The Packers struggled with the Lions defense all night and finally in the fourth quarter both the defense and the offense cracked under the Sunday night last game potential playoff pressure. A Liberty Bell size crack that ended the Packer season and now casts doubt on their future. This writer has dumped on Quay Walker all season. His slow recognition skills. His ejection from the game against Buffalo. His recent body slam that was another in a list of penalties that are all stupid, useless, acts of immaturity.
But in the first half, Walker was having his best game as a rookie. Tackles at the line of scrimmage. Decent recognition. Pressure on blitzes. This article could have been a huge mea culpa with praise on his contribution in a tough victory. But Walker and his low Wonderlic score struck again. An ejection for pushing a Lion training staff member the same week a trainer saved the life of Damar Hamlin could not have been a bigger idiot move. The defense looked like it had just been gut punched and collapsed, giving up the game winning score.
Unfortunately, that was not the only gut punch on this night. Packer fans watched big plays by the Packers, a long pass interference, and a couple of great catches by Christian Watson and Robert Tonyan, end up with field goals when the offensive line was dominated in the red zone. Zack Tom was substituted for Nijman at right tackle, but it did not stop the problems. Watson had a very good game; unfortunately his rookie counterpart, Romeo Doubs, did not. Doubs two drops were drive killers.
The defense played well but could not come up with a game changing turnover against the Lions. The offense tried to go for it on 4th down early in the game and their failure, at their own 32 yard line, led to a Detroit field goal. While the Lions were taking advantage of gifted opportunities, the Packer’s two star players, Aaron Jones and Aaron Rodgers, both gave up critical turnovers to kill opportunities at the end of each half. The score at half was 9-6 Packers. All six points for Detroit were off of Packer offensive failures. Of the final 20 game winning points produce by Detroit, 13 were off of Packer offensive failures and the last touchdown was gifted by Quay Walker.
Aaron Rodgers walked off the field like it might be his last game, which would mean his last pass at Lambeau was a game ending interception. He was lucky there was only the one on the stat sheet as he threw more, but was saved by Detroit penalties.
The Detroit Lions have to be given credit for a tough game in Lambeau Field. During the game, it seemed like the Lions were more active, flying faster to the ball and were more excited when they made big plays. It would have been easy for an uninformed observer to think the Lions were fighting for a playoff spot. But they were fighting for something more basic: respect. As a fan, you had to wonder when the Packers settled for field goals if their red zone frustrations would come back to bite them.
In the end, a field goal attempt by Crosby that bounced off the goal post, without going over, was a turning point. The Lions took the good field position and scored the first of their two second half touchdowns. The Packers answered the first Detroit touchdown, but not the second. This Packer game would end with the same head scratching frustration that saw the Packers lose six games in a row. No ability to consistently move the ball into the end zone. A passing game that looks anemic. And a defense that is compromised by poor coaching decisions. Last but not least, failures and stupid penalties in clutch situations.
This 2022-23 Packer season ends with the Packers offense last in red zone scoring. Their two defensive first-round draft picks had two penalties, one being a critical game changing and field changing ejection. Their franchise quarterback may retire, and if he doesn’t, do the Packers want him back? The offensive line struggled with a statistically bad defense and the only game changing receiver on the Packers squad is coming off an injury plagued promising rookie season. The outside running game relies on a 40-year-old tight end. Their two star running backs were outshined by a former Packer they jettisoned two years ago. The Packers have the 14th pick in the upcoming draft and need pass rushers, tight ends, an offensive tackle, a defensive tackle and perhaps a center and a quarterback.
It will be an interesting off-season for Green Bay. They ended third in their division behind both Minnesota and Detroit. Are they officially in rebuild mode? The press conferences that emerge over the coming week should be interesting to see if management recognizes their current state and what is needed to return to the playoffs. In the last minutes of the game, there was a season defining moment. Coach LaFleur pointing at his own head, screaming at his rookie linebacker to, “play smart”. It was the closing minutes, and the linebacker had just given up 15 CRITICAL yards to put Detroit at first and goal. LaFleur was not pulling him off the field, just yelling at him to play smart, not yet understanding that the foul mandated an ejection from the game. There is no doubt that if the 2023 Packers improve, playing smarter must be part of the equation. That requirement will apply to players, coaches and front office.
Thank you to Total Packers and all of our fans for allowing me to contribute this season. It was a pleasure, despite the season results.