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Game recap: 5 takeaways from Packers' season-ending loss to Lions

Green Bay fails to claim playoff spot

Detroit Lions safety Kerby Joseph intercepts a pass from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter of Green Bay's 20-16 loss to Detroit on Jan. 8, 2023.
Detroit Lions safety Kerby Joseph intercepts a pass from Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter of Green Bay's 20-16 loss to Detroit on Jan. 8, 2023.

GREEN BAY – The Packers saw their late-season run come up maddeningly short Sunday night, as a 20-16 loss to the Lions at Lambeau Field denied Green Bay a postseason berth.

Seattle is headed to the NFC playoffs as the No. 7 seed instead. Green Bay's four-game winning streak didn't stretch to five so the final mark is 8-9.

Here are five takeaways from the painful defeat.

1. Disappointment is the primary emotion.

The Packers put themselves in a position few thought possible a month ago, but then let an opportunity to salvage a rocky season get away. So for a third straight year, a season with much higher hopes and expectations came to an end at Lambeau Field, following home playoff defeats the past two seasons.

"To not get it done at your home stadium with the support of your fans certainly is, like I've said it a million times, … the overall theme is just disappointing," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "Disappointed in myself and just the fact that we couldn't get it done."

The Packers went 3-1 to start the season and 4-1 to finish it, but lost seven of eight games from the first full week of October through Thanksgiving weekend.

"Ultimately we dug ourselves too big of a hole and the margin for error in this league is so small," LaFleur said. "If you don't capitalize on opportunities and you make mistakes, then you're going to lose, especially against quality football teams."

The Lions finished 9-8, going 8-2 over their last 10 games.

2. The mistakes and missed opportunities in this game were mostly on offense.

First-and-goal at the 5 on the game's opening drive produced only a field goal. A failed fourth-and-1 in Green Bay territory gave the Lions three free points. Two other drives in the first half got inside the Detroit 25-yard line but stalled, leading to field goals.

Dropped passes by running back AJ Dillon and receivers Allen Lazard and Romeo Doubs all played a part in the struggles.

"You can't do those type of things in this type of game," LaFleur said.

Most costly, late in the first half an outside screen to running back Aaron Jones picked up a first down inside the Detroit 30, but Jones fumbled. The Lions recovered and drove the other way for a field goal to close the first half and pull within 9-6.

"We had four drives inside their territory and just didn't come up with enough points," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.

"That fumble, we probably go up two scores going into half, it's a little different story."

Establishing the running game was as much a chore as finding any consistency in the passing game, as the Packers slogged their way to just 3.7 yards per carry on the ground, unable to "block movement very well," LaFleur said. Rookie Zach Tom replaced a struggling Yosh Nijman at right tackle, as Rodgers (17-of-27, 205 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 83.1 rating) was sacked twice and pressured several other times.

3. Multiple discipline penalties helped the Lions score.

For the final snap of the first half, the Lions were lining up for a 48-yard field goal, and kicker Michael Badgley had missed from 46 in the same direction on Detroit's previous possession.

But when the Packers called a timeout, cornerback Rasul Douglas walked into the middle of the line to swat the ball away from the snapper and prevent the Lions from taking a practice kick. That led to a shoving match, and Douglas was flagged for a personal foul, moving the field goal 15 yards closer, which Badgley hit as time expired.

Then in the fourth quarter, with the Packers trying to protect a 16-13 lead, Lions running back D'Andre Swift gained two yards on a short pass in the red zone, setting up second-and-8 from the Green Bay 9. Swift was down with an injury, and the trainer who came out to check on him was pushed by Packers rookie linebacker Quay Walker.

That gave the Lions a first-and-goal on the 4, Walker was ejected, and Detroit took the lead for good three plays later on the second TD run of the game by Jamaal Williams (16 carries, 72 yards), the former Packer who recorded his first 1,000-yard rushing season and broke Barry Sanders' team record with his 17th rushing TD on the year.

The ejection was Walker's second this season, following the same penalty and punishment for contacting a member of Buffalo's sideline personnel back in Week 8.

"That is unacceptable. I've got a much higher standard for our players than to do silly things like that," LaFleur said, referring to both costly personal fouls in this game.

"We've got to be much more mentally tough. Any time our guys commit personal fouls I take that very personally because I think that's always a reflection of myself and the standards that we set for these players."

See scenes from the regular-season finale between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on Jan. 8, 2023.

4. A defense that had feasted on takeaways got none.

The Packers had generated 12 turnovers during their four-game winning streak, but Lions QB Jared Goff – who did not throw an interception over the final nine games of the season – put just one ball in danger that was batted down by safety Darnell Savage. Goff (23-of-34, 224 yards, 85.9 rating) did fumble once but recovered it immediately himself.

Goff also hit receiver Kalif Raymond on a play-action bootleg deep ball to set up Williams' first TD run, which came just two plays after Packers kicker Mason Crosby was denied by the crossbar from 53 yards out on a field goal. That kick would've given Green Bay a 12-6 lead, as Crosby had made three previous field goals, including two from 49 and 48 yards.

The Lions seized the momentum, and the Packers got only some of it back with a 13-yard TD pass to Lazard before Detroit answered again.

The Packers wound up losing the turnover battle 2-0 (or effectively 3-0 if the early fourth-down stop in Green Bay territory counts) when Rodgers last pass was intercepted by safety Kerby Joseph.

The Lions called an all-out blitz on third-and-10, the Packers "busted a protection," according to LaFleur, and Rodgers just heaved it deep for rookie Christian Watson (five catches, 104 yards). Joseph, who had an earlier INT nullified by a defensive penalty up front and nearly snagged another in the first half, swooped over and finally got his pick.

"I felt like I was about to get rocked and just tried to lay one up to Christian and didn't get enough on it," Rodgers said.

Green Bay never got the ball back, as the Lions killed the final 3:27 on the clock by gaining three first downs, the last on a fourth-and-1 completion to receiver DJ Chark with just over a minute left.

5. It's onto an important offseason.

The list of questions heading into the offseason is too long to enumerate here regarding who may or may not be back, including Rodgers. Those are long discussions for another day, while the analysis of this loss and season is a relatively short one.

"We had a lot of opportunities to not be in this position," Rodgers said, lamenting earlier games he felt the Packers should've won. "We kinda played like we did before the last few games.

"The same things that hurt us all year, hurt us tonight … and we just didn't fix it all season."

LaFleur stressed the offseason examination of the entire football operation would be done with a "fine-tooth comb" after falling so far short of what this team planned to accomplish.

"We've all got to look inward and figure out what it is we've got to do to get better, because I know the expectations here are very high and they should be," LaFleur said.

"I think that a lot of times when you have success certain things can get covered up by winning games, and I think everything has pretty much been exposed right now. It's evident that whatever we did this year was not good enough."


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