SEATTLE – This was supposed to be it.
Just like the game in Los Angeles was supposed to be it. And the game in New England.
After another incredibly frustrating road loss, 27-24, to the Seahawks in the Packers’ personal house of horrors known as CenturyLink Field on Thursday night, Green Bay is still looking for that truly uplifting victory that turns the 2018 season in a different direction.
At 4-5-1, the season is instead continuing to be a wheel-spinning exercise filled with promising chances and empty feelings.
Immediately afterward, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was not about to throw in the towel. Not with six games left. He’s fully aware time is running out, but Rodgers isn’t going to give up on finding the ever-elusive season-changer.
“Of course there’s hope. Of course we believe in each other,” Rodgers said. “It’s just going to take one galvanizing moment, whether it’s a speech or a practice, … something to get us going.
“I thought we had moments tonight, the way we were going. We battled, but nobody gave up. We just didn’t play well enough when we had to play well enough.”
That’s been the story of all five road games thus far, wasting once again what could have become pivotal pieces to start a late-season run.
An early fumble recovery and touchdown. A classic wow, how-did-he-do-that TD toss by Rodgers to a young tight end who had never caught an NFL pass before. A pinpoint throw to Aaron Jones as the Packers withstood and answered a Seattle surge in the second quarter and regained the lead by halftime. Dropping another one on a dime to Davante Adams for a huge third-down conversion in the fourth quarter worth 57 yards and a first down in the red zone.
But the list of mistakes and blown opportunities was just as long, and as Rodgers continues to be asked by reporters to force-feed a catchy slogan to his team that seems so close to a breakthrough, he’s still waiting for it to feel like the right time. And to see the actual proof, too.
“It has to be an authentic moment for times like that,” he said. “That moment will be right at one point … hopefully it starts with a nice couple days off here, getting guys healthy, mentally come back and be ready to finish out these last six games the right way.”
Rodgers continued to stress the team has to take advantage of the break over the weekend, get away from it, and come back “refreshed.”
That includes him, and as the questions about showing his frustrations on the field get repeated, he’s keeping his answers pretty simple, and real.
“We haven’t won on the road yet. That’s not fun,” he said. “I love my teammates and I love competing, but losing, it’s not fun.”
He explained that most of his frustrations stem from not being on the same page with his receivers at certain times, particularly on third down and with chances to score. He fed the ball as much as he could to Davante Adams and Aaron Jones, who combined to touch the ball 26 times on 48 plays and produce 269 of 359 total yards, but it’s still the one or two plays that get away that naturally eat at him.
Third-and-5 from the Seattle 12-yard line with nine minutes left and a 21-20 lead was the latest major example. He and Adams apparently saw the Seahawks’ red-zone defense differently on the play, and by the time Rodgers gave up on what he felt should have been a touchdown he was sacked before he could see Jones wide open as the check-down in the flat.
“The short week is tough. You don’t get to talk through every look you expect to see,” Rodgers said. “I wish we had one more conversation about that.
“The execution just hasn’t been great, especially in situational offense. You compare it to years past, we’ve always been really good on third down and in the red zone, and we’re just not this year. It’s a combination of a lot of things, but that’s the biggest frustration.”
Finding that turning point might only be getting tougher as the Packers’ health continues to deteriorate. Jimmy Graham, Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and two more defensive backs all left with injuries, though at least Clark told reporters after the game he was fine.
Is there a road back into contention? Sure, but it’s only getting narrower with each depressing return flight.
“Well, there better be. We still have six weeks left,” Rodgers said.
“I think there’s been opportunities, but they can be galvanizing moments when you capitalize on them. We had some today.
“There are many moments we could have used to gravitate towards, that this is what it looks like and how it feels … but when you lose, that all kind of gets wiped away.”