Time of death on the 2018 Green Bay Packers season: 3:13 p.m. central time. Mason Crosby’s 49-yard field goal to tie the game sailed wide right and the Packers fell to a hopeless Arizona Cardinals team 20-17. If Mike McCarthy isn’t giving the Monday press conference, no one would bat an eye at president Mark Murphy’s decision.
At this point in the season, no one should be surprised by the Packers looking like a 4-6-1 team. With their season on the line, facing the worst team in football, fans and media expected a spark, some juice, maybe even a galvanizing moment. What they saw on a snowy December Sunday in Lambeau was even worse than the previous disappointments with the Cardinals winning in Green Bay for the first time since 1949.
With what happened around the league this week, maybe being 5-6-1 is all that matters, but nothing Green Bay put on the field Sunday looked like a team capable of going on a late-season run.
Third downs once again held this offense back as the passing game lacked any kind of rhythm or continuity. Drops stymied drives. The Aaron Jones vs. Jamaal Williams struggle re-emerged. Aaron Rodgers missed throws he makes in his sleep. And Mike McCarthy continued to prioritize down-the-field shot plays over creating easy opportunities for his quarterback and young receivers.
Despite Green Bay’s myriad struggles this year, the oddsmakers installed the home team as two touchdown favorites. That’s more an indication of how bad the Cardinals have been than anything else. The Packers never looked the part of heavy favorite, letting Arizona stay in a game it theoretically had no business being in.
Not against a team that is 16-1 in December under Aaron Rodgers. After Thanksgiving, warm weather teams go to Lambeau Field to die, but the Packers weren’t able to get the kill shot
A third-and-10 draw on the Packers opening draw was a harbinger of things to come for this offense. It was another give-up play from McCarthy, who certainly didn’t coach like a man who believes his job to be on the line.
The one truly aggressive call from Coach Mac came on fourth-and-4 from the 13-yard line. Rodgers made a beautiful throw to Davante Adams, who made a tip-toe catch for the touchdown to open the scoring for the day. It could have been an inflection point to buoy this team forward. Instead, the Packers defense surrendered an answer score from arguably the worst offense in football.
An 11-play, 75-yard drive ended when the Cardinals actually scored their equalizer twice, having to punch it in a second time after the first was overturned on review.
The Packers defense made Chase Edmonds look like prime David Johnson rather than a rookie from Fordham when he became the first Ram to score an NFL touchdown since Ronald Reagan was in office. He finished with five carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns. On the day, Arizona got big plays out of their run game from multiple places, including chunk runs from Christian Kirk and **gulp** Josh Rosen, putting up with 182 yards and a 6.2 per-carry average.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers sliced up this Cardinals defense for 28 points in the second quarter in a period where Arizona has been outscored 108-27 this season. Rodgers and Co. managed just 10 points with a field goal coming at the end of the first half.
The worst third quarter offense in the league? No problem for Josh Rosen, whose 33-yard scramble put the Cardinals into scoring position and
Walter Payton Chase Edmonds once again finished the deal with an eight-yard rushing touchdown. Suddenly, the Packers were looking up late in the third quarter at a team they were supposed to destroy, down 17-10.
An impossibly ugly game marred Rodgers’ record-setting moment when he broke Bart Starr’s record of 298 passes without an interception. On the other hand, Rodgers rarely played like he deserved the adulation, missing open receivers all day including multiple potential big plays.
The two-time MVP finally showed life late in the fourth quarter. Using quicker throws and some decent balance with Jamaal Williams, Rodgers led the Packers on a 95-yard drive to get Green Bay an equalizer of its own. The key play came on a 2nd-and-7 from the Arizona 27 where Rodgers danced, scrambled, and looked downfield for what felt like 5 solid minutes before finding Adams who made an incredible sideline grab inside the 10. Aaron Jones plunged in on the very next play when Rodgers quick-snapped the Cardinals.
The game could have been sealed on a gift throw from Rosen that new safety Eddie Pleasant flat dropped. Two plays later, Rosen found Larry Fitzgerald with coverage draped all over him for 32 yards on 3rd-and-23. A Jaire Alexander pass breakup on Fitz forced the Cardinals to settle for a field goal attempt which Zane Gonzalez calmed drained for 44 yards out.
That gave Rodgers a chance with 1:41 left to save the Packers season and he nearly did it. The Packers converted a fourth-and-5 on their way into Cardinals territory thanks to a slant to Graham who tied for the team lead in catches with eight on the day. An underthrown ball from Rodgers to Cobb at the Cardinals 40 kept the newly-returned slot man to run after the catch to give Crosby a better shot.
An end zone shot from Rodgers went begging and it was up to Crosby to force overtime. He once again came up short, leaving the Packers with yet another question after a puzzling, inexplicable season.
The first question will be “How did everything go so wrong for a talented Packers team?” Second, how soon before changes get made? Mike McCarthy’s job fate likely didn’t change Sunday as his seat had already burst fully into flames. How much longer will he have to sit in it?
And how does Mark Murphy, in tandem with Brian Gutekunst, make sure 2019 goes differently? It was another year wasted with Aaron Rodgers, who will be the first to tell you he hasn’t played his best season. Green Bay has to find a way to change that. In a year with historic scoring, this team has fallen woefully behind even with the best quarterback in the world. Is Rodgers even worthy of that title after the season he’s put together albeit injured? That’s just another question for this franchise to answer after what has to be the most disappointing season in recent memory for the Packers.
Particularly on a day when most everything else went right for Green Bay with its playoff hopes, this type of egg laying is even more embarrassing; it was truly an institutional failure. Rather than wondering who the Packers will want to face in the postseason, they’re left answering questions like “How much longer does Mike McCarthy have a job?” and “When do we start DeShone Kizer and all the young kids?”
A home loss to the worst team in football will do that.