There wasn’t a more fitting end to the regular season for the 2015 Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers barely got the snap off but there was a chance for a Rodgers to Rodgers hail mary to happen on the final play again. Lightning did not strike twice, however. Time ran out on the Packers comeback as they saw a 5th straight divisional title slip away to the Minnesota Vikings, 20-13. This is the first time since 1968 Green Bay has lost at home to all three division opponents.

As a result, Green Bay also loses the 3 seed and a home game against Minnesota in exchange for a #4-#5 matchup on the road against the Washington Redskins. The game will be played on Sunday, January 10th at 3:40 CT (FOX).

The Offensive Dark Hole Gets Darker

The stagnant offense for most of the game defines what Aaron Rodgers and his offense have been mustering up all year. Their first drive of the game saw a 15 play drive that took 8:43, ending with a field goal. It wasn’t until their ninth drive of the game to hold onto the ball longer than 2:34. That’s seven possessions of miserable offense leading to zero points.

Nothing new with the offense. Mike McCarthy abandoned the run game after an effective first drive and it took a whole two quarters for him to go back to it. The broken record continues – the wide receivers cannot win one on one matchups. This is glaringly obvious. So what’s done about it? Nothing, of course.

The offense had a plethora of chances to potentially win this game and, just as they have all year, could not close the deal.

The offense went quiet for most of the game (
The offense went quiet for most of the game (
Down 13-3 in the third, Micah Hyde recorded a phenomenal one-handed interception that set up the offense in great field position. Last week, Mike Daniels recorded an interception that put the offense in perfect scoring position. Just like last week, the ensuing drive resulted in a turnover. Rodgers is stripped and the fumble returned for a Minnesota touchdown.

Down 20-13 in the fourth, Mason Crosby makes the play of the game forcing a fumble on a huge Cordarelle Patterson kickoff return. A quick drive gives Rodgers 1st & goal with four chances from the 10 yard line to the tie game. Result? Four passes, one completion, no yards gained, a crucial wasted timeout and an interception. Aaron Rodgers is known for his efficiency in the red zone, but he has been dreadful this year. Turnovers and empty drives inside the 20 have haunted the offense as they struggle mightily finishing drives for touchdowns.

Turnovers have been a major problem for the offense in recent weeks. The Packers are a team that prides itself on taking care of the ball and winning the turnover battle. When your philosophy isn’t being upheld, winning is hard to be sustained. Green Bay knows as well as anyone how important it is to being play their best football in January and, unfortunately, that’s far from the case this year.

Hope Lies Within Defense, Run Game

While the offense limps into Washington, the defense will arrive with their backs held straight up. Another solid showing by the defense, including a Clay Matthews sighting, kept the Packers in the game the whole way. Outside of the Vikings defensive touchdown, Dom Capers’ unit allowed 13 points, 242 total yards (only 67 rushing yards to Adrian Peterson), and held Minnesota to 2-11 on third down conversions. Not to mention the five sacks and two turnovers forced.

Matthews, one sack and two tackles for loss, kept Peterson in check (
Matthews, one sack and two tackles for loss, kept Peterson in check (
Green Bay’s defense has been the shining spot in an otherwise gloomy season but will have their hands full with Washington’s offense next week. Jordan Reed, tight end for the Redskins, will be a tall task for the unit next week. Reed has been unstoppable all year, including five touchdowns in the last four games. Kirk Cousins is heating up right with him – 11 touchdowns his last three games and six straight games of 100+ passer rating. Slowing the combination of Reed-Cousins will be essential to keeping the ‘Skins out of the end zone.

At this point, there isn’t much hope for the offense. It has been 16 games and we know what to expect from Rodgers and company. The success will be reliant upon running the ball well and running the ball often. McCarthy needs to knock down the wall guarding his hubris and commit to running the football. Sorry McCarthy, as much as we all wish he was, this isn’t 2011 Rodgers. Washington is 26th against the run this year and the offense is at its best when the run game as been at its best.

If this team has anything going into the playoffs, it’s this: Green Bay is battle-tested. They have not won every battle and the wins are not always pretty, but the playoffs are a battle. Rodgers, McCarthy, and the rest of the roster have playoff experience and have faced troubled times that have tested their character. Grit is what has defined this team’s success and what will be the catalyst to a playoff run.

Everyone is betting against the Packers heading into the playoffs. Perhaps no expectations for this team are the best expectations. Green Bay knows what to expect from themselves and only their play from here on out matters. They have four games to prove they can still be the best team in the league, but it starts with the first next Sunday in Washington, D.C.

Final Stats

Total Plays – GB 75 / MIN 49

First Downs – GB 19 / MIN 14

Total Yards – GB 350 / MIN 242

Red Zone Efficiency – GB 1-4 / MIN 1-2

Turnovers – GB 2 / MIN 2