Game Review: Familiar Finish In Loss To Texans

Head Coach Mike McCarthy has talked about his team’s inability to make more plays than its opponents at crucial points of close games this season, and that problem reared its head once again in Green Bay’s 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday at Lambeau Field. - More Packers-Texans Game Center

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WR Donald Driver's 59-yard pass play in the fourth quarter got the Packers into scoring range, but they couldn't cash in.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy has talked about his team's inability to make more plays than its opponents at crucial points of close games this season, and that problem reared its head once again in Green Bay's 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

The loss dropped the Packers to 5-8, three games behind division-leading Minnesota (8-5) and two behind Chicago (7-6). It was Green Bay's third consecutive defeat and fifth in six games since entering the bye on a two-game winning streak, and their fifth loss this season by four points or less.

The Packers have not been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but their chances of defending their division crown are all but gone at this point.

To make the postseason, Green Bay would need to win its three remaining games, Minnesota would need to lose its final three (at Arizona, vs. Atlanta, vs. New York Giants), and Chicago would have to drop two of its final three, including a loss to the Packers and a defeat in one of its other two games (vs. New Orleans, at Houston). The Packers would win a tiebreaker with all three teams at 8-8 because of their 3-1 record in head-to-head matchups with the other two teams.

But after another disappointing loss that saw the Packers allow 549 yards of total offense on Sunday, playoff aspirations are the last thing that the Packers are focusing on. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Texans' yardage total was the sixth-most allowed by the Packers in franchise history and the most since Green Bay surrendered 552 vs. Washington 25 years ago (Oct. 17, 1983).

"I'm very frustrated on the way, particularly today's game unfolded," McCarthy said. "It's a little bit of a picture of how our season has gone. We had a number of opportunities and we didn't cash in on them. We had some breakdowns and unfortunately that's why we're sitting here again with a loss."

Even with Houston's offensive production, the Packers still had a chance to pull out a victory late in the game, but in what has become an all-too familiar theme in '08, they fell short at the end.

With the game tied at 21 and less than five minutes remaining, the Packers stood at their own 16-yard line. On the first play of the series, quarterback Aaron Rodgers found wide receiver Donald Driver deep down the left sideline for a 59-yard gain down to the Houston 25.

After running back Ryan Grant picked up 3 yards on first down, he followed it up with a 9-yard pickup off right tackle, but the gain was nullified by a questionable holding penalty on right tackle Tony Moll, filling in for an injured Mark Tauscher.

With the Packers facing a 2nd-and-17 from the 32 instead of a first down from the 13, Rodgers was sacked for a 9-yard loss to take the Packers out of field goal range, and his pass on third down to tight end Donald Lee only picked up 3 yards to force a Green Bay punt.

"The frustrating part is it's been right there in front of us," Rodgers said. "We've had the opportunity to execute and finish those games off, and we haven't.

"In the fourth quarter we tied it up, got the ball back, had a good call and Donald made a great catch and run. I think everybody definitely on the offensive side was thinking let's punch this in for seven and get this win, and then all of the rest of that stuff happened."

The Packers still appeared to have a good shot to either get the ball back if they could force a three-and-out or force overtime after newly signed punter Jeremy Kapinos' kick was downed at the Houston 3.

After a 3-yard gain by running back Steve Slaton on first down, quarterback Matt Schaub found fullback Vonta Leach in the flat on a play-action pass that Leach took 22 yards down the right sideline.

Schaub followed that up two plays later with a short pass over the middle to wide receiver David Anderson that picked up 17 yards, and then two plays after that connected with tight end Owen Daniels over the middle for 27 yards down to the Green Bay 25.

Schaub downed the ball to stop the clock, and Slaton rushed one more time for 3 yards to set up Kris Brown's 40-yard kick that sailed through the uprights as time expired to give the Texans the victory in their first trip to Lambeau Field.

The Packers' offensive struggles were highlighted by their inability to convert on third down, as they were successful on just 1-of-10 attempts. Green Bay's first and only third-down conversion came in running back Ryan Grant's 22-yard pickup on 3rd-and-1 with eight minutes remaining in the game to help set up Rodgers' 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jordy Nelson that tied the game at 21.

"We just didn't convert like we usually do," Rodgers said. "I liked the plan we had. We didn't make plays. You've got to give them credit on defense. They had a good game plan."

Rodgers finished the afternoon with 295 yards passing and two touchdowns on 19-of-30 attempts (104.2 rating), and Grant rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries (5.5 avg.).

On the other side, Houston's offense was clicking on all cylinders led by Schaub, who had missed the last four games after suffering a knee injury at Minnesota on Nov. 2.

{sportsad300}Schaub completed 28-of-42 passes for a career-high 414 yards (104.7 rating). The Texans converted 7-of-13 (53.8 percent) third downs, and had a 100-yard rusher (Slaton, 120) and a 100-yard receiver (Kevin Walter, 146). It was the first time in team history that the Packers have allowed a 400-yard passer, 100-yard receiver and 100-yard rusher in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

As has been the case in the last two losses entering Sunday, explosive plays by the opposing offense proved to be too much to overcome. The Texans had nine plays of 20-plus yards, eight through the air and one on the ground.

"The big plays are something that has kind of lingered of late," McCarthy said. "If you go back to New Orleans all the way through today's game, we're making big plays, getting turnovers, but we definitely can't offset it. It's an explosive gains National Football League and we're not doing our job in holding that part down."

Sitting in third place in the NFC North at 5-8, the Packers are now charged with more than likely taking the field the final three games, beginning at Jacksonville next Sunday, playing for pride.

"We're the Green Bay Packers, so we're going to line up and we're going to prepare," McCarthy said. "We're going to get in here tomorrow and correct our mistakes, and everybody is going to know exactly what went wrong, what went right, and we will apply that as we move forward.

"But we are going down to Jacksonville to win a football game. We need to win a game around here."

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