Early mistakes pile up, doom Packers to 31-23 defeat

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DETROIT – Once again, the hole the Packers dug themselves was too deep.

A disaster of a first half put Green Bay down by 24 points and despite a monster second half offensively, the Packers still fell, 31-23, to the Lions at Ford Field on Sunday.

“A disappointing division loss,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said not long after his team fell to 2-2-1, and 0-2 on the road. “We did too many things we couldn’t overcome.”

The mistakes were everywhere early on. A bouncing Detroit punt was ruled to have hit Green Bay cornerback Kevin King, giving the Lions the ball on the 1-yard line and a gift touchdown to start the game.

It didn’t get any better.

Veteran kicker Mason Crosby missed three first-half field goals, quarterback Aaron Rodgers fumbled twice on sacks, and one deep Matthew Stafford ball was misplayed by rookie cornerback Josh Jackson for a 60-yard gain.

That all added up to a 24-0 deficit at intermission, the second time in as many road games and the third time in five weeks this season the Packers have found themselves down big at the half.

“I gave them 10 (points),” Rodgers said. “We missed some field goals, obviously, had a turnover on the 1-yard line. You put that all together, and that’s a lot of points we gave them.”

Rodgers and the offense got rolling after halftime, to the tune of a 442-yard passing day (32-of-52, 108.0 passer rating). He threw for three touchdowns in the second half, and Davante Adams went from questionable on the injury report with a calf problem to the receiving star with nine catches for 140 yards and a score.

But it still wasn’t enough, even with rookie receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling (seven catches, 68 yards, TD) and Equanimeous St. Brown (3-89) filling in nicely for the injured Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison. Tight end Jimmy Graham (6-76) also became a consistent threat.

Stafford played mistake-free (14-of-26, 183 yards, two TDs, 101.9 rating) and rookie running back Kerryon Johnson (12 rushes, 70 yards) ripped off a backbreaking 24-yard run, practically untouched around left end, that led to the Lions’ final points.

The Packers’ best opportunity to get back in it came in the final five minutes, trailing 31-20. From the Detroit 33-yard line, Adams couldn’t quite haul in a deep ball near the goal line (the initial catch ruling was correctly overturned on a Lions replay challenge).

Instead of a shot from inside the 5-yard line with plenty of time left, the Packers settled for a 56-yard try from Crosby, whose nightmare of a game continued with his fifth missed kick (including one PAT) with 3:34 to go.

“We had a chance down 11, a chance to be sitting on the 1-yard line to pull within a score,” Rodgers said. “I’m sure Tae would like to have that one back.

“Obviously (Crosby)’s disappointed,” Rodgers continued, talking about one of his best friends on the team. “I don’t think he expected this. We have a ton of faith in him. He’s done it for a long time, made some big kicks over the years. They have to clean the operation up – snap, hold – and he’s got to make them.”

The regrets were across the board, but the ones on special teams sorely stood out. From Crosby’s missed kicks to the muffed punt to multiple penalties hurting field position all game long, there was plenty of blame to go around.

“I’m not going to sit here and point the finger at a young guy, an old guy, a second-year guy,” McCarthy said. “We’re not good enough right now in that area. We need to be better.”

A couple of damaging personal fouls on defense ran the game total to 12 flags for 112 yards in all on the Packers. Combine that with minus-3 in the turnover ratio and the self-inflicted mountain the Packers gave themselves to climb was way too steep for any game let alone a road one against a division rival.

“We’re five games into it,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t care for some of the things we know we can do better.

“At the end of the day it’s about winning, and we didn’t do enough to win today. We’ll focus on the things that went wrong that we can control, and we had too many of those today.”

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