Packers Playoffs Hopes Crash and Burn after Falling to Divisional Foe

After completely dominating the division winner Minnesota Vikings last week, the Green Bay Packers remain at home to face the red-hot Detroit Lions, who are also coming off a dominant showing against the Chicago Bears themselves. In this final regular season matchup of the year, the Packers are in a win-and-in situation. By winning this game, they will claim the last playoff spot, completing a turnaround deemed improbable following their week 11 loss to the Tennessee Titans to drop to 4-8 on the year. The Packers have racked up four straight wins, two of which came against teams that are in this years’ playoffs. Their defense, after a shaky start to the year, has turned things around, forcing twelve turnovers in the past four weeks. The offense, while still a far cry from past years dominance, has been serviceable and improving every week. Finally the special teams have completely turned things around. After being the sole reason the Packers season ended last year, the emergence of Keisean Nixon as the return man has almost single-handedly revived the Packers’ season, with the highlight being his 105-yard touchdown return of the Packers’ first kickoff return of the game. The Packers are getting right at just the right time.

The Packers enter today a completely healthy squad and are riding the momentum of their most dominant performance of the year. Everything has lined up for them perfect the past couple weeks for the Packers to control their own playoff destiny. Thanks to the Seattle Seahawks overtime win over the Los Angeles Rams earlier today, the Detroit Lions have been eliminated from playoff contention and this game is essentially meaningless for them. Will that make them more dangerous? Will they be more motivated to play spoiler to the Packers playoff hopes?

Post-Game Report
It was a tough defensive battle in the first half. Neither team found the endzone the whole half outside of one Lions touchdown that was called back due to an offensive hold. The Packers got on the board first, taking the opening drive down to the goal line before being forced to settle for a 22-yard Mason Crosby field goal. The Packers defense forced a three-and-out on the following drive, thanks to Kenny Clark forcing bad throws by Jared Goff, but the offense couldn’t capitalize, and turned the ball over on downs in their own territory. The defense held strong though and forced the Lions to settle for a 37-yard field goal. The Packers offense drove down the field the following drive, but once again settled for a long 49-yard Crosby field goal. The defense continued to hold strong against the Lions offense, forcing yet another three-and-out. The Packers offense capitalized on the defensive stand with a field goal of their own to extend the lead 9-3. The following drive, the defense continued to contain the Lions offense, including rookie Devonte Wyatt getting a sack on Goff. The Lions would drive, but ultimately settle for another field goal attempt, that would sail wide left. The Packers offense got another drive going that looked like they would extend their lead more, but an Aaron Jones fumble killed the drive, and set up the Lions to cut into the lead with a 33-yard field goal. The Packers went into the half up 9-6 over the Lions.

The Packers defense opened up the second half by forcing yet another three-and-out, and the Packers would respond with yet another long drive that ended in a 53-yard field goal attempt that hit the crossbar and fell short. The Lions capitalized on the Packers’ failure to score with a 57-yard drive capped off by a one-yard Jamaal Williams touchdown run to put the Lions up 13-9. The following drive the Packers finally hit pay dirt thanks to a 45-yard catch by Christain Watson that set up a 13-yard touchdown strike to Allen Lazard to retake the lead 16-13. The two teams would trade punts before the Lions retook the lead on another Jamaal Williams score, putting them up 20-16 with under six minutes to go. With the game on the line, the drive started off promising, with the Packers moving the ball well on their first couple of plays; however two straight incompletions set up a third and 10 that saw Rodgers launch a deep ball intended for Christain Watson that fell into the waiting arms of Kerby Joseph for his third interception off Rodgers this year. The Lions would drain the clock on the next drive to ice the game and upset the Packers, knocking them out of playoff contention. The Lions win 20-16.

Players of the Game
Christain Watson: Despite the loss Christain Watson had a solid performance. Watson racked up five catches for 104 yards to go along with two carries for 12 yards on the ground. Watson has a promising future with the Packers and will be a great weapon for them in the coming years, especially for Jordan Love should he be given the reins next season.

Injury Report

The Lions, with nothing to play for, played spoiler to the Packers playoff hopes and swept the Packers in both of their games this season. Their bottom-of-the-league defense forced five turnovers in two games against the Packers this year, four of which were Rodgers interceptions.

The defense played relatively well today for the most part, forcing three-and-outs, and only giving up six points in the first half. They struggled in the second half, giving up two touchdowns and two fourth down conversions. Quay Walker was ejected for the second time this season after he shoved a Lions medical staff member; hopefully this will not be a trend after this season. All season the Packers secondary were playing far off the ball in short yardage situations and it continually bit them in must-stop situations. Today was no different, as on fourth-and-two and fourth-and-one situations late in the game the Packers played five yards off the ball, letting players run wide open for easy conversions. Joe Barry’s scheming has been highly questionable this year and today it cost them the season.

The offensive woes continued today as it had all year. Rodgers once again barely posted 200 yards passing, the ground game couldn’t get much going most of the game, and they ended too many drives with field goals instead of touchdowns. Just like they had all year, the Packers offense could not consistently put points on the board, even against a defense as poor as the Lions’ have been all year. Coughing the ball up twice, one with the game on the line, is always a recipe for failure.

The Lions were simply the better team today, and capitalized on every mistake the Packers made. In a win-and-in situation, the Packers were unable to get a win to keep their season alive, as they fall to 8-9 and miss out on the playoffs for the first time since the 2018 season. So begins a long offseason that could see a lot of changes to not only the personnel, but also the coaching staff. Today the speculation of Rodgers’ future begins, and all we can do is wait and see what happens.
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