Packers season looks gutted after Aaron Rodgers’ three-pick appearance against Detroit

All the Green Bay Packers needed was solid play from Aaron Rodgers to defeat the NFL’s worst team in record time on Sunday. However, three interceptions against a historically poor Detroit Lions defense may have been the nail in the coffin for a team that lost five games and fell deeper and deeper from the playoff battle.

“Yeah, I’ve definitely had a few (expletive) throws,” Rodgers said of his first three-pick appearance since 2017.

The first two interceptions were among the worst of Rodgers’ career. The Packers threatened to score on both opening drives until a pair of misplaced balls from the quarterback resulted in zero foul points.

The first was perhaps the most blatant. During the first heat, the offense manifested as one of the best drives of the entire season to reach the Detroit 5-yard line. But instead of handing the ball over to AJ Dillon on first and target, Rodgers looked for his top target Allen Lazard who had a slope in the end zone. Lazard might have had a step on his man, but Rodgers’ throw was so bad it didn’t matter. The trajectory of the ball was behind the receiver and low, eventually bouncing off linebacker Derrick Barnes’ helmet and into the air to keep Kerby Joseph safe.

“Probably we should have checked out that game, delivered the ball or changed the route,” said Rodgers.

Green Bay’s second run was also productive. A quick three and out of defense put the ball back into Rodgers’ hands. Everything looked promising as Rodgers connected with Lazard on a 47-yard catch and run that nearly reached the end zone, if not for Lazard’s knee hitting the ground a little too fast.

The Packers had four plays to pick up one yard. They were reminiscent of week 5 against the New York Giants, but they failed to do so despite turning the script around and handing the ball to their 247-pound running back, not once, but twice. Dillon was unable to pick up a meter on two attempts, while the second attempt showed a miscommunication between Rodgers and Sammy Watkins. Watkins walked at an angle as Rodgers expected a blur as the ball traveled to no man’s land in the corner of the end zone.

That set down the fourth and another turning point. Green Bay decided to pull out all the stops with left tackle David Bakhtiari enlisting as an eligible receiver. Once the ball snapped, Rodgers faked a transfer to Dillon, while Bakhtiari leaked from his block order to a vacant spot in the end zone. However, when a Detroit defender immediately broke through the line, Rodgers had to throw his back foot away. Yet the pass only had to travel 10 meters. It went five and in the hands of Aidan Hutchinson.

“There were only two options, but I probably should have given him a chance. I will definitely have to live with that pitch for the rest of my life with our friendship,” said Rodgers.

As if it couldn’t get any worse, Rodgers cost his best friend Bakhtiari a rare touchdown with a left tackle by compounding the error with another teasing choice.

After going scoreless in the first half against a defense that produced the most points in the NFL, Green Bay saw a glimmer of hope when Jaire Alexander intercepted a pass from Jared Goff. The takeaway set up the charge with a short field of 35 yards to finally secure their first points in the third quarter. Unfortunately, it only took two plays for Rodgers to return the ball right away. Again it was Joseph, this time jumping in front of Robert Tonyan to intercept his second pass of the match.

A three-interception game is not typical of Rodgers, but symbolic of the Packers’ season. This team has struggled to play complementary football all year, and Sunday was another perfect example. When the defense puts in a solid performance, the reigning back-to-back MVP squanders it. But even after a third giveaway, you can’t hold back from a game against a team as impotent as Detroit.

Somehow Green Bay still had a chance to win with one last ride and two minutes on the clock. Rodgers did just enough to make things interesting with an improbable 32-yard finish in fourth to Samori Toure, who fiddled the ball out of the lane at the Lions’ 17. That was as close to the Packers as the game ended after four outright omissions from Rodgers.

The final series embodied the one step forward and two step back approach that Green Bay demonstrated in 2022. Whenever something good happens, something terrible will soon follow.

It has quickly become a cursed season for the Packers, but the disappointment after a 15-9 loss to the Lions is still not enough for Rodgers to wish he retired from the off-season.

“When I decided to come back, it was all-in. I don’t make decisions and in hindsight have 20-20 regrets about such big decisions. So it was all in, and this is certainly a lot of life lessons this year, but thankfully it’s not over yet. There are still many games left. We will probably be counted by many, and we’ll see how we react.”

Sure, there are still eight games to go, but probably not enough to save the Packers’ season. There’s almost no room for error in the future, and it may take a Rodgers run-the-table-esque stretch to stay in the post-season conversation. But anyone who has seen this team knows that a turnaround is not imminent. In fact, it’s just a pipe dream, especially as the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys prepare to travel to Green Bay in what will be Mike McCarthy’s first game since he was fired in 2018. In many ways, starting with Rodgers’ bad game, feels like he’s never been away.

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