Clay Matthews returned, but apparently he’s not the savior, either.
The Packers had allowed 34.5 points in the four games without Matthews this season compared to 19.2 points in the five games with him in the lineup. Matthews returned from a three-game absence on Sunday night but it didn’t make a bit of difference. The Packers were crushed 42-24 by the Redskins.
The defense got off to a good start, with Washington’s first four drives resulting in three punts and one touchdown. The Redskins, however, treated the Packers’ defense like a yo-yo the rest of the night. Washington got the ball six times from the end of the first half up until the take-a-knee series to end the game. The Redskins scored five touchdowns and one field goal on those possessions.
HOW BAD WAS THE DEFENSE? CHECK OUT OUR GRUESOME "NUMBERS" COLUMN
“We didn’t stop them,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Our pass defense, we didn’t get off the field. It was touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal in the second half. I think that tells the story. We understand clearly what’s in front of us, so six losses puts your ass against the wall and that’s where we are.”
Aaron Rodgers was great but, without a 14-point touchdown pass in his repertoire, he had no hope of keeping pace. Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 21-of-30 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns. His passer rating was a sizzling 145.8 on the strength of five completions of longer than 25 yards. Washington, which had averaged 460 yards the last three weeks, piled up 515 vs. Green Bay.
“(Cousins) obviously had huge numbers and really the big plays,” McCarthy said. “To be able to throw in rhythm, attack the two-deep coverage — both the big plays down the middle were against quarters and two-man and really hurt us. Those were critical plays in the game. And you go back to we had some dumb penalties. We’re not good enough to have penalties on third down. We had some untimely penalties that continued drives and we didn’t get off the field on third down.”
With the onslaught of injuries continuing, the Packers needed huge performances from Matthews and the remaining established players to slow down a red-hot and diverse Redskins attack. While Julius Peppers had his best game of the season and Nick Perry had a sack among his four tackles, Matthews had only one tackle, the safeties were mostly invisible and the cornerbacks were the target of Cousins’ air raid. According to ProFootballFocus.com’s early analysis and its best guess on coverage responsibilities, cornerbacks LaDarius Gunter, Quinten Rollins and Micah Hyde allowed 16-of-18 passing for 282 yards and three touchdowns. All three gave up big plays while Gunter made the only play on the ball.
“We say it all the time: We have way too much talent in this locker room to be going out there and performing like that,” Hyde said. “Week in week out, we’re doing it. I’m speechless. I don’t know what else to say.”
Injuries are a factor. If the Packers were healthy, Sam Shields and Damarious Randall would be starting, Hyde would be the No. 3 safety and dime defensive back, and Rollins and Gunter might be in a timeshare as the third corner. Instead, Hyde, Gunter and Rollins are playing more than they should. They were outclassed athletically and helpless against Cousins’ pinpoint downfield passing. At inside linebacker, the Packers finished the game without starters Jake Ryan (inactive) and Blake Martinez (fourth-quarter knee injury).
Simply put, the Packers are running out of players and running out of time to fix all that is wrong. Whatever shred of hope that remains will be at stake next Monday night at Philadelphia.
“We didn’t handle the injuries very well,” McCarthy said. “It’s tough but it’s part of the game. Everybody has them and we need to do a better job of guys that get in there stepping up. It’s important for everybody to check their mailbox and stay in tune with what we need to do individually to improve. Once again, we’re at six losses, that’s the reality. Clearly understand the urgency that’s in front of us. Clearly understood the urgency coming into this game being at five losses. So, we need to get back here, assess our health, get our roster set and get ready for Philadelphia.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.