Just like that, the Green Bay Packers 2022 season came to an end following a disappointing loss at home to the Detroit Lions with a trip to the playoffs on the line. For the Packers, it was a loss that looked like many that had come before it, with many of the problems that they dealt with early on in the year still being relevant even in the later stages of the season.
“I want to make sure we cover everything with a fine-toothed comb,” said Matt LaFleur after the game. “Look at every facet of our program, and what we’re doing, and what we’re asking guys to do. And not only that but the standards and expectations that we have in each area. I think that a lot of times when you have success, certain things can get covered up by winning games. I think everything has pretty much been exposed right now. So we will take a look at everything in terms of how we operate. It’s evident that whatever we did this year was not good enough.”
Once again, it’s going to be an offseason full of questions here in Green Bay, but before we look ahead, let’s look back at Sunday’s performance by going Behind the Numbers, with the stats and figures you need to know.
4-12 and 1-2
The red zone and third downs have given the Green Bay Packers issues for much of the season, and that was the case once again versus Detroit. As they did in the first game, the Lions were aggressive, playing a heavy dose of cover-1 with heavy boxes in an effort to try and take the run game away. For the most part, they were successful, and as has been the case this season, when the Packers have to rely on the passing game to carry them, they just haven’t been good enough. Green Bay finished the night 4-12 on third downs and 1-2 in the red zone, despite six trips to Lions’ territory.
The play and health of the offensive line has been perhaps the biggest reason behind the Packers’ turnaround on offense, which began in Week 10 against Dallas. However, the Lions were able to give them fits. Early on, the Packers replaced Yosh Nijman with Zach Tom, and the right side, in general, had issues throughout the game. As a team, the Packers averaged just 3.7 yards per rush, and Rodgers was pressured nearly 39% of the time, a very high rate. As Matt LaFleur said afterward, they just didn’t block well enough. From there, was a trickle-down effect to the rest of the offense.
Matt LaFleur has mentioned a few times this season that when things go well, the quarterback often gets more praise than they should. And when things go bad, the quarterback takes more blame than they should. LaFleur’s point is that this is a team game, and always multiple reasons behind anything that happens, whether good or bad. This was true again against the Lions, with the offensive line struggling and pass catchers dropping passes. But with that said, it still wasn’t a good game from Aaron Rodgers, either. Rodgers would average 6.5 yards per pass attempt, which over the course of a season, would rank 29th in the NFL. He was inaccurate at times and, at the end of the game, really tried to force things downfield. As has been the case somewhat often this season, Rodgers could never quite get into a rhythm. It certainly hasn’t looked like it, but believe it or not, the Lions have not had a good defense this season.
I’ve written about it specifically or mentioned it in various articles, but the Packers’ ability to move the ball on the ground has been a near-must for this offense, even when they’ve been playing their best football. As already mentioned, the Lions did a good job of taking the run game away by having more defenders near the line of scrimmage. Early on, the Packers tried to use Detroit’s aggressiveness to their advantage by running several end-arounds and jet sweeps, but there was only mild success. Credit to the Packers for sticking with the run game throughout the matchup, as they ran the ball 28 times compared to 27 pass attempts, and play-action helped set up the downfield pass to Christian Watson. But again, the blocking wasn’t good enough, and yards were very hard to come by, as evidenced by their 3.7 yards per carry, which led to a number of third and longs.
Turnovers have been a big part of the Packers’ success during their four-game win streak, with them generating 12 in that short span. These extra opportunities for the offense helped masked many of their deficiencies that they were dealing with while playing winning football. The Lions, however, have been very good at protecting the ball, with Jared Goff’s last interception coming in Week 9 against Green Bay. They are also a team that hadn’t fumbled much this season either. The Packers, on the other hand, had a crucial fumble by Aaron Jones as the offense neared the end zone, while Rodgers heaved a game-ending interception downfield. He also had another interception come back because of a Lions’ penalty.
The Lions entered Sunday’s game with one of the best special teams units in the NFL, and it showed with how they were able to bottle up Keisean Nixon. The Green Bay offense has benefitted greatly from Nixon’s explosive play in recent weeks, but Detroit held him to just 19.7 yards per kick return. This was just another aspect that the Packers’ offense had been leaning heavily on during the win streak, but they were unable to overcome not having that big play ability.
It’ll get glossed over in the loss, but it was another nice performance by the Green Bay Packers defense, and against another offense that has been one of the best at putting up points. Green Bay was able to limit the big passing play — for the most part — by playing a lot of cover-2. The play of the interior defensive line in recent weeks has been a key part of their success, and they again kept the run game in check, holding Jamaal Williams and D’Andre Swift to 4.4 yards per carry. When the defense can sit in cover-2 and not let the opposing run game take over, that’s a win. As always, there are areas that could have been better, including not being able to generate any turnovers or regular pressure, but Green Bay held a top-scoring offense to just 20 points.
The story of this game for the Green Bay Packers were the missed opportunities. In nine drives, the Green had six trips across midfield into Detroit Lions, yet they totaled just 16 points. On third downs, as already mentioned, the Packers were just 4-12. In the red zone, they were 1-2. On top of that, there were dropped passes, Aaron Rodgers wasn’t very sharp, there were turnovers, and the blocking up front by the offensive line was inconsistent, both against the run and pass.
Defensively, the Packers had two personal foul penalties on drives that ended in 10 points for the Lions. They were unable to create turnovers, and overall, the complimentary football that we had seen from Green Bay just wasn’t happening. In short, many of the same issues that had plagued the Packers for much of the season were the ones that led to this loss and Green Bay’s season coming to an end.
“Again, we kinda played like we did before the last few games,” said Rodgers after the game. “Non-complimentary football, turning the ball over on offense, teams didn’t really make a splash play. And then we squandered opportunities in the red zone, terrible on third downs. The same things that hurt us all year.”