Lousy Defense, Penalties and Drops...Oh My.Posted:Sep 24th, 2018 1:03 pm
Three games into the season, the Packers have one remarkable comeback win, an empty, unsatisfying tie and now a decisive loss that featured a defensive first half breakdown, a Raider-like string of penalties and an assortment of untimely drops.
Well at least they get to come home and play the Bills. Yeah, about that...
The defensive issues in the first half were alarming. I wondered whether we'd see a hangover from the team, coming off two emotional divisional games and then heading on the road to face a team that was coming off a clunker of a home loss to the Colts. That the Vikings had similar issues in the first half lends credence to the possibility. What is most concerning to me is the pass interference penalties. The corners have to keep their hands off. They basically gifted Washington a touchdown, allowing them to march down the field with ease.
Once again, the pass rush was a rumor and the coverage in the secondary was hit or miss. The safety play continues to be a problem and the fact that Kentrell Brice took no accountability on the touchdown pass to Paul Richardson suggests he has a long way to go to become a solid presence on the back end.
Yet despite the 28 points and 200 yards passing surrendered in the first half and despite the fact that the defense made Adrian Peterson look like the back we respected before we learned how he parented his kids, the team had every opportunity to get back in the game. Suddenly, the defense stiffened, but then so did Rodgers' hamstring. Yet he continued to give the Pack a chance--only to be done in by his receivers' case of the drops.
Randall Cobb, usually sure handed, dropped a pair of catches he has to make, including the fourth down bullet that essentially ended the game. He also coughed up the ball at the most inopportune time. Then there's Lance Kendricks, whose drop on the right sideline should earn him a place on the bench or on the street. I'm ready to see the team give more opportunities to Marcedes Lewis or Robert Tonyan at this point.
This doesn't fall into the category of an embarrassing loss. The Redskins might turn out to be pretty good in a division that looks pretty mediocre. Their defense is above average (ranked #1 in yards allowed and passing yards allowed coming in) and Alex Smith will not lose any games himself. But the way the Packers came out to play in their first road test was alarming and needs to be corrected if they're to be taken seriously in the NFC this season.
To make matters worse, it looks like the Pack lost Muhammad Wilkerson for the long term. His ankle injury was so bad he was taken to the hospital via ambulance during the game. It's unlikely we'll see him back in green and gold. Then the right side of the offensive line got obliterated, as Bryan Bulaga exited late in the first half with a back injury and Justin McCray followed with a shoulder. No word yet on the severity of either, but the line is a house of cards, with mostly unproven guys behind the starters. As expected, Jason Springs struggled in Bulaga's place and will likely be the starter next Sunday, if nor longer.
Bright spots? There were a couple. Aaron Jones brought instant electricity to the running game and needs to be implemented more into the offense beginning next week. Um, I'm trying to come up with one or two more bright spots, but I'm coming up empty.
And then there's the third roughing the passer penalty on Clay Matthews in three games. This one joins the week 2 call as being completely ridiculous. From where I'm sitting, the officials and the NFL say they are applying the new Anthony Barr rule regarding body weight on the QB. What they're missing is the language in the new rule which states that defenders must not "unnecessarily" put all or most of their body weight on the quarterback. That's a ket distinction to me. Barr's hit last year qualifies as 'unnecessarily.' Matthews wrapped up the QB and tackled him the only way he could. The NFL has to figure this out--it's gotten ridiculous.
So the Packers return home licking their wounds, with two home games in the next three weeks against young inexperienced QBs. There's no chance that they'll take the Bills lightly after what went down at US Bank Stadium, and the Monday night game against the Niners looks completely different now, after Jimmy Garrapolo suffered an apparent ACL injury. The road game in Detroit is sandwiched in between and then they'll get their much needed bye. The two home games will provide opportunities for the defense to rise up and gain some confidence and experience for the young corners. They can't afford any more clunkers. At worst, this team needs to be 3-2-1 at the bye, with a difficult five game stretch looming beginning in Los Angeles.
We knew there would be growing pains with this defense. They've played three games. They need to consistently play like they did in the first half against Minnesota and the second half in Washington. It's time for them to grow up.