LANDOVER, Md. – The Packers suffered through a day-long struggle again and dropped their third straight game, this one 23-21 to the Washington Commanders at FedExField.
Here are five takeaways from the defeat:
1. A rough stretch for this team simply got worse.
The Packers let a 14-3 lead turn into a 23-14 deficit before rallying late, and seemingly nothing went right – on either side of the ball – as this game got away.
Any number of statistics showed the performance was worse than the final score indicated, because of how much Washington dominated through the middle stages. The Commanders outgained the Packers 364-232, went 7-of-16 on third down compared to 0-for-6, ran 72 plays to just 47 for Green Bay, and had a nearly 15-minute time of possession advantage (37:07-22:53).
"Our guys are extremely disappointed," LaFleur said in his postgame press conference. "I don't think anybody thought we'd be in this spot that we're in right now, and we're going to find out what we're made of.
"I do believe we've got the right kind of guys that will continue to battle. We did battle until the final play."
2. The comeback started way too late.
The Packers pulled within two points on Aaron Jones' second touchdown reception of the game with just over three minutes left, needing a defensive stop to get one more possession and try for a game-winning field goal.
The defense, which allowed several third-down conversions and therefore long drives in the second half, almost got that stop just before the two-minute warning.
But backup QB Taylor Heinicke's under-pressure heave to the sideline on third-and-9 was hauled in by receiver Terry McLaurin for 12 yards, and the Packers ultimately didn't get the ball back until less than 30 seconds remained on the clock.
"I don't see anybody quitting out there, even when it looks bleak," LaFleur said. "They made some tight plays."
Heinicke, subbing for the injured Carson Wentz, threw for 200 yards and two scores.
3. The offense couldn't get out of its own way.
Following Jones' first TD reception, Green Bay's next four drives – from late in the first quarter to late in the third – produced just two first downs.
The number of long-yardage situations piled up, the Packers couldn't convert (their only third-down conversions were via penalty in the last quarter), and the frustration mounted. The Packers didn't get over 100 yards of total offense until the final play of the third quarter.
"I think it takes everybody," LaFleur said of how to get out of the rut and turn things around. "I felt like we had a ton of drops, had a lot of penalties that put us behind the sticks, and those are tough situations to climb out of."
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished with 194 passing yards, a low number that didn't appear it would get even that high until late in the game. Jones accounted for 76 yards from scrimmage, followed by Allen Lazard with 55.
Rodgers was playing with a bad thumb for the second straight game, and he got it taped up at halftime for more support after a couple of snaps jammed it a bit. The Packers also reshuffled their offensive line and then had to replace left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) somewhat last-minute.
Regardless, the expectations were certainly for better.
"Execution of the details, small details, a lot of mental errors today," Rodgers said. "We just made some silly execution mistakes.
"Penalties, dropping balls, not putting balls in the right spot. It's not winning football."
4. The Packers also seemingly couldn't catch a break until they were desperate.
Linebacker De'Vondre Campbell's pick-six in the second quarter provided the 14-3 lead, and the defense thought it had another score when cornerback Rasul Douglas scooped up a Heinicke fumble caused by Rashan Gary's hit and went the distance with it.
But that play was called back for an illegal contact penalty on cornerback Eric Stokes, and the defense wasn't the same unit thereafter. It had risen up early after Amari Rodgers' muffed punt and held the Commanders to just a field goal, but as in recent weeks the defense faded as the game went on.
Washington put together three straight scoring drives in the second half, featuring a 37-yard McLaurin TD over Jaire Alexander plus two field goals, and those drives consumed more than 16 minutes on the clock.
"We had some opportunities for sure," said Rodgers, who also referenced a long replay review on a potential Washington fumble that didn't go Green Bay's way. "They definitely played well enough for us to win."
Lest anyone think the flags were one-sided, it's worth noting the Packers' late TD drive included three defensive penalties on the Commanders that moved the chains. In all, the rather ugly game had a combined 16 penalties and numerous others declined.
See scenes from the Sunday afternoon matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Washington Commanders at FedExField on Oct. 23, 2022.
5. The search for answers continues.
The Packers hadn't lost back-to-back games in the same regular season under LaFleur until last week, and now the losing streak is at three with the team falling below .500.
There's no magic bullet or the Packers would have fired it by now.
"I think if we knew what the answer was right now we wouldn't be standing here," LaFleur said. "Right now, what we're putting out there, what I'm calling, it ain't good enough.
"It's a tough pill to swallow and we've got to be better."