Packers regress in puzzling 18-16 loss to Lions

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Green Bay’s loss sets stage for NFC North showdown with Vikings at Minnesota Sunday

All is not lost.
Seven games still remain on the Packers’ schedule, though it is difficult to imagine any future loss being more shocking, frustrating or disheartening than Green Bay’s latest one.
The Packers’ 18-16 loss to the Detroit Lions Sunday at Lambeau Field both begs and defies that ageless question shouted by an infuriated Vince Lombardi:
“What the hell is going on out there?”
Man, I wish I could ask Lombardi’s opinion on head coach Mike McCarthy’s third straight loss, and how to correct whatever it is that’s driving this disaster.
The Lions (2-7) entered the game winless in 24 straight in the state of Wisconsin. That streak ended when Packers placekicker Mason Crosby flubbed what would have been a game-winning 52-yard field goal in the final seconds.
Crosby’s misfire capped a comedy of errors in this tragedy’s final minutes. The Packers simply refused to accept the Lions’ most gracious attempts to give them the game.
Nevertheless, the Packers matched the Lions miscue for miscue, and sealed their fate with a loss that bottom lines it: this isn’t a very good team right now and the clock is ticking.
The Packers (6-3) have a week to figure out and fix their most glaring weaknesses on offense, defense and special teams.
Green Bay travels to Minneapolis to take on the suddenly surging Minnesota Vikings (7-2) who are fresh off a 30-14 victory at Oakland.
McCarthy appears struggling to find answers. He announced earlier in the week that James Starks was going to start ahead of Eddie Lacy at running back. Lacy ends up sitting with a groin injury, and Starks ends up with just 42 yards on 15 carries against one of the NFL’s worst run defenses.
The Lions didn’t have DeAndre Levy or Rashean Mathis – two of their best defenders – and still held the Packers’ offense and Aaron Rodgers in check. Green Bay managed only a 44-yard field goal in the first half, and that caromed in off the upright.
McCarthy seems lost at times on the sideline. When he relinquished the play-calling duties it was to free him up to coach the entire team during the week and on game day.
Early in the season it appeared to contribute to improved special teams play, greater attention to detail on defense and a fresh look at the offensive play calling. Now, in the wake of a trio of disappointing losses, McCarthy’s decision is being called into question. Some wonder if he will reassume the play-calling duties.
I believe that would be a major mistake.  Instead of going backward, McCarthy needs to figure out exactly how he best helps his team on game day in his new role. All coaches talk about defining players’ roles.  McCarthy appears to be grappling with his own role right now. When discussing the Lions loss – the Packers’ first in Wisconsin since Dec. 15, 1991 – McCarthy offered few solutions.
If he has ideas he wasn’t sharing them. “This isn’t easy,” he told reporters. “And frankly, if we spoiled you in the past (with productive, executing, winning football), that’s great. We’re looking forward to spoiling you again in the future.”
Frankly, the future is now. The Vikings certainly aren’t going to take any pity on the Packers. In fact, Minnesota fans have been salivating for the chance to see the Vikings kick ‘em when they’re down.
And brother, this is as down as it gets.
Rodgers was 35 of 61 for 333 yards but misfired on several passes to wide open receivers. Davante Adams and Randall Cobb also dropped several passes.  Add that to a lack of commitment to the running game and it adds up to an offense that is out of sync.
The Packers’ special teams units gave Green Bay a chance to win the game with an onside kick recovery. But it also missed on the game-winning field goal try and allowed Ameer Abdullah to return the opening kick of the second half 104 yards to give the Lions reason to believe.
Rodgers led the Packers to a potentially game-tying touchdown with an 11-yard strike to Justin Perillo. But then he failed to convert the 2-point attempt to Adams, who was defended tightly by the Lions’ Crezdon Butler. It appeared Richard Rodgers broke open in the middle of the end zone just as Rodgers released the pass intended for Adams. If the quarterback had held onto it a split-second longer he’d have had a much easier chance for a completion.  Rodgers doesn’t seem to have the trademark patience and vision he had in the past, albeit often he is under ferocious pressure.
As it stands, the Packers still had a chance to win after Calvin Johnson muffed the onside kick and Damarious Randall, the promising rookie, made another huge play and recovered it with 31 seconds to play.
But Crosby’s miss proved to be the final letdown in a game that produced far more questions than answers.  One thing is for certain, the Packers and their fans will know a lot more about this teams resilience and identity, not to mention their playoff prospects after next Sunday’s game at Minnesota.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.