GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Don't let the near comeback fool you; the Green Bay Packers have major problems. And they start with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the struggling offense. Time after time on Sunday, Rodgers threw both arms up in the air after one of his passes whizzed past his receivers.
Rodgers at times appeared to be begging for calls from the officials, especially in the early stages of the Packers' shocking and historic 18-16 loss to the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field.
There’s plenty wrong with the Packers’ offense, but it starts with the reigning NFL MVP. Rodgers hasn’t made the fatal mistake that lesser quarterbacks tend to make when things aren’t going well, but on Sunday he was off target, hesitant and -- perhaps most shockingly -- looked like any other Average Joe QB until the frantic late-game comeback bid. How else to explain how the Packers managed just 16 points against the lowly Lions, who came into the game with just one victory and the NFL’s 26th-ranked defense? Maybe Rodgers is hurt and hasn’t told anyone, but he barely resembles the guy who was the best player in the league last season.
The only thing the Packers have going for them on offense is what Rodgers called “schoolyard ball” last Sunday, when he staged a late-game rally in a loss to the Carolina Panthers. On Sunday it took the Packers more than 54 minutes of game time to score their first touchdown against the Lions, when Rodgers was essentially in hurry-up mode. Sure, Rodgers threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, but it came outside the structure of the regular offense.
What it means: We can finally stop talking about how long it’s been since the Lions have won in Wisconsin. That 24-game losing streak to the Packers, including the playoffs, is no more. Most surprising is that it ended this year. The Lions have brought much better teams across Lake Michigan than this one.
One reason to be optimistic: If you can think of one, you must be an eternal optimist.
One reason to panic: The Packers' special teams had actually been one of the redeeming qualities of this team of late, but even Ron Zook’s unit let them down. Brutal coverage on the opening kickoff of the second half allowed Ameer Abdullah to return it 104 yards to the Packers’ 1-yard line to set up the Lions’ first touchdown of the game. After a three-and-out on the next series, Packers punter Tim Masthay managed just a 25-yard kick to give the Lions their next possession at the Packers’ 47-yard line.
Fantasy watch: James Starks was going to be the starter even if Eddie Lacy had been active. With Lacy out because of a groin injury, Starks got nearly all the work. But he didn’t produce, at least not in the running game. He carried 15 times for 42 yards (an average of just 2.8 yards per carry) but had much more success in the passing game with six catches for 54 yards.
Ouch: Left tackle David Bakhtiari left the game in the second half with a knee injury and did not return. Rookie cornerback Damarious Randall came out of the game briefly in the first half because of a groin injury but returned.
Drops: Randall Cobb and James Jones each dropped passes that proved to be drive killers. Cobb’s drop came on third-and-9 at the Packers’ 41 in the first quarter, and Jones’ drop came on a second-down play on the Packers’ first drive of the second half, which also ended with a punt.
What’s next: The Packers play their second of four straight NFC North games on Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings, and it’s a matchup of the top two teams in the division.