KANSAS CITY – All season long, the Green Bay Packers had come up with big plays on offense and turnovers on defense, often at the most opportune times, in winning every game.
That formula deserted them on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
On offense, the Packers had just one pass play gain more than 16 yards through three quarters, while on defense there was nary a turnover for the first time all season in a 19-14 loss to the Chiefs that snapped the team’s 19-game winning streak.
The offense was missing star wideout Greg Jennings, who is out with a knee injury, but the rest of the receiving corps was disappointed in its play. There were a handful of dropped passes in the first half, and the Chiefs seemed to feed off the miscues, continually challenging the Packers with press coverage at the line of scrimmage that the receivers couldn’t beat.
The offense gained a season-low 315 yards, which included season lows from quarterback Aaron Rodgers in passing yardage (235) and passer rating (80.1).
“Greg is a big-time receiver for this offense and we all feed off each other. To lose a guy that’s done the things he’s done in this game, that’s huge,” receiver James Jones said. “But at the same time we’ve lost guys before and stepped up and made plays. Today, we all didn’t step up to the plate.”
The Packers only pass play longer than 16 yards through the first three quarters, a 41-yard grab by tight end Jermichael Finley, set up a touchdown early in the third quarter.
Finley had been shut out in the first half, as had Jordy Nelson, who didn’t catch a pass until the fourth quarter, a 22-yarder over the middle. The only other “big plays” were a 22-yard catch-and-run on a dump-off pass to Ryan Grant in the third and a 33-yard catch by Finley in the fourth.
“We didn’t do what we needed to do on offense to get into a rhythm,” Nelson said.
With the playoffs still ahead, future opponents will certainly take note. The Packers hadn’t been held under 24 points all season until Sunday, and the most frustrating part is that 24 points would have still been enough to win.
“It’s a copycat league,” Finley said. “They’re going to watch this film and see what Kansas (City) did with us and try to execute the same plan.”
The Packers’ plan all season on defense had been to get turnovers and make key stops late in games, but neither happened.
New Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton was an efficient 23 of 31 for 299 yards and a 104.1 rating, and he never threw a ball that was in danger of getting picked. The Chiefs also ran the ball 39 times and hung onto it all day.
“We talked about it on the sideline. We kept saying, ‘We need to get a turnover, we need to get a turnover,’” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “But I don’t think the opportunity was there.
“Kyle did an excellent job of controlling the ball, making good throws, and he didn’t present an opportunity for us to get a turnover. We tried to go out and make one happen, but it just didn’t happen.”
A game-on-the-line stop didn’t happen, either. The Packers made two goal-line stands in the first half, forcing a field goal on the game’s opening possession and stuffing the Chiefs on fourth-and-short inside the 5-yard line for a turnover on downs.
With the game in the balance, though, the Chiefs drove 66 yards for a touchdown and a 19-7 lead with 4:53 left. The Packers didn’t even give themselves a realistic chance for the stop, as the only time Kansas City faced third down was on the touchdown play – third-and-goal from the 1, which Jackie Battle took in easily.
“We made big stops (early), but when you looked up, the first quarter was over, then the second quarter was over,” Williams said. “They were taking a lot of time off the clock, and we just couldn’t get off the field and we just couldn’t get going as a team. Kansas City executed a great plan.”
That plan produced a better than 12-minute advantage in time of possession (36:11 to 23:49), and it helped the Chiefs burn the final 2:04 on the clock by running for two first downs when the Packers, who had cut the deficit to five points, had all three of their timeouts plus the two-minute warning.
“With the extra timeout, I thought we were going to stop them, get the ball back, and Aaron was going to do what he does,” defensive lineman B.J. Raji said. Obviously, we didn’t hold up on our end and we didn’t have the opportunity to get that done.”
Again, the Chiefs didn’t even face third down on that final drive, rushing for six, seven, four and 15 yards on four straight plays. Thomas Jones carried the first two, Battle the last two.
“Their backs were running hard, they played inspired football and they earned it,” Raji said. “Sometimes the other team earns it on you.”
All of which kept the Packers from earning the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed and home-field advantage, for now. One more win will still do that, or a loss by San Francisco, which plays Pittsburgh on Monday night.
The bigger loss, of course, was the chance to go undefeated in pursuit of another title. All that talk will dissipate for now as the focus remains on the only goal left, a second straight Super Bowl.
“That’s what we’re chasing,” Jones said. “We weren’t chasing undefeated. If it happened on the way, it happened, but we’re chasing another Super Bowl, and we’ve still got all of that in front of us.
“We want a Super Bowl ring. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.” Additional coverage - Dec. 18