It was the same old lousy story in this unexpectedly lousy season.
With a chance to win the kind of game that separates the contenders from the pretenders, Aaron Rodgers fell short and the defense backed down.
What else would you expect from a team that's 5-9 and treated close games like they were live grenades?
Rodgers, for all he's accomplished in his first season as a starting quarterback, has yet to pull a rabbit out of his helmet to lead the Packers to a magical come-from-behind victory. The Packers are 0-6 in games decided by four points or less, including Sunday's 20-16 loss at Jacksonville. In three of those games, he threw a costly interception, as he did when the Packers trailed by two points late in a 30-21 loss at Tampa Bay.
"I get paid to make plays and I need to make plays," Rodgers said after the Packers' third consecutive loss by four points or less and fourth straight defeat overall.
"I haven't been doing that as often as I want to be or should be. I take it upon myself. I've got to make the throws. I've haven't been making them and I take that right on my shoulders. You have to really look into the mirror and realize we're given a gift to be able to play a kid's game. We're paid like a king to do it as well. You should have a lot of pride in yourself and who you are to bring everything with the same intensity for the next two weeks."
It's not that Rodgers hasn't delivered in key moments.
On Sunday, the Jaguars drove to a touchdown and a 14-13 lead with 11:39 remaining in the game. Rodgers answered, with his 7-yard scramble preceding a 34-yard pass to James Jones. On third-and-3 from Jacksonville's 26, Rodgers scrambled for 4 yards and a first down. While the drive stalled when Rodgers was sacked, he had driven the Packers to a 16-14 lead.
But, based on the Packers' defense yielding winning drives against Tennessee, Minnesota, Carolina and Houston, the two-point lead didn't seem nearly large enough and the 5:29 on the clock seemed like entirely too much.
So, it was no surprise that the Jaguars marched right down the field for a go-ahead touchdown. On the first play of the drive, Dennis Northcutt took advantage of a defensive breakdown to haul in a 41-yard pass from David Garrard. It would have been unbelievable, had the Packers not allowed long pass plays against the Texans and Panthers during their winning drives the last two weeks.
Rodgers got the chance to be the hero with 1:56 on the clock and two timeouts in hand. Passes to Donald Driver, Jones and Driver again advanced the ball to the 48-yard line. But with 46 seconds on the clock, Rodgers slightly overthrew tight end Donald Lee on a seam route, and Reggie Nelson made the game-ending interception.
"Well, I think it's on the whole offense," McCarthy said when asked about Rodgers' inability to deliver a game-winning drive. "The quarterback is a big part of it."
Rodgers lamented his interception, along with the offense's inability to score touchdowns on two trips inside the Jaguars' 10-yard line that resulted in field goals. Score a touchdown or two on those drives, and the end-of-game sequences are moot.
"It's extremely frustrating," said Rodgers, whose passer rating in the first half was 122.1 but just 53.3 in the second. "We had an opportunity to win the game down the stretch and couldn't do it. I felt good about the drive — the second-to-last drive. A touchdown there and a two-point conversion would have made things a lot better. We couldn't get it done. We had a chance with two timeouts left, so it's disappointing."
In his defense, Rodgers hasn't had many easy opportunities to be the hero. Against Tampa Bay, he was playing with an injured shoulder. Against Atlanta, he bounced back from his interception by throwing a touchdown pass to make it a three-point game. Against Carolina, he would have needed to drive the Packers 83 yards in 90 seconds to score a winning touchdown. And against Jacksonville, he would have needed to drive the Packers 84 yards in 116 seconds.
And while he failed to drive the Packers to the winning points against Tennessee and Houston (because of a bad holding penalty), he gave Green Bay a chance to beat the Vikings and he drove the Packers to the go-ahead field goal against Carolina.
"We fully expected and had an opportunity to win this game," McCarthy said. "We did not get that done. We did not make enough plays. That's why we're standing here 5-9."
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good not good enough for Rodgers
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