Game Review: Packers' Loss A Tough One To Swallow

LANDOVER, Md. - The Packers came into Sunday’s game without five of their opening-day starters due to injury, and lost two more in the opening four plays in Washington on Sunday. The offense converted just 2-of-13 third downs on the afternoon. Even with all of that, they were still in position to come away with a win in the closing seconds against the Redskins.

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But it didn't happen. With the game tied at 13, Mason Crosby's 53-yard field goal attempt with one second remaining in the fourth quarter bounced wide left after hitting the left upright, and an Aaron Rodgers interception in overtime helped set up Graham Gano's 33-yard field goal nearly midway through the extra session to give Washington the 16-13 victory in front of a crowd of 87,760 at FedExField.

The loss was Green Bay's second in three weeks, with both losses having the feeling of games it could have easily won, and dropped the Packers to 3-2 on the season with back-to-back home games against Miami and Minnesota up next.

"Don't let opportunities slip away," wide receiver Donald Driver said. "It is like in that in life; if you let an opportunity slip away it's hard to come back from it. But one thing we know is we let this one slip away and we've got a bunch of guys in this locker room that believe that. When you have got guys that believe they let one slip away, it's easy to fight back. We know right now that is what we have got to do coming in next week."

After the Packers' offense and special teams put the defense in some challenging field-position situations last Sunday against Detroit, they did that again on just the second play of the game against Washington. On second down at the Green Bay 16, Rodgers found Donald Lee for a 17-yard gain, but safety LaRon Landry forced a fumble that fellow safety Kareem Moore returned to the Packers' 21.

But like it did last week, the Packers defense held firm, with center Casey Rabach's snap on third down sailing over the head of quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was tackled by linebacker Clay Matthews for a 22-yard loss all the way back to the Washington 44 to force a Redskins punt.

Taking over at its own 10-yard line, Green Bay's offense struck quickly behind the legs of running back Brandon Jackson. On first down, Jackson took a draw up the middle, made one tackler miss, and then bounced it out down the right sideline for a career-long 71 yard gain all the way to the Washington 19. Five plays later on a third down, Rodgers connected with Lee for a 5-yard score and a 7-0 lead.

Just two possessions later, the Packers appeared poised to add to their lead, quickly moving the ball down the field again after starting out at their own 14. Rodgers made a nice deep throw into a tight spot to wide receiver James Jones (team-high 65 yards on four catches) down the left sideline for a 35-yard gain, and two plays later found Jones again for an 11-yard pickup to the Washington 9.

But after Rodgers hooked up on quick pass to wide receiver Jordy Nelson for an 8-yard gain down to the 1, the offense wasn't able to punch the ball in for points on three straight plays. Running back John Kuhn was stopped for no gain up the middle on second down, and then a Rodgers sneak up the middle had the same result. After a timeout, Rodgers was pressured on a pass to tight end Andrew Quarless, and the pass was batted away by linebacker Lorenzo Alexander.

The special teams set up the offense on the next series, with a 52-yard punt return from Tramon Williams giving the offense the ball at the Washington 33, but a Brian Orakpo sack of Rodgers on third down forced Green Bay to settle for a 52-yard field goal from Crosby. Washington would add a field goal of its own just before the half, and the Packers took a 10-3 lead into the break.

Green Bay quickly moved into scoring position on the first drive of the second half, but it would be the last time on the afternoon that it made it into the red zone. Jackson picked up 12 yards on a dump-off pass and 15 on a run up the middle, and Rodgers connected with Driver for a 34-yard pickup to the Washington 26. But the offense couldn't convert on third-and-2, and Green Bay was forced to settle for the 36-yard Crosby field goal and a 13-3 advantage.

After the Packers' defense kept quarterback Donovan McNabb and the Washington offense in check for the first three quarters, allowing the Redskins to convert just on three of their first 11 third-down opportunities on the way to just three points, the veteran signal caller began to find his rhythm in the fourth quarter.

McNabb and his offense got a boost from special teams, with wide receiver Brandon Banks returning a Tim Masthay punt 30 yards out to the Washington 40. Two plays later, McNabb (26-of-49 for 357 yards) lofted a deep pass down the middle that receiver Anthony Armstrong made a leaping grab of over safety Charlie Peprah for a touchdown that trimmed Green Bay's lead to 13-10 while also energizing a dormant Washington crowd.

Washington tied the game at 13 on a 45-yard field Gano field goal with just 1:07 remaining in the contest, and Green Bay took over at its own 21 with just one timeout left. But Rodgers moved the offense down the field in a hurry, completing a pair of passes to Quarless for 9 and 21 yards respectively, with those receptions sandwiching a 14-yard run by Rodgers. After the 21-yard completion to the rookie tight end put the ball at the Redskins' 35, Rodgers rushed up to the line to spike the ball with seven seconds remaining to give Crosby a shot to win it, but the kick that had plenty of distance hit the left upright.

"To not be able to capitalize there at the end was very disappointing," Crosby said. "Obviously we thought we would get it in overtime and we came in here without the win, which was our ultimate goal. I'm just sick to my stomach about missing that kick.

"I hit it all the way up the upright. I lined it up and thought I hit it the way I wanted to, but obviously it didn't go in. It just turned left on me and hit the upright."

The Packers won the toss to start the extra period, but their first drive quickly stalled thanks to a Bryan Bulaga false-start penalty and then a sack of Rodgers by Orakpo on third down, the fourth of the afternoon for the Redskins. McNabb didn't waste any time once he took over, completing a pair of passes to wideout Santana Moss (seven catches for team-high 118 yards) to put the ball in Green Bay territory. But the Packers came through on third down with a sack of their own, with Brady Poppinga coming through untouched for a 9-yard loss that forced a Redskins punt.

Just two plays later, Green Bay gave the ball back, with Rodgers' throw behind Greg Jennings and into the arms of Landry, who after a replay review was ruled down at the Green Bay 39.

The Redskins moved into field-goal range courtesy of a pair of penalties, the first a holding call on Poppinga to convert a third-and 1 from the 30 and the second a pass interference call on Charles Woodson on second-and-15. McNabb kept the ball and picked up 7 yards on the next two plays up the middle to set up Gano, whose 33-yard kick split the uprights to give Washington the 16-13 victory.

"We just let an opportunity slip away," Jones said. "There is no explanation for the way we lost this game. We lost it ourselves.

"That's always the most frustrating part; as bad as you play, you still have a chance to win the game at the end and you still let the game slip away. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but at the same time you've got to put it behind you now. We are 3-2, and we've got to go get better and try and get Miami."

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