For Dan Campbell, it was the type of Sunday that may save his job. For Packer fans, if they had a glimmer of hope that their team would start a run toward credibility, water was poured over that smoldering hope like Niagara Falls after a hard rain with each Aaron Rodgers interception at Ford Field Sunday. Rodgers was saved from having a stat of two picks in the first quarter by a couple ticks of the clock. His second happened on the first play of the second quarter on a pass that looked so bad the statistician said it was intended for David Bakhtiari. That had to be a mistake, right? If it truly was, Bakhtiari was eligible on the play, the Packers were resorting to desperation gadget plays against the Lions, and failing miserably.
LaFleur has had great success over his first three years in Green Bay, but that call was a WTF moment for Packer fans. Many will remember Bakhtiari being interviewed by Wilde & Taucsh in 2019 talking about his desire to score a TD. In the interview the new Packer go-to gadget man stated point blank. “If I touch a football in a game something terrible has happened.” Turns out even an attempt to get him the ball spells disaster for this Packer team. The best argument you could make for drawing that play up, if it was really going to Bakhtiari, is nobody on the face of the planet would expect the Packers to draw up a play to a limping offensive tackle who has never caught a pass in his ten year career. Why would you risk further injury to his knee? As a fan I am going to refuse to listen to the post game interviews and just convince myself that the play must have been a blown assignment, by QB or receiver or perhaps both. That sports fans is satire giving way to the protection of my sanity.
In a story recap that repeats weekly like an old vinyl Three Dog Night record with a skip in it, the Packers had opportunities to win this game. At times the offense looked like they could slice through the Lions defense. Allen Lazard made a number of tough catches to keep drives alive. He averaged over 20 yards on his four catches, contributing 87 yards for the offense. But then he let one graze the ground and what would have been his fifth catch was overruled. At the end of the half there were no points for the offense. When they had opportunities, they failed to execute. Key players went down to injury. When the opponent scored just before the half they were helped by a Packer defensive 15 yard Unnecessary Roughness penalty. On the final touchdown play of that drive rookie linebacker Quay Walker had the tight end run right across his face and he did not react, leaving the Lions Jared Goff his easiest touchdown throw of his career. The defense created a big interception only to have Rodgers turn the ball over immediately. This vinyl record keeps repeating the same bad tune week after week. One carved out of GBP history, circa 1969.
What was new was the three interceptions by Rodgers. You can’t blame young receivers when you bounce passes off of helmets at the line of scrimmage. On the final drive Rodgers had four chances from the 17 yard line. Four incompletions. The last pass to no one and Rodgers reaction summed up the season. WTF is going on? The Packers have not faced this type of crossroads in decades. Even the 2017 McCarthy era meltdown had a silver lining, Rodgers was still in his prime. This game makes it easy to start picking apart Packer GM moves. Sammy Watkins had one catch on 9 targets. Last week he had one catch for three yards. He’s missed multiple games to injury. But the real focus for bad decisions rests on Rodgers and LaFleur. Rodgers for missing workouts in the off-season and not demanding playing time in the preseason when the receivers were struggling in practice. He signed a 150 million contract and quickly set a tone for the season by no showing for off-season non mandatory workouts and then acquiescing to LaFleur’s fear of preseason injury.
Clearly working with Jordan Love is insufficient to prepare Rodgers with new receivers. Ironically, after this string of losses the Packers are still in playoff contention. At least statistically. Old friend Mike McCarthy is coming back to town next week and his team sees a chance to win more than a game for their coach.. McCarthy’s Cowboys lost their starting QB, but McCarthy is credited with holding the team together and Dallas is now in the playoff conversation. A loss to McCarthy would, as Wayne Larrivee loves to say, be the final dagger in the side of this 2022 Packer team. LaFleur was supposed to be the answer to the problem that was Super Bowl winning McCarthy in 2017. So you think the Packers have hit rock bottom? Ask Davante Adams how it feels to be on the second worst team in the NFL at 2-7, a team that has tied an NFL record losing three games after leading by 17 points. The Raiders are one of five teams with a record worse than the Packers. No team is awarded sympathy points in the NFL. Raider coach Josh McDaniel is on the block in Vegas. Next week could start the same conversations in Green Bay.