LANDOVER, Md. – The last two weeks, the games have gotten away from the Packers early.
This one got away from them late.
Either way, a loss is a loss, and this one ended 42-24 at Washington’s FedExField on Sunday night.
“We’re just not putting it together for 60 minutes,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.
The defeat was the Packers’ fourth straight, dropping them to 4-6 and two games behind co-leaders Minnesota and Detroit in the NFC North.
One of those two will be 7-4 after they play one another on Thanksgiving Day, so the division is steadily slipping out of sight for Green Bay.
“Obviously coming in here we knew we needed this game,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “Our back’s up against it.”
After a slow start, this one turned into a bit of a shootout on a cold and windy night in the nation’s capital.
Three touchdowns were scored within the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, two by James Starks and Jared Cook for the Packers, and one by Washington’s Pierre Garcon on a 70-yard bomb.
With the Packers trailing 29-24, though, the defense couldn’t get the ball back to the offense with the deficit just one score. Washington continued to gash the Green Bay defense with big plays, adding two more TDs to pull away.
“On defense, we didn’t stop them,” McCarthy said. “Our pass defense didn’t get off the field. It was touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, field goal there in the second half. I think that tells the story.”
The field goal came first, but the picture was still clear. In the second half alone, the Packers gave up four plays of 44 yards or more, two for TD passes (44, 70) plus another pass (53) and run (66) that got inside the 5-yard line to set up two more touchdowns.
“Give the Redskins a lot of credit,” McCarthy said. “Kirk Cousins threw the ball on time pretty much most of the night.
“It starts with the pass rush. We have to get the quarterback off the spot. We gave up way too many big plays.”
The Packers’ defense didn’t benefit much from linebacker Clay Matthews’ return from injury, as Cousins finished 21-of-30 for 375 yards with three touchdowns and an impressive 145.8 passer rating, the third time in the four-game losing streak the opposing QB has put up a sparkling rating.
Whether it was defensive backs getting beat one-on-one or blitzes creating bad matchups, Cousins was cruising and finding whoever he wanted to. No one was spared a bad play in the secondary.
Receivers Garcon (six catches, 116 yards) and Jamison Crowder (3-102) both topped 100 yards and scored TDs, while rookie running back Rob Kelley got over 100 yards with the late 66-yard run. He ended with 24 carries for 137 yards and three scores.
A pair of third-down penalties – a roughing the passer on lineman Mike Daniels and a pass interference on linebacker Blake Martinez – extended second-half drives that produced points.
“We’re not good enough to have penalties on third down,” McCarthy said. “We didn’t get off the field on third down.”
The Redskins were 9-of-14 on third down in the game while also converting a huge fourth-and-short in the fourth quarter. They rolled up 515 total yards, including 233 on the four big plays alone in the second half.
The Packers also lost cornerback Demetri Goodson and Martinez to knee injuries during the game, while safety Kentrell Brice (back) left late. On offense, right guard Don Barclay (shoulder) sat out the second half.
“We didn’t handle the injuries very well,” McCarthy said. “It’s tough, but it’s part of the game. We need to do a better job when guys get in there and step up.”
Rodgers tried to match Cousins after going three-and-out on Green Bay’s first three possessions. He got rolling with the help of Cook’s return from injury, as Cook had six catches for 105 yards and a TD, but a fourth-quarter fumble ended his strong night in rough fashion.
“To get going early would have helped our defense out,” said Rodgers, who finished 26-of-41 for 351 yards and three TDs for a 115.4 rating. “We have to find a way to get that rhythm starting the game and get off to a better start.”
Whether the Packers can stay in the division race or not, they still have to find a way to turn things around. Another prime-time road game in Philadelphia next Monday is no easy assignment, but nothing is for Green Bay right now.
“The challenge is to beat Philadelphia,” McCarthy said. “It’s important for everybody to check their mailbox and do what they need to do to improve.”
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