The Green Bay Packers’ season is on life support.
The defenseless Packers lost their fourth consecutive game, 42-24, on Sunday night at FedEx Field. Coupled with wins by Detroit and Minnesota, the Packers (4-6) are two games back in the NFC North. With a game at Philadelphia and back-to-back games against division-leading Houston and Seattle, the situation could hardly look more bleak for a team that seems to have no prayer of changing its fortunes.
"Ours backs are up against it," coach Mike McCarthy said.
Before a take-a-knee drive to run out the clock, Washington (6-3-1) got the ball five times in the second half. The first drive resulted in a field goal. The next four resulted in touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers had a big night, going 26-of-41 for 351 yards and three touchdowns, but Kirk Cousins feasted on a Packers defense that is being held together by Scotch tape and bubble gum. Cousins was 21-of-30 for 375 yards and three touchdowns.
"We didn't stop them," McCarthy said. Noting the five consecutive scores, he added: "I think that tells the story."
Cousins matched Rodgers play for play in a second-half shootout. Cousins hit Jamison Crowder for a 44-yard touchdown to give Washington a 22-10 lead. Rodgers responded, taking advantage of a busted coverage that James Starks turned into a 31-yard catch-and-run touchdown to pull within 22-17. On the second play of Washington’s next drive, Cousins hit Pierre Garcon for a 70-yard touchdown. Rodgers answered again, hitting tight end Jared Cook for a 6-yard touchdown to make it 29-24.
Then came the defining moment. On a fourth-and-1 near midfield, Redskins coach Jay Gruden kept the offense on the field. Cousins kept it on a sneak and defensive tackle Letroy Guion grabbed hold of Cousins but didn’t get any help until Cousins had fought for the first down. A 53-yard pass to Crowder set up Rob Kelley’s 1-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 35-24 with 3:54 remaining. On that drive, the Packers lost outside linebacker Nick Perry, inside linebacker Blake Martinez and safety Kentrell Brice to injuries. Perry returned but it put a Band-Aid bow on a season-long rash of injuries.
“In a game like this against a great team with a great quarterback, you’ve got to do things like that,” Cousins said in his postgame TV interview.
Rodgers again had the Packers on the move, kick-started by a 37-yard catch-and-run by Davante Adams. But one play later, Cook had the ball punched out by Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. It ruined a big return from Cook, who caught six passes for 105 yards and the touchdown, and it doomed the Packers’ chances. Kelley ran for 66 and then scored from the 4 to put the game away.
In the four-game skid, the Packers allowed 33 at Atlanta, 31 vs. Indianapolis, 47 at Tennessee and 42 at Washington.
Washington led 13-10 at halftime, exploiting two of the Packers’ bugaboos: slow starts and slow finishes.
Green Bay went three-and-out on each of its first three possessions. Washington struck first on its third drive, with Cousins’ throwing a 17-yard touchdown pass to receiver DeSean Jackson against defensive back Micah Hyde.
The Packers finally got rolling on their fourth drive, and they overcame a couple of big mistakes to get in the end zone. First, Jared Cook wasn’t ready for a pass from Rodgers. What should have been an easy 6-yard touchdown turned into an incomplete pass. One play later, on third-and-goal from the 3, Rodgers hit Ty Montgomery for a touchdown but guard Don Barclay was flagged for holding. Pushed back to the 13, Rodgers made a brilliant play. First, he shrugged off a head-jerking grab by blitzing linebacker Su’a Cravens. Rodgers moved to his right, adjusted his helmet on the move and hit Jordy Nelson for the touchdown.
Green Bay took a 10-7 lead on its next possession. That drive reached the Redskins’ 6 but went backward when James Starks lost 2 yards and Rodgers was sacked on third down.
The Redskins, however, became the latest team to take advantage of Green Bay’s end-of-half defense. They started at their 25 and got moved back to the 22 when Mike Daniels buried rookie running back Rob Kelley for a loss of 3. With the wind and momentum, coach Mike McCarthy called a timeout with 3:29 left. But Cousins hit tight end Jordan Reed for 26 against Hyde on third-and-4 and 18 more against linebacker Joe Thomas. Kelley then rumbled through the heart of the defense for a 10-yard touchdown with 39 seconds to go. The Packers stuffed the two-point play but trailed 13-10 at the break.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.