DETROIT—Four days ago, the Packers were at a loss for words to explain exactly how to process a tie.
On Thanksgiving Day, they were at a loss to explain pretty much anything, except in the simplest of terms.
“It kind of ruins the holiday,” offensive lineman T.J. Lang said following a 40-10 rout by the Lions at Ford Field. “I really don’t know, man.”
The defeat comes close to putting the Packers’ season on life support, and it was a thorough beating on both sides of the ball. Almost historic, actually.
The defense allowed 561 total yards, challenging the 579 surrendered in the season-ending playoff loss at San Francisco in January.
Less than a week after giving up 232 rushing yards to the Vikings, the Packers gave up 241 to the Lions as Reggie Bush (20 carries, 117 yards) topped 100 and Joique Bell (19-94) nearly did.
“If we had the answers, we wouldn’t be in this situation,” linebacker Clay Matthews said. “It’s difficult to put into words, but we are where we are.”
As crazy as it sounds, the defensive numbers would have looked worse if not for four takeaways, one of which gave the Packers their only touchdown.
Even the return of injured players Sam Shields, Johnny Jolly and Nick Perry couldn’t help the defense. Shields got an interception on a deep ball to Calvin Johnson but otherwise struggled to keep up with the all-world receiver on slants and other routes as he caught six passes for 101 yards and a TD.
“We have to get this fixed,” linebacker Brad Jones said. “We have to.”
“We got a couple splash plays, but it was hard to stay on track today. It’s a weird feeling. I don’t know. I don’t know why we couldn’t stay on track.”
Meanwhile, the offense never got on track.
Following Perry’s strip-sack of Detroit QB Matthew Stafford and Morgan Burnett’s recovery for a touchdown gave the Packers a 10-3 lead, the offense went five consecutive possessions without gaining a first down.
There were four three-and-outs, followed by a strip-sack of QB Matt Flynn on first down as the Lions never surrendered momentum.
Missing Aaron Rodgers for the fourth straight start, the Packers offense hadn’t looked this bad previously. Flynn was sacked seven times and the ground game produced a paltry 1.6 yards per carry (15 rushes, 24 yards).
“Probably the worst (expletive) offensive day in the history of the (expletive) Packers,” Lang said. “It was just bad.”
It was almost the worst of the Mike McCarthy era statistically. Only a 56-yard reception by James Jones on the Packers’ final possession – a drive that fittingly ended with a fumbled snap – pushed the offense beyond the 120 yards it gained back in 2006 in a 35-0 shutout at the hands of New England in McCarthy’s rookie season as coach.
Jones’ catch allowed the Packers to beat that Patriots game by a whole six yards, finishing with 126.
“Whether you’re missing the MVP quarterback or not, you’ve got too many good players in the huddle to go out and perform like that,” said Jones, who finished with three catches for 79 yards. “It hurts, man. It’s sickening. That’s not us.”
What the Packers are is winless without Rodgers (0-4-1). Their star QB returned to practice this past week and could be on track to return for the final four games of the regular season.
Can he pull the Packers out of this malaise?
“I don’t know. We’ll find out,” Matthews said. “But giving up that many points isn’t going to help us no matter how many points he puts up.”
After getting help the past two weeks from other teams that beat the Lions, who are now 7-5, the Packers at 5-6-1 and below .500 this late in the season for the first time in five years will need more help now.
The path to the NFC North title will require the Packers to win their remaining four games while the Lions lose twice and the Bears (6-5) lose once before their Week 17 matchup with Green Bay.
“We still have a lot to prove,” Perry said. “The season isn’t over.”
But it’s close. That is easy to explain.
“Any loss is hard, but when you go out there and perform like that on a stage like this, knowing that possibly first place is on the line, it’s unacceptable,” James Jones said. “I don’t have answers for you guys. Nobody did their job today, nobody.”
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