Unlike last week, when the Green Bay Packers could reasonably blame the referees for taking a win away from them in their tie with the Minnesota Vikings, they can blame themselves for the result of Sunday’s game in Washington.
Then again, the referees reared their ugly heads again with a terrible roughing the passer call on Clay Matthews for the second straight week, but most of the Packers’ wounds today were self-inflicted. The team was flagged ten times for 105 penalty yards, and no phase of the game was spared. There were a multitude of holding penalties on offense and special teams as well as pass interference penalties and the aforementioned roughing the passer call on defense, which followed a play that was far worse but that went uncalled on Washington the drive earlier.
Beyond the penalties, however, the offense bogged down because of persistent ball security issues all game long. Randall Cobb was the worst offender, with two awful drops that would have sustained drives and a critical lost fumble in the fourth quarter that wiped away the Packers’ last realistic chance of staying in the game. Lance Kendricks also had a terrible drop on a wide-open route on third down to end yet another drive.
All that combined for an ugly, sloppy 31-17 loss for the Packers, as the defense allowed Adrian Peterson to run for 120 yards and two first-half touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers struggled to get into a rhythm with his quick throws as well, eventually finishing the game with 27 completions on 45 attempts for 265 yards and two touchdowns, one each to Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison.
One small bright spot was the return of Aaron Jones, who ran the ball six times for 42 yards, including the team’s longest run of the day at 17 yards. He also caught one pass for five yards.
The Packers put themselves in a hole early, as Kentrell Brice continued his poor play from last week against Minnesota. With Brice supposed to provide safety help over the top for Jaire Alexander against Paul Richardson, he never found the football on Alex Smith’s deep ball. Richardson adjusted and hauled it in for a 46-yard touchdown just three plays into the game. Two drives later, three Packers received penalties for pass interference: Jaire Alexander on one side, Tramon Williams on the other, and then Davon House in the end zone. That final penalty set up a one-yard touchdown run for Adrian Peterson and a 14-0 Washington lead.
Meanwhile, the Packers’ offense was scuffling. Despite a nice early ten-yard run by Jamaal Williams, the offense could not convert on its first two third downs, as Randall Cobb dropped an easy catch and Aaron Rodgers missed a wide-open Davante Adams on a slant on successive drives.
Finally, on their third series, the Packers’ offense started moving the football. A long pass interference penalty on Quinten Dunbar and a pair of great runs by Aaron Jones set up a Rodgers scramble for a first down to reach the red zone. However, Bryan Bulaga’s holding penalty set the team behind the sticks, leading to a Mason Crosby field goal from 41 yards to make the score 14-3.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix picked off a Smith pass near midfield on the next series, as Jordan Reed stopped on his route. The Packers finally picked up a third down on offense, with a gorgeous throw from Rodgers to Geronimo Allison, but failed on a third-and-12. JK Scott pinned Washington at the one-yard line with his punt, however, but the defense gave up chunks of yardage on the next drive.
Facing a third-and-seven from his own four-yard line, Smith hit a 34-yard gain to Jordan Reed over the middle with Clay Matthews in zone coverage. Then Adrian Peterson ran to the right side, finding daylight and rumbling for 41. Four plays later, Smith hit Jamison Crowder for a short touchdown and a 21-3 lead.
Finally, Rodgers and the Packers struck back. After picking up one first down on an Aaron Jones run, Rodgers hit a wide-open Geronimo Allison over the middle, burning Josh Norman deep. Allison took the ball untouched into the end zone for a 64-yard touchdown. However, Washington came storming back quickly, with Smith hitting Vernon Davis for a 55-yard gain up the right sideline. Two plays later, Peterson added another short touchdown to extend the lead back to 18 points at 28-10 shortly before the half.
Coming out of the half, the Packers moved the football steadily and deliberately down the field, using quick throws to the running backs in lieu of a traditional running game. Rodgers threw 13 passes on 15 plays, with the other two plays being a run by Jamaal Williams and a Rodgers scramble for a first down. After finding Jimmy Graham for a first down on third-and-ten from the 15, Rodgers hit Davante Adams for a two-yard touchdown to pull back within 11 at 28-17.
Following a quick three-and-out, the Packers got the ball back and got Aaron Jones rolling again with a 17-yard gain. On a 4th-and-2 from the Washington 43, Randall Cobb appeared to have an easy conversion on a quick throw from Rodgers, but he appeared to bobble the football and Washington challenged. The play was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass, giving the football back over to Washington.
Once again, Clay Matthews got flagged for a roughing the passer penalty, this time on a sack of Alex Smith. This penalty was as awful as, if not worse than, the one he got last week that erased a Packers interception; this one took away his sack using the bizarre “body weight” rule. This came one drive after Washington tackle Da’Ron Payne literally picked up Aaron Rodgers and drove him into the turf with his entire body weight. The defense held, but only after another awful, controversial call.
Let’s take a look at these plays:
... but this was not. ~ JW pic.twitter.com/ESLvOtQkhY— Wilde And Tausch (@WildeAndTausch) September 23, 2018
More mistakes compounded on the Packers’ next drive. with a pair of holding calls (including one that wiped out a third-and-14 conversion by Ty Montgomery) and a drop by a wide-open Lance Kendricks on a floating pass from Rodgers on the ensuing play.
The Packers eventually took over again with about six minutes left and a chance to make a late comeback, but Randall Cobb fumbled on a second-down screen. Washington recovered the ball, largely allowing Peterson to salt the game away, adding a late field goal to make the score 31-17.
The Packers suffered three notable injuries in this game. Muhammad Wilkerson was taken to the hospital after a bad ankle injury, Bryan Bulaga left the game with a back injury, and Nick Perry was removed late in the game and evaluated for a concussion.