LANDOVER, Md. – There would be no fourth-quarter magic in Week 3.
The Packers had their chances to rally after a rough first half on a rainy Sunday in Washington, but the mistakes piled up too high in a 31-17 defeat at FedExField.
"We have to clean our own house," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said moments after his team fell to 1-1-1 on the young season. "It's sloppy right now."
The sloppiness was on both sides of the ball in the first half. On defense, the Packers allowed a barrage of big plays and got flagged for multiple pass interference penalties. On offense, off-target throws and flags stalled drives.
Even after a 64-yard touchdown pass to receiver Geronimo Allison got the Packers back in it late in the first half at 21-10, the defense allowed its fourth explosive play of the first two quarters, a 50-yard catch-and-run by Vernon Davis to set up a Washington TD at the end of the first half.
"They made plays," McCarthy said. "They took the shots one-on-one and they converted them. That's what this league is all about."
In the process, Washington QB Alex Smith was on his way to 220 yards and a 110.4 passer rating, with 130 of the yards coming on three completions, including a 46-yard TD to Paul Richardson to open the game.
Running back Adrian Peterson also broke off a 41-yard run as part of his 19-carry, 120-yard, two-touchdown day.
After the Packers scored on a 2-yard TD pass to Davante Adams (seven catches, 52 yards) to open the second half, they were within 28-17. The defense stiffened, allowing just one first down in a span of four possessions.
But the offense continued to sputter due to penalties and drops, and a comeback never materialized.
"The penalty imbalance was heavy against us," McCarthy said, as the Packers were flagged for 11 infractions for 115 yards compared to just six for 66 for Washington.
"Way too many holding calls. A lot of long down-and-distances. We had a lot of opportunities in the second half to get the game back to one score and didn't get it done."
For the most damaging miscue, take your pick.
Late in the third quarter on fourth-and-2 from the Washington 43, receiver Randall Cobb couldn't haul in a short throw at the first-down marker, with a Washington replay challenge successfully overturning the original call of a catch.
Then early in the fourth on third-and-10 from deep in Green Bay territory, tight end Lance Kendricks dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball down the right sideline that at a minimum would have flipped the field if not led to a score.
Finally, still down by just 11 points with 5 ½ minutes left, Cobb had the ball stripped on a short completion and Washington recovered, in effect sealing the game.
"You'd love to play the if-and-or-but game," said QB Aaron Rodgers, who played through his bad left knee again and threw for 265 yards with a 93.5 rating. "We had some opportunities. But it didn't come down to those couple plays.
"I missed a couple throws I usually hit in those circumstances. It was one of those days. Tough conditions, not super tough, but a steady rain throughout the game, made it harder to throw, harder to catch. We set a high standard. I have to play better and we have to make the plays."
Green Bay and Washington squared off at FedExField in a week 3 matchup
To add injury to insult, the Packers also left Washington banged up. The two starters on the right side of the offensive line in tackle Bryan Bulaga (back) and guard Justin McCray (shoulder) left the game, while on defense, lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) was carted off and outside linebacker Nick Perry was being evaluated for a concussion.
With NFC North rival Minnesota also playing a sluggish game at home and losing to previously winless Buffalo, last week's 70-minute overtime tie might have had a residual effect seven days later.
Rodgers called it either an excuse or a coincidence, but the bottom line is through three weeks the Packers have been wildly inconsistent throughout their performances with one more game in the first quarter of the season to go.
"I'd say the fourth quarter and overtime last week, some of that carried over to the first half," McCarthy said, referring to the defense. "But I thought our guys did a good job setting their jaw, and the defense gave us a lot of opportunities there in the second half."
Added Rodgers: "We left a lot of offense out there."