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Packers lose to Lions 15-9 as Aaron Rodgers & offense repeatedly fall apart in the red zone

Despite moving the ball between the 20s all day long, Green Bay went 0-for-4 inside the red zone, leading to the team’s most inexplicable defeat yet this season.

Green Bay Packers vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Every week over the past five, the Green Bay Packers seem to find a new way to lose.

If this team had any designs on making the postseason, those dreams effectively died at Ford Field on Sunday afternoon. Yes, the Packers had numerous key players suffer injuries on the artificial turf, but they also shot themselves in the foot repeatedly when in position to score points.

Those failed opportunities yielded just nine points despite reaching the red zone a whopping four times and crossing midfield on every offensive drive, save for a single kneel-down at the end of the first half. The team’s final chance to take a lead on the Detroit Lions went incomplete on 4th-and-10 with 20 seconds left, leaving the green and gold defeated both morally and on the scoreboard with a 15-9 loss.

Early on, injuries were the story of the game. Just take a look at this list of players who left the game at different times for the Packers:

  • WR Romeo Doubs
  • RG Jon Runyan, Jr.
  • CB Eric Stokes
  • LT David Bakhtiari
  • WR Christian Watson
  • OLB Rashan Gary
  • RB Aaron Jones

Runyan and Bakhtiari would return in the game, but the rest of those players were not seen again after leaving.

Ultimately, however, it was more out-of-sync offense that finished off the Packers in this game. The issues reared up primarily in the red zone, where Rodgers threw two interceptions. He had a third from just outside the 20 as well, and the Packers also failed on three fourth-down chances in Lions territory.

Some of the raw statistical numbers looked like they should have favored the Packers significantly. They converted 53 percent of their third downs on offense and out-gained the Lions 389 yards to 254. Still, the three picks and three failed 4th downs kneecapped this Packers squad, sending them to their fifth straight defeat as they prepare to host Mike McCarthy and the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys next Sunday afternoon.

The Lions opened up the game with the football, starting near the 40 after an odd line-drive kickoff from Mason Crosby. Detroit got their running game going early, featuring Jamaal Williams as they reached the red zone, but after reaching the 7-yard line, they elected to keep their offense on the field on 4th-and-1. Instead of keeping the ball on the ground, Jared Goff lined up in an empty backfield and the Packers brought a six-man blitz; Rashan Gary hit Goff, forcing his pass to Tom Kennedy to fall incomplete.

Starting inside their own ten-yard line on their first series, the Packers drove 88 yards to reach the five. Getting there involved a pair of injuries, as Romeo Doubs and Jon Runyan, Jr. both left the game on that series, with Doubs hurting his ankle on a nice 18-yard catch over the middle. Runyan would return later in the first half, but Doubs’ day was done. On 1st-and-goal from the 5, however, Rodgers threw to Allen Lazard on a slant over the middle, but he hit linebacker Derrick Barnes in the helmet. The football flew up in the air and safety Kerby Joseph came down with an interception in the end zone.

The Packers’ defense got a quick three-and-out on the next series, but that was a costly win as well. Starting cornerback Eric Stokes appeared to hurt his ankle and was carted to the locker room.

After Amari Rodgers’ punt return started Green Bay across midfield, Rodgers found Lazard for a huge gain on 3rd-and-10. His catch-and-run up the right sideline saw him tackled just short of the goal line, setting up a 1st-and-goal from the one. Inexplicably, the Packers’ couldn’t punch the football in, with AJ Dillon being stuffed on first and third downs around a Rodgers’ corner fade to Sammy Watkins, who was not running that route.

After the timeout for the end of the first quarter, the offense stayed on the field for 4th-and-goal from the 2. The Packers ran a trick play, getting the defense flowing to the right before Rodgers threw back to an eligible and uncovered David Bakhtiari. However, Rodgers’ throw was abysmal, as he lofted a fadeaway several yards short of Bakhtiari and into the hands of Aidan Hutchinson. That interception made this game the first time in Rodgers’ career that he had thrown multiple picks inside the red zone in a single contest.

From their one-yard line, Detroit drove to near midfield on their next series, but would eventually elect to punt and down the Packers at their own one. The Packers got tough third-down conversions from Christian Watson on the first set of downs and Allen Lazard a handful of plays later, crossing midfield for the third time. Rodgers would take a sack to set up a third-and-long from the Packers’ own 47, but Aaron Jones picked up 15 yards on a screen pass to set up another 4th-down opportunity, this one with three yards to go. Lazard appeared to haul in a tough, contested catch with Will Harris draped all over him in coverage, but the Lions challenged after it appeared that the ball moved when Lazard hit the ground. The referees agreed, overturning the call and sending the ball back to the Lions.

With just a few minutes left in the half, the Lions drove down and put the first points of the game up on the board with seconds remaining. After reaching the one on a pass to D’Andre Swift, Detroit dialed up a throwback touchdown of their own, this going to practice squad tight end Shane Zylstra. On the extra point, Jaire Alexander appeared to get a hand on the football, but instead the snap was low and kicker Michael Badgley just missed it; but Alexander made contact with Badgley’s plant leg, drawing a running into the kicker penalty, which Detroit elected to use for a shorter two-point conversion instead. Jamaal Williams ran untouched into the end zone, giving Detroit an 8-0 lead at the half.

