards in just seven plays for the go-ahead score, a 15-yard Wilson pass to tight end Ed Dickson with 5:08 left that proved to be the game's final points. Tyler Lockett had back-to-back catches for 52 yards to highlight the drive, the second one a questionable 34-yard diving grab that McCarthy said produced a brief discussion about challenging but the replay "was late" and no one got a good look at it in time.
Rodgers still had plenty of time with five minutes left, but a three-and-out doomed the Packers' chances. Rodgers threw the ball low at rookie receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling's feet on third-and-2, and the Packers never got the ball back.
"Ball just stuck to my hand and went in the dirt," Rodgers said. "Frustrating. I'd do that 100 times and probably not do that again. It was a gimme out there. Just stuck to my hand."
With the defense so banged up, McCarthy thought about going for it on fourth-and-2 from Green Bay's own 33, but decided to punt. Seattle ran for two first downs without even facing a third down and drained the final 4:11 off the clock.
"Definitely a consideration there, but we had one timeout and the ability to stop the clock at the two-minute," McCarthy said of the fourth-down decision. "We played the numbers, but we considered taking the timeout and going for it there on fourth-and-2."
Throughout the game, the Packers kept hanging in despite multiple self-inflicted wounds and a league-leading ground game from the Seahawks that by night's end piled up 173 yards, led by Chris Carson's 83 on 17 carries, with a TD.
A holding penalty wiped out a big kickoff return by Trevor Davis, who saw his first action of the season. A pass interference on a deep ball by Greene prevented Jaire Alexander from possibly breaking up the pass to Tyler Lockett, setting up a Seattle TD. An illegal block that may not have been necessary nullified a nice run by Jones in the third quarter. The list goes longer.
All that helped undo a 14-3 start that began with Clay Matthews forcing a Carson fumble on the game's first play from scrimmage. The turnover led to a TD run by Jones, who finished with 103 yards from scrimmage (40 rushing, 63 receiving) and two scores. Rodgers then made Tonyan's first NFL catch a memorable one with a scrambling, across-his-body heave to the end zone.
"I told myself before the game if I got in a situation like that to take a shot," said Rodgers, who finished 21-of-30 for 332 yards, two TDs and a 128.8 passer rating.
But even that strong beginning included a missed 47-yard field goal by kicker Mason Crosby, who hadn't missed since his nightmare day in Detroit back in Week 5. That was just the first of many moments that went wrong on a loud, frustrating night, and the Seahawks eventually took command of the game when it mattered most.
"When you play in this environment, on the road up here, there's a high tendency for big momentum plays and big swings," McCarthy said. "That definitely held true.
"I thought the story came down to the third quarter. The defense gave us great field position and we were unable to capitalize. They made some big plays in the fourth quarter, and we didn't have enough to finish it."
It's become the tired refrain for the Packers on the road in 2018, and while their backs aren't quite up against the wall yet, they're getting dangerously close to that point.
"It states the obvious," McCarthy said about where the Packers are with their record. "We clearly understand we've got five losses and haven't won on the road yet.
"I won't say there's a lot of football left, but there's enough football left. We have to get healthy and have a big one next week up in Minnesota. Everything is in front of us, but we have to finish games better, especially in the fourth quarter and especially on the road."