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Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are looking for answers that aren't there

The Packers returned to FedEx Field on Sunday in a much different place than the team that won a playoff game there in January.

Green Bay Packers v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

LANDOVER, Md. — On the same field only 10 months ago, the Green Bay Packers torched Washington 35-18 in a Wild Card playoff game. The FedEx Field crowd left that day wondering if the gulf between their team and the Packers was not only a quarterback riddle -– Aaron Rodgers vs. Kirk Cousins. They also wondered if the gulf in overall talent and depth was far too deep.

Not one Washington fan among the 77,137 who exited here on Sunday night was hand-wringing over Cousins or their team. The hammer Washington leveled on Green Bay in a 42-24 victory left all of the worry, all of the doubt, all of the riddles on the Packers.

Green Bay (4-6) looked like a team full of holes.

Washington (6-3-1) looks ready for Dallas, the NFL-best 9-1 Cowboys, on Thanksgiving Day. The crowd here chanted repeatedly late in the game: "We want Dallas!"

By then, there was nothing left of the Packers but a carcass.

* * *

Washington led 13-10 at halftime. But in the second half, the Packers defense continually allowed Cousins to bomb them. Wham! A 70-yard touchdown pass to receiver Pierre Garcon. Bam! A 53-yard bomb to receiver Jamison Crowder that was 1 yard short of another score. Sure, the Packers were continually patching their secondary, working through injuries.

But this was comical. This was ridiculous.

The Packers were under fervent assault by a team seeking playoff retribution, a team that wanted to turn heads in Dallas on its way to Dallas, and a team that wants everyone to know it intends on defending its NFC East crown.

"We knew where the replacements were in the secondary and we were confident we could hit some big strikes," Cousins said, who tossed three touchdown passes and passed for 375 yards. He threw darts against a stiff wind, was not intercepted, and offered unmistakable passion and toughness.

"I don’t know," Cousins said quietly, as he pulled on his jacket at his locker. "That left a sour taste in our mouths from last year. We knew we could compete with them. We had to show them and ourselves. This was important for what we want to accomplish. It’s just what we needed going to Dallas. They (Dallas) are a good team. They are playing really well. But after this, so are we."

Not the Packers.

Green Bay has lost four straight games. The one before this one was a 47-25 thrashing at Tennessee.

The Green Bay defense allowed Washington to convert 9-of-14 (84 percent) third downs. It allowed 515 total offensive yards. It allowed two 100-yard plus receivers and a 100-yard-plus runner in this game (the first time Washington’s offense has produced such a trio in 17 years).

"We didn’t play well enough," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "On defense, we didn’t stop them. Our pass defense, we didn’t go up the field. Touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal in the second half. I think it tells a story. I’m disappointed. Reality, 4-6. Six losses puts your ass against the wall. That’s where we are."

There is little relief apparent.

Green Bay scored 24 points and though Rodgers passed for three touchdowns, their offense is also mess. It went three and out and punted on its first three possessions. It managed 10 points by halftime. It started the third quarter with a drive for a missed field goal. It ended the game with a fumble and an interception.

I kept watching this long, laboring Packers effort all around and kept jotting down things like "uneven, mixed bag, grab-bag, high-low, sideways, high-strung, disjointed …"

There were several moments when it was worse than that.

* * *

"Well, we’re just not putting it together for 60 minutes," Rodgers said. "We’ve had great stretches there."

He said he was optimistic.

"We put ourselves in a tough spot, so we have to find a way to get a win next week," Rodgers said. "Approach it one week at a time. That is all we got right now. We’re in a tough stretch."

They play at Philadelphia next. Then home against Houston and Seattle. They finish with three consecutive divisional games in the NFC North against Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit. I do not see a Packers turnaround, though, there isn’t time. They are misfiring in too many places. They have too many holes.

Safety Micah Hyde illustrates their bewilderment.

"Hey, I think everyone in this locker room is a winner and a competitor," Hyde said. "We all can count. We all can add it up. We know the situation we are in if we are going to make the playoffs."

But Hyde also offered: "We have too much talent in this locker room to perform like that. But, week in and week out, we’re doing it. I’m speechless. I don’t have anything else to say on it. Every game is tough, to come out here and perform like that, that was embarrassing. We gave up way too many big plays, it’s frustrating, it’s tough, a Sunday night game."

One minute he is reflective. The next he is ranting. If Hyde keeps this up they’ll start to call him Jekyll and Hyde.

Really, you can already call all of the Packers that.

Washington, the team Green Bay terminated in last year’s playoffs, just drove a stake through this Packers season.


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