Coming out of the bye week, much was expected of the newly-healthy Green Bay Packers as they headed into Denver to play the Broncos. As it turned out, all of that expectation was misplaced, as both the offense and defense failed to put forth anything resembling a competent performance in an embarrassing 29-10 loss at Mile High on Sunday Night.
In short, the defense could not cover or tackle or pressure Peyton Manning, the receivers could not get open, the offensive line could not block for Aaron Rodgers, and the quarterback could not reliably find open receivers. All of that led to an abysmal performance all around which ended Green Bay's unbeaten start in embarrassing fashion.
The Packers had one of their most inept offensive games in recent memory in this contest. Aaron Rodgers finished the game with 14 completions on 22 attempts for a whopping 77 passing yards. All told, the Packers were outgained in offensive yardage by a 500-140 margin.
In case you feel the need to relive the game, here's how it went down.
After winning the toss and deferring, the Packers' defense got off to a good start on the opening drive and forced an early punt. Peyton Manning found Demaryius Thomas for a nice gain on the first play from scrimmage, but the Packers pressured forced a pair of incompletions afterwards and got a big run stop as well to get the ball back. Unfortunately, like the Broncos, the Packers got one first down on their first drive before being forced to punt. That first down came on the legs of Eddie Lacy, but the Broncos' pass rush got going quickly and laid a few early hits on Rodgers to force incompletions.
The Broncos then went to work moving the football, getting some help from the Packers in the form of several missed tackles. Thomas shredded Casey Hayward on multiple occasions to help Denver get to the goal line before Ronnie Hillman punched the ball in from a yard out to put the Broncos up 7-0.
Once again, the Packers' stalled out on offense, but this time it was the Broncos' coverage that forced the punt rather than the pass rush. On third and five, Rodgers had about seven seconds of time in the pocket, but could not find an open receiver as his pass landed incomplete. However, a nice punt by Tim Masthay and a holding penalty on Denver on the return pushed the Broncos back deep in their own territory.
The Broncos picked up right where they left off, unfortunately, with Casey Hayward being burned by Thomas. After a screen pass to Owen Daniels went for a nice gain, Manning found Thomas on a rainbow over Hayward to get inside the ten-yard line. The Broncos had a touchdown wiped away by an offensive pass interference penalty, but on the next play Hillman somehow snuck away from the entire Packers defense and scored his second touchdown of the night.
The Packers went three and out on the next drive, and Packers fans everywhere began to fully panic.
Green Bay's defense did improve on the ensuing drive, although it saw a starter get benched. Nate Palmer was pulled after a blown coverage and missed tackle in favor of Jake Ryan, and the Packers got a stop against the Broncos' running game to force a 50-yard field goal attempt. Brandon McManus hit to make the game 17-0.
Rodgers had to dial up his own number on first down of the next drive, as he scrambled for a first down after getting moving on play-action. He then found Richard Rodgers for another first down along the right sideline before getting bailed out by a roughing the passer penalty on a failed third-and-six that should have led to a punt. Instead, that kept the drive alive, and Eddie Lacy took advantage, adding a 14-yard carry and then a short touchdown to get the Packers on the board and cut the Broncos' lead to 17-7.
Towards the end of the half, Denver moved the ball into Packers territory, but a couple of penalties on a rookie offensive lineman and a pass breakup by Demetri Goodson (in for the injured Sam Shields and Quinten Rollins) forced them back out of field goal range and into a punting situation with a few seconds left. A fair catch by Micah Hyde put the second quarter in the books.
The Packers received the second half kickoff and ran a sustained drive. Rodgers picked up another first down with his legs after picking up one earlier via penalty, but the drive stalled out across Denver's 40 after a holding penalty on Bryan Bulaga. Mason Crosby hit a 56-yard field goal, pulling the Packers within a touchdown at 17-10.
The same issues that plagued the Packers' defense in the first half continued to do so in the third quarter. They continued to allow Denver's receivers to get open in the middle of the field and had tackling issues. Then, shortly after Clay Matthews had to leave the field after having his ankle rolled up on by Damarious Randall, the Broncos attacked the middle of the field with C.J. Anderson, who scampered for a 28-yard touchdown up the gut where Matthews would normally be aligned. That score extended the lead to 24-10.
Once again on the next drive, the Packers' offense failed to generate anything substantial as Rodgers continued to struggle. Aside from one pinpoint throw to Randall Cobb for a first down, he was generally inaccurate on the drive and ended up getting sacked on third and long to force a punt.
Manning continued to carve up the Packers' defense as the fourth quarter began, but the Packers held Denver to another field goal to make the score 27-10 in favor of the Broncos.
As if it wasn't bad enough, the Packers allowed a safety on their next play from scrimmage. After a poor decision by Jared Abbrederis to return a kickoff out of the end zone, Rodgers was hit instantly by DeMarcus Ware and fumbled. The ball bounced around in the end zone for a while before Richard Rodgers fell on it and was touched down for two more Broncos points to make it 29-10.
The Packers got their only turnover of the game on the next drive, as Damarious Randall picked up his first career interception. The rookie laid out for a pass at the right-hand numbers and took it away. However, the Packers got nothing going (thanks in part to a blown call when James Jones' forward progress was stopped but the whistle was never blown) and the Packers all but conceded by punting the ball away. They got a few more plays after Denver ran some clock out, but Scott Tolzien simply handed off to Alonzo Harris as the Packers hopped on the plane back to Green Bay.