GREEN BAY – Having turned a corner with a pair of victories over their last three games, the Packers entered Sunday’s game against the Detroit looking to finish a challenging 2018 season on a high note.
Instead, the bitter taste of a 31-0 shutout at Lambeau Field escorted Green Bay into its offseason.
As disheartening as the performance was, several members of the Packers’ locker room voiced their optimism about the future of a young team that fought through injuries and periods of inconsistency.
“It should motivate us to be better next year,” defensive back Tramon Williams said. “If you’re around in the league long enough, there’s going to be seasons like this. Things do change. Things tend to change. Obviously, if you’re around long enough, things kind of get stale and a change is always coming.”
An offense playing without Aaron Rodgers for a bulk of the game was forced to punt on its first six possessions. It threatened scoring territory once near the end of the third quarter, only to see the drive stall on fourth-and-5 from the Lions’ 21-yard line.
In the end, the Lions dominated total yards (402-175), first downs (25-9) and overall time of possession (36:54-23:06) to pick up their fourth consecutive victory over Green Bay.
“We’ve just got to give more,” running back Jamaal Williams said. “I can't speak for all of my teammates, but for me, this has got … my blood boiling. The thing is this whole offseason is … looking at all these losses and how our season went and just using that as fuel to be ready for next year and hopefully not have this happen next year either.”
The Packers finished the season with 15 players on injured reserve, including six who were a part of the team’s starting rotation in the regular-season opener against Chicago.
Having endured one of the franchise’s most difficult seasons in recent memory, Green Bay looks to turn things around in 2019.
“If you’re not motivated by this, you’re probably in the wrong sport,” guard Justin McCray said. “Coming in April, this is not what we expected our season to be. If you don’t reach a goal, we don’t say just forget about it. You keep working towards it. Every year, we’re going to try to work on a Super Bowl.”
Three more kisses: One of the lasting bright spots for the 2018 Packers was Kyler Fackrell’s emergence as one of the NFL’s top young pass rushers.
The former third-round pick notched 10½ sacks on the year Sunday against the Lions, becoming only the fourth Green Bay pass rusher (Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Julius Peppers are the others) to record double-digit sacks in a season since 2009.
After dropping Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford for a 2-yard loss in the third quarter, Fackrell embraced with veteran linebacker Clay Matthews and performed his patented celebration of blowing kisses to his wife and two daughters.
“He’s just a consistent pass rusher,” said defensive lineman Dean Lowry of Fackrell. “Not even his sacks, but just his constant pressure. He’s great with games. He set the edge really well this year. Just playing with him and other guys who stepped up … that was huge for our defense and shows about our future going forward.”
One shy: Davante Adams was inactive Sunday due to the knee injury he sustained last week against the New York Jets, causing the Packers’ Pro Bowl receiver to fall one reception short of Sterling Sharpe’s 25-year-old franchise record.
After signing a contract extension with the Packers, the former second-round pick still enjoyed a career year with 111 catches for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns in 15 starts.
“Obviously he wanted to go, but it’s a lot bigger than him,” receiver Randall Cobb said.
Lambeau Field hosted the 2018 regular-season finale between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions.
Planning to play: After playing more snaps than any other Packers defender in 2018, Williams told reporters after the game he plans to return for a 13th NFL season in 2019.
Williams is under contract with the Packers for next season but knows anything can happen. His priority right now is to train like he always has in preparation for next season.
“I’m not going to really worry about that,” Williams said. “I really can’t control that, so I’m really not going to lose any sleep about it, at all.”
Prater’s fake: The Lions built a measure of momentum early in the second quarter when kicker Matt Prater successfully executed an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Levine Toilolo off a fake field goal on fourth-and-3.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby, who said he’s worked on a similar play in practice before, came away impressed by Prater’s throw.
“He threw a great ball,” Crosby said. “We unfortunately didn’t make the read and see the guy out there, and that’s on us as a unit. We’ve got to be disciplined to see that and make sure that kind of stuff doesn’t happen.”