The question for Wisconsin sports fans is no longer "Are the Packers bad?" After an unprecedented third-straight loss in the Matt LaFleur era – this time, a 23-21 defeat to a Commanders team that, unlike the Giants or Jets, no one will try to convince you is secretly good – the answer is clearly yes. The question is now: Is the Packers season already over?
This isn't uncharted territory in the NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs just last season started 3-4 before only losing one game the rest of the way and making it to the AFC championship game yet again. And heck, if any team would know rough starts can lead to beautiful finishes, it's the Packers who started a middling 3-3 in 2010 en route to winning the Super Bowl. Plus, it's not like anyone not named the Bills or Chiefs is running away with the league right now; the Packers are just one of many underachievers at this point. (Thanks, Buccaneers, for somehow sucking more!)
That being said, seven games into the season, the Packers have yet to play a competent game of football. Always halfway into the year, there's no proof of concept on the field that this Green Bay team is a contender – and when given opportunities to "get right" against inferior or injured foes like the Giants, the Jets and now the Commanders, to prove they can do something (anything!) right, Aaron Rodgers and company have looked utterly disinterested in doing so. Worst of all, as I pointed out last week, this was the easy part of the Packers' schedule. If things seem rough now, imagine how ugly things might get at Buffalo on Sunday night. Hopefully the bright harsh spotlight wakes Green Bay up – but that's what we said after the Jets game. And after the Giants game. And now the Packers are running out of obviously winnable games to get right – and get the victories they need if they want to make the playoffs.
That's the ugly future – but let's take one final glance at the even uglier past and maybe (hopefully) learn something from these key moments, images and plays from the Packers' most recent disappointment. Lessons like: Catching footballs is a good strategy!
1. Aaron Jones showed up ...
My faith in Aaron Rodgers, Matt LaFleur and the Packers in general may be weakening – but my belief in the power of the Aaron Jones Sombrero is as strong as ever. I say integrate the sombrero more into the gameplan. Let it go back and receive punts; can't be worse than what we've got!
2. ... and so did a decent gameplan
Well, at least at first. For weeks, fans have been banging down the doors and windows of Lambeau Field, trying to get Matt LaFleur to give Aaron Jones the ball – and at the start of Sunday's game, it seemed like the message finally took as the Packers started with four straight plays to the electric multi-use running back. The drive unfortunately stalled, but the team's next offensive possession featured three more Jones-centric plays – including the first touchdown of the day on a four-yard shuffle pass. As happens so often with the Pack this season, though, these solid early results turned into sour late disappointment as Jones' use declined – and so did the team's chances of finally breaking this skid.
3. Defense turns into offense
Early in the game, not only did the defense look better – but the defense was an even better offense than our offense, putting in a touchdown of their own with this De'Vondre Campbell pick-six. The interception marked just the team's second on the season and their first points of the year. Alas, even with the defense helping out the offense with their job, it wasn't enough ...
4. Another disappointing Rodgers
It wouldn't be a Packers Sunday without a special teams gaffe – and unfortunately many of them come from Amari Rodgers trying to catch punts. Indeed, as Green Bay was building some early momentum, Rodgers turned a three-and-out into a fresh start for the Commanders, botching a punt and handing Washington the ball back deep in the Packers territory. Thankfully, the defense held the Commanders to just a field goal – but a field goal that would keep Washington in the game and, in the end, be the final difference on the scoreboard.
Once an early-round draft pick, Rodgers has quickly disappeared from the offensive side of the ball – and with muffs like this, he'll probably disappear from the special teams unit soon too. His saving grace? The Green Bay receiving corps is so thin and so injured that the team may have to keep him around just so that there's somebody, anybody, to catch passes.
5. Momentum shift
The penalty on Eric Stokes was garbage trash and changes the entire game because 21-10 is entirely different than 14-10, but look at the defense at the snap.
