Familiar problems plague fading Packers in loss to Cards
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers wasn’t in much of a mood to celebrate his 35th birthday.
Not after another loss for the sliding Green Bay Packers.
The same problems keep popping up for the offense, most glaringly, empty third downs and a lack of explosive plays.
But Sunday’s 20-17 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals was definitely a surprise. Coach Mike McCarthy was fired after Green Bay stumbled once again.
“We’re just not executing well and it’s the same things over and over,” Rodgers said before the coaching change was announced.
The loss to one of the NFL’s worst teams was another blow to the fading playoff hopes for the Packers (4-7-1). Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin was promoted to interim head coach.
It’s still mathematically possible for Green Bay to catch NFC North-leading Chicago (8-4), which lost to the Giants.
To do that though, a once-productive offense will have to find its way.
“We didn’t play well today. I’m not going to sit up here and try to sugarcoat it,” McCarthy said right after the loss.
Green Bay’s tough day helped the Cardinals shatter the image of Lambeau Field as an intimidating venue for a warm-weather team in wintry conditions. The temperature at kickoff was 34 degrees, but the wind chill made it feel like 23. Flurries fell on and off throughout the game.
Instead, the Packers looked out of sorts.
A couple of Rodgers’ throws were off, especially in the first half. There were too many drops by receivers. The offensive line lost its two starters on the right side when guard Byron Bell and tackle Bryan Bulaga left in the first half with knee injuries.
Zane Gonzalez kicked a 44-yard field goal for Arizona with 1:41 left. Green Bay’s Mason Crosby missed a 49-yard attempt as time expired.
Crosby pushed his kick wide right, with the flags atop Lambeau blowing in toward the field at the time of the play. In pregame warmups, Crosby said kicks were going right to left.
“Both ends were fairly difficult. The wind was swirling,” Crosby said. The final attempt “wanted to go right, so I was pretty shocked about, and obviously disappointed.”
The Packers won the Super Bowl under McCarthy in 2010. But this is a third straight year in which Green Bay has had extended struggles.
In 2016, the Packers started 4-6 but won eight straight games to get to the NFC title game, losing to the Atlanta Falcons. Green Bay finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs in 2017, when Rodgers missed extensive time with a broken collarbone.
This year, Rodgers hurt his left knee in the season opener, though he is feeling better now. Receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison have missed time with injuries.
Cobb’s return on Sunday didn’t help, with the Packers just 3 of 14 on third down.
“I hate to repeat myself, but it’s applicable. ... We’re not executing the right way,” Rodgers said.
“It’s poor throws, not on the same page with receivers, wrong depth, protection,” he added. “We all have a part in that and we’ve all picked our time to mess up a third down.”
The opening play of the fourth quarter was a perfect example of Green Bay’s offensive struggles. Rodgers found Cobb for a 36-yard completion on third-and-11, but the play was wiped out by a holding penalty on right tackle Jason Spriggs.
Rodgers said his focus was getting his teammates to “play with that pride” and focus on the next four games.
“Yeah, I mean I’m not even thinking about that right now,” Rodgers said when asked if he would have any role after the season with general manager Brian Gutekunst or team president Mark Murphy about what direction they should go with the coaching staff.
The offensive players, Rodgers said, bear blame for whatever happens in the future.
“Yeah, a lot probably. We haven’t played very well,” he said.
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