Coming out of the break, the Packers got an unpleasant surprise: David Bakhtiari on the sideline. With Runyan back on the field, Zach Tom slotted in at left tackle in his place, but despite getting into Lions territory yet again, the Packers could not put points on the board. Rodgers missed Samori Toure on a deep ball, underthrowing him and getting the ball knocked away from a would-be touchdown by safety Kerby Joseph.

Jaire Alexander delivered on the next series, however, intercepting Goff at midfield. Alexander returned the ball inside the 25-yard line, but Rodgers would give it right back. Trying to hit Robert Tonyan up the seam near the goal line, Joseph jumped the route and picked off the football for the Lions’ third and his own second interception of the day.

The injuries continued to hit the Packers during this stretch as well. Christian Watson took a big hit after making a catch on an intermediate crossing route and was pulled for a concussion evaluation — his second in as many weeks. Then Rashan Gary headed to the locker room on a cart during another Lions three-and-out after Joseph’s pick.

Finally, with five minutes left in the third quarter, the Packers got on the board. After a third-down conversion via penalty, Rodgers found Lazard in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown, pulling the Packers back to within a two-point conversion of a tie game. However, Rodgers’ rollout to the right on the attempt went incomplete as Jeff Okudah knocked his pass away from Lazard to keep Detroit ahead 8-6.

Green Bay’s defense appeared to have a third down stop deep in Detroit territory on the next series to give the ball back to their offense, but a questionable holding penalty on Keisean Nixon gave Detroit a first down. That seemed to jump-start the Lions, who got big gains on the ground from Williams and Justin Jackson and a 25-yard catch-and-run from Amon-Ra St. Brown. Two plays into the fourth quarter, Goff would hit another rookie tight end, James Mitchell, for a touchdown after Darnell Savage over-ran his route. Badgley hit the PAT to give Detroit a 15-6 lead, forcing a two-possession game.

As usual, the Packers managed to get across midfield. Rodgers did the work on one particular third-and-long, picking up 18 yards with his legs (thanks in part to a pump-fake several yards past the line of scrimmage) to move the chains. Green Bay then got a pass interference penalty on the Lions’ Jerry Jacobs to get the ball inside the 15-yard line, but two short throws and an incomplete pass on a poor throw to Sammy Watkins yielded a Mason Crosby field goal. Those three points were important, getting the Packers back to within six points at 15-9.

On the opening play of the Lions’ next series, they were called for holding, putting them back in a tough spot to start the drive. Unfortunately, on second down, Krys Barnes was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Swift while making a tackle over the middle. Barnes was shaken up for a bit on the field as a result, and it gave Detroit a free first down after getting into a tough spot early. A blown coverage by Alexander helped lead to a third-down conversion at midfield, but Detroit sputtered near the 40 and failed on a 4th-and-3 opportunity at the two-minute warning.

Taking over from their own 40, the Packers got David Bakhtiari back on the field at left tackle for the final series. After a pass to Josiah Deguara for five yards, Rodgers threw incomplete on second down. then found AJ Dillon on third down, but Dillon fumbled just short of the first down. He recovered the ball himself across the line to gain, with the play being ruled a first down, but the referees reviewed the play to see if a Lions player touched the ball while out of bounds. They determined that he did, giving the Packers a 4th-and-2 near midfield.

The 4th-down play was another insane play. Rodgers found Samori Toure on a falling catch, and he got up to try to advance the ball. However, he was stripped of the ball while falling, and the ball bounced towards the sideline. Okudah appeared to recover for the Lions, but he was unable to do so before rolling out of bounds, keeping possession with the Packers at the 18.

Rodgers threw incomplete quickly to avoid any potential replay, then missed Lazard and Amari Rodgers on 2nd and 3rd downs, both with Detroit players all over the Packers’ receivers in coverage. That set up a final, critical 4th-and-10. Following a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty, the Packers still managed to have to rush the snap before the play clock hit zero. Barely getting the snap off, Rodgers threw to the back left corner of the end zone for Watkins, who had cut back inside, and the ball hit the turf for an incomplete pass and yet another failed red zone opportunity.

All in all, Rodgers finished the day 23-of-43 for 291 yards, but with just one touchdown against three interceptions that went for a passer rating of just 53.5. He was the team’s leading rusher with 40 yards, as Aaron Jones had just nine carries and two receptions before leaving the game with a knee injury. On the receiving end, Allen Lazard led the way with four catches, 87 yards, and the Packers’ lone touchdown, but that production came on ten total targets.

For Detroit, Jared Goff completed 14 of 26 passes for 137 yards, two scores, and a pick, while Jamaal Williams ran the ball 24 times for 81 yards. Amon-Ra St. Brown led Detroit with just four receptions and 55 yards on nine targets.

The Packers return home next week after their three straight road games, hosting the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys. Detroit improved their record to 2-6 with this win and will face the 3-6 Chicago Bears next week at Soldier Field.