Packers limp into playoffs following loss to Vikings

Packers at Washington

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Green Bay travels to Washington for Sunday night NFC wild card game against ascending Redskins

There is no magic potion or secret elixir to cure what ails the Green Bay Packers’ offense. That fixer-upper will require an entire offseason.
The reality is the Packers have less than a week to formulate a game plan to get into the Washington Redskins’ end zone. The prospects aren’t good when Aaron Rodgers, one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks, can’t do anything to elevate what has become a discombobulated offensive disaster.
Green Bay’s 20-13 loss to Minnesota on Sunday night at Lambeau Field was troubling for several reasons. First, it enabled the Vikings (11-5) to capture the NFC North Division title. Second, it meant the Packers’ division opponents SWEPT them this season at Lambeau Field, something that hadn’t happened since 1968. Third, it perpetuated the offense’s season-long swan dive.
The offense continues to be the anvil around the team’s neck. Twenty-one points used to be a decent half for the Packers. Now it represents the entire output in their previous two games.
Here are three drives that speak to McCarthy’s futile attempts to resurrect the sputtering offense.
On the Packers’ opening drive, Rodgers led the offense to a first-and-10 at the Minnesota 19. The Green Bay running game showed signs of life along the way, but McCarthy/Rodgers elected to throw it three straight times. That occurred even after the Packers faced second-and-2 and third-and-2 after the first play netted 8 yards.
The Packers trailed the Vikings 13-3 with about six minutes to play in the third quarter. Micah Hyde stepped up and made an incredible interception to set up Green Bay with first-and-10 at the Vikings’ 43.
Eddie Lacy blasted away for 4 yards on first down. Then he pounded ahead for another 4 yards on second down. Facing third-and-2 at the Vikings’ 35 an indecisive McCarthy burned a timeout.
The momentum fizzled quickly.
Out of the timeout, Lacy rushed for 5 yards and a first down. However, center Corey Linsley was flagged for holding. Now, with third-and-12, McCarthy called for a pass, but the Vikings’ Everson Griffen beat Josh Sitton for a hit on Rodgers that led to a fumble and 55-yard recovery and touchdown return for Captain Munnerlyn.
That made it 20-3 Vikings.
Still, the Packers had two chances to tie or take the lead and failed in both attempts. With 6:22 to play, Rodgers was sacked on third-and-3 at the Vikings’ 18, which led to a Mason Crosby 43-yard field goal. That made it 20-13 and gave the Packers hope.
Cordarrelle Patterson’s ensuing 70-yard kick return almost ended the game, except Crosby made a terrific strip-and-tackle and Hyde recovered to give Rodgers one final drive. He moved Green Bay to a first-and-goal at the Vikings’ 10, but four straight pass attempts fell incomplete.
Now, the Packers (10-6) get the NFC East champion Redskins (9-7) in a Sunday night wild-card playoff game at Washington, where the Redskins were 6-2 this season.
McCarthy was clearly disappointed after the Vikings loss.
“Frankly, we didn’t do enough of the things you need to do, especially in big games, to come out on top,” McCarthy told reporters.
McCarthy shuffled his offensive line going into the game. He moved left guard Josh Sitton to left tackle in place of the injured David Bakhtiari. He started Lane Taylor at left guard for Sitton.
The Vikings just licked their chops. Griffen had two sacks against Sitton, although the Pro Bowl left guard outplayed Don Barclay, who struggled in recent weeks.  Teddy Bridgewater put up modest numbers (10 of 19 for just 99 yards and an interception). But he still won. The Packers hurt themselves by going 1-for-4 in the red zone, a miserable 2-of-15 on third down, with two turnovers and five sacks allowed.
If there was at least a small glimmer of hope it was Rodgers’ 28 of 44 passing for 291 yards and a touchdown. Davante Adams showed some spark, and James Jones showed some spunk. The Packers’ passing game looked more like its old self late in the second half. Whether that was a fleeting glimpse or the first sign of life remains to be seen at Washington.
The Packers are 1-point underdogs. I can’t disagree.
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.