This has been a problem all year. Not set at the snap. Still trying to get set. And so Stokes STARTS on his heels. pic.twitter.com/YJt2Yf12Hl — Peter Bukowski (@Peter_Bukowski) October 24, 2022
For a moment, it looked like the Packers might start potentially running away with Sunday's game with this strip-sack scoop-and-score courtesy of the defense – what would've marked their second touchdown on the day. The play would've given the Packers a 21-10 lead against an offensively mediocre squad. Sadly, Eric Stokes was flagged for a ... peculiar illegal contact call that nullified the entire play. And while this particular Commanders drive didn't turn into anything, the momentum lost from this play was brutal – and little did we know it would end up being the closest the Packers would get to scoring points for almost two whole quarters.
6. McLaurin takes off
The Packers offense doesn't just hurt our eyes; it hurts the defense as well.
The D certainly isn't perfect either, but over the past several games, it seems clear that they get so exhausted by the second half, having to come back on the field after quick three-and-outs, that eventually they crumble apart – along with the Packers' chances of winning. So for instance, after keeping star receiver Terry McLaurin on lock for most of the game at that point, Jaire Alexander eventually gave up this bomb to give the Commanders the lead – because the more opportunties you grant the other team and more tired your defense gets, something's bound to break. Over the past three losses, the Packers have been outscored in the second half a remarkable 54-16 – a lopsided number that's just as much the fault of the offense as the defense. (And remember: Two of those Green Bay points were given to them on a strategic safety.)
If you're looking for something positive to cling to about this team, it's that they've been either tied or in the lead at the half in each of the past three games. Their inability to close, however, may just bring their season to a premature close.
7. Just ... why?
The Packers have a running back with Greek stone pillars for legs – and yet, when they needed just one yard on a crucial drive early in the fourth, down just six, they resorted to a messy pass play to a rookie wide receiver with a case of the drops during an afternoon where their quarterback was having an inaccurate day. What is the point of having Quadzilla on your team if you don't use him in times seemingly designed exactly for a brutalizing running back? Things are difficult right now for the Pack – and they certainly don't make it easier on themselves with decisions like these.
8. Still Jones-ing for more touches
After that hot start focusing on Aaron Jones, the Packers settled back into mediocrity and missed passes – whether it was Rodgers being inaccurate or receivers dropping balls. By the end, sure, Jones caught a team-high nine passes for 53 yards and two scores ... but he also only got eight rushes for 23 yards. Jones is the Packers' best offensive weapon. When the ball is in his hands, the ball moves down the field. It'd be nice if, seven games into the season, the Packers realized that and utilized him accordingly.
9. Their best beats our best
You don't expect a perfect game from a cornerback; in this pass-happy league, it's impossible to not give up something at some point. That being said, when you make a guy the highest paid cornerback in the league, you'd like to see better coverage than this on a critical third down with the game on the line. Again, the Green Bay defense isn't the greatest problem on this team – I mean, they put up a third of our points on Sunday – but they're also regularly not the solution, particularly when it comes to clutch time. But hey, at least it wasn't a crossing route.
10. Cutting the cheese
Last week, Sauce Gardner celebrated the Jets' upset victory over the Packers by parading around Lambeau Field wearing a cheesehead. Now, a week later, the Commanders saluted their surprise victory by passing a cheesehead around the locker room like a wartime trophy. If Green Bay keeps playing like this, every team in the NFL will take their turn making a mockery of the cheesehead off the field after making a mockery of the Pack on the field.
11. WTF, indeed
Another week, another sense that the Packers ... don't do anything right. Aaron Rodgers' accuracy seems oddly worse than ever, the playcalling staunchly refuses to make sense, the receiving corps scares no one – especially when they can't stop dropping passes – the defense tries its best but seems easily beat by the final stretch and the special teams unit takes a step back for every step forward. And now, again, we're officially running out of season, just about at the halfway mark of the year and through what should've been the easiest part of the schedule. The future now holds meetings with the Bills, Eagles, Cowboys and several other scrappy contenders on the slate.
Maybe a higher class of competition will bring out a higher caliber of Packers performance? One can hope – because hope's about all Green Bay fans have at this point.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.