By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Lions sweep Green Bay
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Insomnia, like the home team, never had a chance.
See you in 2019!
The Pack will be back!
Happy New Year >>
The Packers’ final loss in a lost season was an underwhelming event. OK, a loss helps more than a win, right? Higher draft pick, yes? But still….to the Lions? Ugh.
The game was a real yawner …… a fitting conclusion to a blah year.
The last-place Lions’ victory over the Packers Sunday at Lambeau Field was at once a wake-up call and last call: “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. The party’s over at Lambeau Field … until next season, at least.”
This most recent less-than-stellar performance may have been entertaining to Lions fans and masochists, often one and the same, but to Packers fans it was a mind-numbing atrocity. Please let 2018 be over, let the good times of 2019 roll.
Fans used to fall asleep counting Aaron Rodgers touchdown passes. Sunday, they could do so counting punts and missed tackles.
The Lions blanked the Packers for the first time since 1973. It was Green Bay’s first home shutout in 22 years. It was ugly.
“Yeah, it was hard,” Packers’ interim head coach Joe Philbin said afterward. “We just didn’t have any rhythm.”
A lack of rhythm is one way to put it.
A lack of rhyme and reason is another. That’s a polite way of saying that, once again, Green Bay had no balance on offense.
The Packers’ running backs managed just nine attempts. I was hoping for that per drive. And the run game was not very effective. Less than a yard per try. For the life of me, I can’t recall the last time the Packers’ running backs averaged 24 inches per attempt.
The passing attack wasn’t exactly slick, either. Rodgers was 3 of 5 for 26 yards and a sack before exiting after the Packers’ third possession. The medical staff ruled Rodgers out with a concussion caused by a helmet-wrenching hit on Green Bay’s second play from scrimmage.
Sadly, Philbin needed not one, not two, but three post-series chats with his Hall of Fame quarterback before Rodgers informed Philbin he was going to be evaluated for a concussion.
Shouldn’t it be the doctors telling the coach to sit the player? Then again it’s not surprising in this upside-down season.
When Rodgers isn’t calling the shots, he’s absorbing them. Heck, Rodgers’ terrific play used to give defenses a headache. This season it’s the defense’s chance to return the favor.
It was painful watching kicker Matt Prater fleece the Packers with a wobbly, windblown, 8-yard touchdown pass off a fake. It was even more painful watching the Packers without Rodgers.
DeShone Kizer showed once again why he is the back-up quarterback. Kizer was 16 of 35 for 132 yards, two sacks and an interception. In his defense, he had precious little time to throw behind a patchwork offensive line.
It was ready, set, huh?
When Rodgers exited in the second quarter, a game but gimpy David Bakhtiari also decided to sit it out at left tackle. Even before the game, Davante Adams was ruled out with a knee injury, and other key starters were sidelined by (wink, wink) significant injuries.
Nevertheless, Rodgers started and played too long to no effect.
In dealing with the question, “To play or not to play?” if the Packers are going to err on the side of caution, why wouldn’t that philosophy begin with Rodgers?
Packers center Corey Linsley acknowledged that Rodgers badly wanted to play against the Lions. He added that Rodgers became emotional when he was forced to leave.
It’s interesting that Linsley defended his quarterback when no defense was needed. It speaks to the team’s unity, but it also illustrates how dysfunctional that dependency has become.
Believe it or not, other teams actually win with their backup QB. In Green Bay, Rodgers’ absence makes victory seem impossible.
“When arguably the greatest player in the game leaves it’s not going to affect you positively,” Linsley said. “First of all, I want to say that Aaron was very emotional. I’m not speaking about other QBs, but I know that for him to get emotional leaving a game that everybody, quote-unquote, says is meaningless, shows us how hard he wanted to play out there and how much he wanted to be with his boys. That was special.”
No, what’s special is that Rodgers’ health may have been saved by a concussion. While any head injury is especially serious, Rodgers won’t be sidelined by a concussion going into next season, whereas a knee injury would’ve been disastrous.
Clay Matthews said he spoke with Rodgers before the game regarding playing time.
“I said, ‘How long are you playing?’ He said, ‘I’m going the distance,’ ” Matthews told reporters. “I said, ‘All right, I’ll be out there with you in the fourth.’ ”
“But it didn’t play out like that.”
What’s new? Not much of anything went according to plan this season.