DETROIT – The Green Bay Packers finished their season with a 7-9 record after falling to the Detroit Lions 35-11 on Sunday afternoon at Ford Field.
Seventeen last hits for the 17-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Randall Cobb in the final quarter of the season’s final game.
1. .This season didn’t go as planned for the Packers. When one of the NFL’s most important players goes down with an injury missing seven games in the middle of the season, things typically don’t go as previously expected.
2. The absence of quarterback Aaron Rodgers did just that for Green Bay. The Packers went from a team that was a Super Bowl contender to one that finished with a 7-9 record on the outside looking in at the playoffs.
3. When Rodgers left the field with his broken right collarbone on October 15th against the Vikings the reins were handed over to Brett Hundley at quarterback. Hundley went 3-4 in the stretch of games Rodgers originally missed. Those three wins came against opponents that will finish the season with a combined record of either 9-39 or 10-38 on the season (as of this writing, Tampa Bay has yet to complete their Week 17 game against the New Orleans Saints). The wins against the Buccaneers and Browns came in overtime.
4. To pin missing the season entirely on Hundley would be silly. While his play is certainly spotlighted because of the stark difference between he and Rodgers, the blame isn’t all his. Rodgers missing time this year showed that Green Bay’s roster has many holes that have been masked by the skill of Rodgers.
5. Those holes primarily fall on the defensive side of the ball. That was on display again as the Packers allowed 35 points to a Detroit Lions squad that finishes the year at 9-7 as rumors fly about whether or not they will fire their head coach, Jim Caldwell. This isn’t a piece being written to try and show how the Packers need to be fixed, but rather show that it does need to happen.
6. Hundley finished the day with 172 yards passing, a pair of interceptions, and a touchdown. One of the picks seemed to be a miscommunication with Geronimo Allison, and the other one was a pass intended for Jamaal Williams thrown behind him. The pass bounced off the hands of Williams into the waiting arms of Detroit linebacker Jarrad Davis.
7. Hundley did not finish the game, as Joe Callahan saw his first NFL regular season action for the final drive of the game. He completed 5-of-7 passes attempted for 11 yards in mop-up duty. Callahan’s appearance was one that doesn’t teach the world much about him. Allowing him to play extended action in a meaningless game may have been wise.
8. The reasoning for playing Callahan over Hundley would have been to see if he has what it takes to be the backup quarterback of this team. Over the past few months, if the Packers have learned one thing, it should be that if something were to happen to Rodgers again next season, they’re not in a position to be competitive with Hundley.
9. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford finished the day 20/29 passing for 323 yards and three touchdowns. He had receivers open down the field all day, and missed out on plenty more yards with errant throws. Green Bay’s defensive backfield had no answer for him.
10. Three Detroit wide receivers, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., and Kenny Golladay had 80 or more receiving yards on the day. All three of them found the end zone and had a catch of 50 yards or more, as well.
11. Offensively, the Lions only rushed for 51 yards on 23 carries, but with a defensive backfield as weak as the one the Packers boasted, a successful ground attack isn’t necessary.
12. There’s a different feeling around the team as they failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Many of the men in that locker room have never seen the season end before the calendar changes over to a new year.
13. “A lot of us have never experienced this feeling of not making the playoffs,” Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. “We’ve experienced the feeling of not making the Super Bowl but it’s a little different because you end on a high note, okay, you’ve got the Divisional Round, Wild Card, NFC Championship, but when you don’t make the playoffs it stings a little bit longer. It stings harder. It’s definitely a tougher feeling that you have to learn from.”
14. “Obviously, I’m disappointed on the way it went,” said linebacker Clay Matthews on the season. “I don’t think anyone anticipates, at least in this locker room and this organization, not making the playoffs and not playing for the Super Bowl. It’s just the standard we’ve set.”
15. Questions surround the Packers moving forward into the offseason. There was a report out late Saturday night that the Packers would be parting ways with defensive coordinator Dom Capers. A season like this raises questions like that one, including whether or not Ted Thompson should still be the man in charge in Green Bay.
16. Time will tell on all of the questions surrounding the Packers. They have plenty of time to answer them with their next meaningful game not until September of 2018. Until then, 2017 will be looked back at as a wasted year in the middle of the career of one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game of football.
17. If the Packers answer all of their offseason questions correctly, there’s very little doubt that they’ll be contenders for the Super Bowl next season. Even if they don’t, a healthy Rodgers at quarterback has proven to be a magic elixir before, and it may be once again.