GREEN BAY – This time, the Packers' late-season surge ended one victory short of the postseason.
A myriad of missed opportunities, turnovers, and penalties in Sunday's regular-season finale against Detroit led to Green Bay coming up short in its bid to claim the seventh and final seed in NFC playoffs following a 20-16 loss to the Lions in front of 78,191 at Lambeau Field.
Coming off arguably their best game of the season in a 41-17 win over Minnesota, the Packers struggled to establish a rhythm in all three phases against Detroit, which already had been eliminated from playoff contention after Seattle's 19-16 overtime win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon.
Offensively, the Packers turned the ball over twice, struggled to generate explosive plays against the Lions' zone-heavy defense and didn't get much traction on the ground despite Detroit often playing with two high safeties.
Defensively, Green Bay got off to a strong start in the first half but didn't capitalize when opportunities were presented to pick off Lions quarterback Jared Goff. With the Packers unable to generate turnovers or get an explosive boost on special teams, Detroit used a steady approach and timely play calls to put the finishing touches on its first winning season in five years.
"It's unfortunate to be in that situation, and I don't think any of us felt that we were going to be in that situation," receiver Randall Cobb said. "Obviously, we planned on winning, we thought we would win, and we just didn't play our best game tonight."
The Packers came into Sunday's win-and-get-in matchup knowing they'd have to play clean football. As it turned out, Goff wound up not throwing another interception all season since Green Bay cornerback Jaire Alexander picked him off during the teams' first meeting in Week 9.
Like that 15-9 loss to the Lions, the Packers didn't execute well enough in Detroit territory. Green Bay only punted once the entire game but had to settle for three Mason Crosby field goals in the first half. The Packers also turned the ball over on downs at their own 31 on their second possession, leading to a Michael Badgley 37-yard field goal.
In addition to going 0-for-1 on its only goal-to-go opportunity, the Packers also turned the ball over twice. Aaron Jones fumbled after an 8-yard screen inside the Detroit 32-yard line with a little more than a minute left in the first half. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers also was intercepted by Kerby Joseph on the Packers' last possession in the fourth quarter, the rookie's third INT of Rodgers this season.
"I'm still kind of processing everything right now," said receiver Allen Lazard, whose 13-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter was Green Bay's only trip into the end zone. "Obviously, the season didn't end the way that we wanted it to. There was a lot of positives, and ups and downs throughout the entire season, but I think this one definitely hurts the most."
The Lions struggled on offense early but took their first lead in the third quarter after Goff found Kalif Raymond for a 43-yard pass. On the next play, former Packers running back Jamaal Williams scored the first of his two rushing TDs to put Detroit up 13-9.
While the Packers were only flagged four times, they came at critical moments in the game. As Michael Badgley lined up for a 48-yard field goal before halftime, Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur called a timeout in an attempt to ice the Lions' kicker.
See scenes from the regular-season finale between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on Jan. 8, 2023.
At that time, cornerback Rasul Douglas walked across the line of scrimmage and got his hand on the ball just as Lions long snapper Scott Daly began to snap it. Douglas said he did it so Detroit couldn't get a free kick. This led to a scuffle between Douglas and tackle Dan Skipper.
Skipper shoved Douglas in the back, which led Douglas to push back and the officials to flag the Packers' cornerback for unsportsmanlike conduct. After the 15-yard penalty, Badgley made the 33-yard field to cut Green Bay's lead to 9-6 at halftime.
"My thing is, we call timeout, I'm not about to let you snap it and get a free kick," Douglas said. "It's always on the second person, it ain't never on the first one. But that's on me. I'm a way smarter player than that. I can't allow him to push me and me get upset. I've just got to let it go. But I'm not letting nobody get a free kick. That's essentially why I slapped the ball out of his hands."
In the fourth quarter, Quay Walker also was flagged for a penalty that resulted in disqualification from the game and gave Detroit a first-and-goal from the Packers' 4. The defense held until third-and-goal, when Williams punched in a 1-yard touchdown to put the Lions up for good.
As well as Green Bay played as of late, the Packers couldn't replicate the strides they'd made during their four-game winning streak to punch their ticket to a fourth consecutive playoff appearance under LaFleur.
"We knew that if we won we were in, so we were playing for something," Douglas said. "It just didn't turn out to be that way. It ended. Now we've all got to sit here, think about all of the plays we had all game and then come in tomorrow and it'll be the last time you see some faces."