Chargers loss a ‘wake-up call’ for Packers’ locker room

LB Za'Darius Smith
LB Za'Darius Smith

CARSON, Calif. – Sunday afternoon was a reminder for every player in the Packers’ locker room how quickly the NFL can knock a team down.

Following last week’s emotional win over Kansas City, the Packers rode a four-game winning streak into Dignity Health Sports Park with a vast majority of the 25,435 in attendance on their side against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Despite a 3-5 record, however, the Chargers and veteran quarterback Philip Rivers put together a four-quarter performance to pull off a 26-11 upset of the previously once-beaten Packers.

The Green Bay Packers traveled to California to take on the Los Angeles Chargers in a Week 9 matchup.

Los Angeles outpaced Green Bay 442-184 in total yards and went 5-of-11 on third downs compared to the Packers’ 2-of-10. While neither team forced a turnover, the Chargers’ special teams blocked a JK Scott punt in the third quarter to set up Los Angeles’ first touchdown to go ahead 19-0.

The Packers’ defense held the Chargers to field goals on their first four possessions, but Green Bay’s offense struggled to find its rhythm early on and punted on its first five possessions en route to falling behind from Los Angeles’ opening drive.

“It wasn't clean,” said receiver Davante Adams, who had seven catches for 41 yards. “We went out there and they basically just gave it to us. The whole game, we were flat, couldn't really figure out how to beat their defense. They were running the same coverages pretty much the whole game, and we couldn't really figure out a way to consistently move the ball.”

The Packers only had three offensive possessions in the first half. Their longest play of 28 yards came as a result of an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Chargers after a 13-yard Geronimo Allison catch.

Green Bay’s first score, a 54-yard Mason Crosby field goal, was a product of a modest offensive series following Tremon Smith’s 36-yard kickoff return to the Green Bay 40 at the end of the third quarter.

The most successful drive of the game – a nine-play, 75-yard series midway through the fourth quarter – saw quarterback Aaron Rodgers complete nine consecutive passes leading up to Jamaal Williams’ 10-yard touchdown catch but also with Green Bay trailing 26-3 at the time.

The Packers’ offense was coming off a monster October in which it averaged 32.5 points per game during the team’s four-game winning streak. However, it struggled to move the ball consistently through either the air (139 yards) or on the ground (45 yards).

“Today wasn’t good enough,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “It humbles you. It brings you back down to earth. We’ll watch it and get better. (There’s) no time to sulk here. We have another good team coming in this week. We gotta get ready to play.”

Like its three previous meetings with the Chargers in 2007, 2011 and 2015, the Packers’ defense struggled to find a consistent answer for Rivers.

Although Rivers didn’t throw a touchdown pass, he was methodical in completing 21-of-28 passes for 294 yards. His two deep throws to receiver Mike Williams, combining for 92 yards, came on eventual scoring drives.

Operating with a new play-caller after offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was fired last week, Los Angeles also attacked more on Sunday with its ground game than it had in previous weeks.

Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combined for 32 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and another 51 receiving yards on seven receptions.

“This is the NFL. Nothing surprises you in this league,” said Preston Smith, who had seven tackles and a sack. “Every team is going to come out, regardless of what their record is and what they may be statistically, they’re going to come out and give their best. We just didn’t play our best tonight. We have to fix that and we have to get back to being us as a defense.”

At 7-2, the Packers still maintained their one-game lead in the NFC North after division rivals Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit all lost on Sunday.

To a man, the Packers’ postgame locker room reiterated the confidence it has in a team that already has surpassed its win totals in each of the past two seasons.

At the same time, Green Bay’s offense, defense and special teams recognize they need to make corrections quickly, as a meeting with the Carolina Panthers next Sunday at Lambeau Field still stands between the Packers and their Week 11 bye.

“I’ll tell you this man, it was a wake-up call for us,” said Za'Darius Smith, who had eight tackles and a half sack. “Because we went 7-1 – and I don’t feel like it – but some people probably got comfortable in their situations. To lose a game shows a lot and brings us back to earth to where we need to be at, at work, each and every day.”

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