DENVER -- The Green Bay Packers came in with the NFL's No. 1 scoring defense. As coach Mike McCarthy often says, statistics are for losers -- and that's exactly what his team was Sunday night.
The Packers' defense, which had allowed just 16.8 points per game through the first six games of the season, allowed that much in the first half of a 29-10 loss to the Denver Broncos. The Packers have been known for their fast starts this year on both sides of the ball. In their first six games, they had outscored opponents 66-9 in the first quarter. The Broncos changed that narrative by scoring a pair of touchdowns to lead 14-0 after the first quarter and 17-7 at halftime, and along the way, the Broncos showed the Packers who has the better defense.
The Broncos' defense did exactly what the Packers could not do: They pressured the quarterback, hit Aaron Rodgers time after time and blanketed receivers Randall Cobb, James Jones and Davante Adams. Rodgers finished with just 77 passing yards on 14-of-22 with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He had never finished with fewer than 142 passing yards in a game he started and finished, though in this case, Scott Tolzien played the last 1:06.
What it means: The Packers went from undefeated to being in a fight for the NFC North lead. At 6-1, they have only a one-game lead over the Minnesota Vikings (5-2), who have won three in a row and haven't played the Packers yet.
One reason to be optimistic: The Packers play in the NFC, which means they won't have to face teams such as the Broncos, New England Patriots or Cincinnati Bengals in the playoffs. McCarthy's team might still be the class of the NFC, even after this loss.
One reason to panic: Against a good defense, the Packers receivers couldn't get open. Cobb doesn't have Jordy Nelson to open things up for him on the outside, and that is making things awfully difficult for him in the slot. For as good as Jones has been in spots, he has not able to get open enough.
Fantasy watch: Eddie Lacy found the end zone for the first time since Week 1. He scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter for the Packers' only score of the first half.
Ouch: Cornerback Sam Shields left in the first quarter with a shoulder injury, and fellow cornerback Quinten Rollins departed with the same injury shortly after that. Clay Matthews limped off the field in the second half but returned after getting his left ankle taped.
Post-bye blues: The Packers lost for only the second time in a post-bye week game under McCarthy. They had been 8-1 in such games in McCarthy's first nine seasons.
What's next: Sunday's game at Carolina won't be a matchup of unbeaten teams, but the Panthers could still be perfect if they win Monday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts.