DENVER – The Packers came up short on the road once again, falling to the Broncos, 19-17, on Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High.
Here are five takeaways from the frustrating defeat.
1. Similar script, different day
Much like their last loss in Vegas before the bye, the Packers struggled mightily on offense in the first half, and then with a chance to win the game late, an interception thwarted the comeback.
Rank them 1 and 1A in terms of frustrations, but getting shut out through halftime and being behind 9-0 at halftime loomed rather large in this one.
"Obviously extremely disappointing," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "We just, we keep digging ourselves in a hole.
"It's disappointing to have no points at the half, I've said it before, I think anytime you hold somebody under 20 points in this league, you need to do enough to win from offensive standpoint. We obviously aren't. It's just way too fragmented, not consistent execution."
Asked how much progress was made over the bye week regarding the team's slow starts – the Packers have now scored just six points total in the first half of the last four games – LaFleur's answer was blunt.
"Obviously zero," he said. How come? "That's a great question."
2. LaFleur regrets the final play call.
Facing third-and-20 with less than two minutes left from their own 46-yard line, trailing by two points, the Packers went for it all. QB Jordan Love's deep shot for receiver Samori Toure hung in the air too long and was intercepted by Broncos safety P.J. Locke cutting across the field.
Just like in Vegas, another late rally was denied when the Packers went for broke.
"I put that last one on me," LaFleur said. "I probably should've just called a safer play, get half of it, try to set yourself up for a manageable situation on the next down.
"We took a shot and obviously didn't come through."
Love said he didn't see Locke heading that way from his normal position and was surprised he was able to get to the ball. It wound up being the only turnover of the game.
"We dialed up a play, it's made for that coverage," Love said. "Tried to get a shot over the top for Samori, but the backside safety made a good play on it.
"You can look back on it and say we could've did so many different things … who knows? One of those things, what if."
Whatever it takes, the bottom line is what needs to change.
"Everyone's very frustrated," Love said. "We've gotta find a way to win, gotta find a way to win these games.
"We've been put in these positions multiple times on the offense to go win the game, and we haven't capitalized on it. We're not capitalizing on these end-of-game situations, and the situations are going to keep coming."
3. Two other mistakes in particular stuck out in this one.
First, rookie kicker Anders Carlson missed his first kick of the season in the first half, hooking a 43-yard field-goal try wide left when the Packers desperately needed to get points on the board before intermission.
Then, on the final drive, the reason it was third-and-20 was due to a holding penalty on Pro Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins when the offense ran a QB draw – which worked splendidly on the previous TD drive – on second down.
The Packers were at the Denver 44-yard line, and Love's run up the middle appeared to get inside the 40, but the penalty wiped out the play and put Green Bay back on its own side of midfield, in a long-yardage situation.
The offense might not have needed another first down to give Carlson a shot at a long field goal to retake the lead, but after the penalty the Packers were out of range and never got back in.
"That was critical, another critical penalty at the end of the game," LaFleur said. "It seems like there's a lot of those critical mistakes that keep popping up. Those are things that cost you."
Check out photos from the Week 7 matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023.
4. The defense had its share of letdowns at inopportune times, too.
The defense was on its way to allowing just two field goals in the first half, but then permitted a way-too-easy 50-yard drive in just 32 seconds after Carlson's miss to allow the Broncos a third field goal and 9-0 lead at halftime.
Then to open the second half, a defensive holding penalty wiped out a third-down stop, and four plays later, QB Russell Wilson found receiver Courtland Sutton wide open coming out of a bunch formation in the red zone for Denver's lone touchdown and a 16-3 advantage.
Finally, after the Packers rallied to take a 17-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Broncos drove 41 yards to get in field-goal range to grab the lead back. The only chance for the stop before Denver, 1-5 coming into Sunday, reached scoring territory was a third-and-1 that was easily converted.
5. Once again, it's time to regroup, without being any healthier.
Safety Darnell Savage (calf), defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt (knee), cornerback Eric Stokes (hamstring), tight end Luke Musgrave (ankle, hit to head) and receivers Christian Watson and Dontayvion Wicks (both unspecified) all left the game at some point Sunday.
The Packers, now 2-4, have three of their next four at home to try to end their current three-game losing streak and turn things around, but the task will be that much harder given the team's injury report.
"It's amazing," LaFleur said. "Every game it kind of compounds on itself. It is what it is. We've got to have the guys behind them ready to roll."