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Packers vs. Steelers: Quick Takes from Green Bay's 38-31 Loss

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Packers vs. Steelers: Quick Takes from Green Bay's 38-31 Loss

The Green Bay Packers (7-7-1) fell behind by double digits for the sixth-straight game without Aaron Rodgers but were unable to mount their third comeback in as many weeks, thanks mostly to a jumbled mess of penalties and special teams mistakes that allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) to leave a snowy Lambeau Field with a 38-31 win.

It was over when…

…the Packers made a mockery of the final 60 seconds, running just two plays from inside the 5-yard line and committing a fatal error when both Don Barclay and T.J. Lang jumped offsides with Green Bay three feet from the goal line. Matt Flynn's final attempt fell incomplete as the fourth-quarter clock expired.

Game Balls

  • Eddie Lacy/James Starks: The Packers needed to run the football well to have a chance to win Sunday, and both Lacy and Starks provided more than enough on the ground. The two combined for 131 rushing yards and two scores on 25 carries, and Starks set up the first touchdown with a 23-yards scamper on a screen play. And given better clock management, Starks likely would have sent the game in overtime.
  • Micah Hyde: Green Bay's energetic nickel corner made six tackles, defensed a pass and nearly tied the game on a 70-yard kickoff return that gave the Packers one final chance to rally. Hyde ended with three returns of over 30 yards, marking the first time a Packers returner has accomplished that feat this season.

Key Stats

The Packers rushed for 151 yards, averaged 5.0 yards an attempt and held the football for 33:20. Green Bay became just the second team this season to rush for more than 100 yards against the Steelers and lose...Ben Roethlisberger completed just 16 passes and finished with 167 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating was 83.5...Matt Flynn threw for 232 yards on 39 attempts, with one touchdown, one interception and three sacks. His passer rating was 69.6...Lacy rushed for 84 yards and two scores, setting a new Packers rookie record for rushing yards (1,112) and extending his record for touchdowns (10). He left in the fourth quarter after re-injuring his right ankle...Steelers rookie running back Le'Veon Bell, selected before Lacy in last April's second round, rushed for a career high 124 yards. It was his first 100-yard rushing game of his career...A.J. Hawk intercepted his ninth career pass and first of the 2013 season to end the third quarter...Micah Hyde returned five kicks for 164 yards, with a long of 70. He averaged a season-best 33.4 yards per return...The Packers forced two turnovers, and now have 10 takeaways in the last four games...Green Bay had 26 first downs, went 6-for-14 on third down and ran 13 more plays (72) than Pittsburgh (59). The Steelers were 2-for-10 on third down but 2-for-2 on fourth...Pittsburgh outscored Green Bay 21-7 in the third quarter...The Packers had nine penalties for 90 yards.

Other Notes

– Even Micah Hyde's impressive day returning kicks couldn't save the performance from Shawn Slocum's special teams. Both the Packers offense and defense played well enough to win the game, but the special teams more or less lost it. Antonio Brown had a 41-yard punt return. Emmanuel Sanders returned a kick 54 yards. The Steelers executed a fake punt and got 15 more yards when Jake Stoneburner roughed the passer (or punter). Stoneburner nearly cost the Packers a possession when he muffed a short kickoff in the first half. Mason Crosby had a kick blocked and was only saved by the predictable cluelessness of NFL officials. And Nick Perry jumped offsides with Pittsburgh lining up for a field goal late, which allowed the Steelers to burn up Green Bay's last timeout and find the end zone. Not sure much more could have gone wrong for Slocum's unit Sunday.

– This Packers team without Aaron Rodgers might not be especially good, but it has certainly proven how resilient it can be. Green Bay has trailed by 10 or more points in every game Rodgers hasn't started this season. The first two ended in losses, and Thanksgiving got out of hand. But the rallies back against Minnesota, Atlanta, Dallas and now Pittsburgh have been heroic displays of dealing with adversity, which head coach Mike McCarthy consistently preaches.

– Many will blame Andrew Quarless for Matt Flynn's pick-six in the third quarter, but that blame is misplaced. The play in question was clearly a run-pass option, where Flynn has the choice to attack the one-on-one matchup outside if he deems it necessary. Quarless simply went to execute his block for the run half of the play, but Flynn's footwork let him down and the bump with Quarless caused his throw to come off all wrong. That's Flynn's fault all the way. There's more blame to be had on his late fumble, too. The conditions weren't great, and Flynn was fighting for the sticks on third down, but that's a situation where a turnover simply can't happen. Tuck the ball away and make a punt on fourth down the worst case scenario.

– Who knows if Aaron Rodgers will play next Sunday. I'd say it's unlikely. Expect the same song and dance—from Monday to Friday—to continue on next week.

– The Packers must now travel to Chicago to face the Bears in the season finale. By later tonight, we'll know if Green Bay is eliminated or if Week 17 is the NFC North championship game.

Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at zachkruse2@gmail.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (39) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

jeremy's picture

It's a disgrace the way this team is coached. I know it's a hard game, but one out of every four plays a Packers player looks like the don't know what the hell they are doing. Either they don't know the scheme, what play is being run, or the rules of the game. It's getting old. It's no wonder we haven't heard the "Availability and Accountability" idiom from McCarthy in a couple years, the press room would bust out in laughter.

Nick Perry's picture

You're absolutely right Jeremy, when is MM going to be held accountable? What was most amazing to me is the Packers managed 4 plays in 1:25 from the Pittsburgh 31. They had 43 seconds with 1st and goal from the 5! After the Starks run, a well coached team would have known we're going to spike the ball if he doesn't score. This was a perfect example why the Packers were 7-26 when trailing in 4th quarter under MM at the start of the 2013 season. I mean how can anyone continue to defend that?

Albert Lingerfeld's picture

They again did not have a timeout left either. Mike is the general here and he waste time outs like crazy trying to figure things out on the sidelines.
The Vikes had three time outs left yesterday with 4 minutes to play. Win or lose that team understands in close games you need those time outs to manage the clock. Mac uses them to thinnk what should I do.

Evan's picture

LOL

RC Packer Fan's picture

McCarthy didn't lose the game. What lost the game was Flynn's 2 TO's. Flynn gave the Steelers 14 points.

If Flynn doesn't spot them 14 points, Packers win. He made 2 crucial, can't be made turnovers. No way can he fumble the ball where they were at. Also can't throw that Pick 6. Yeah, Quarless ran into him, but he can't allow that to happen, simple don't throw the ball...

Lucky953's picture

Bingo! We have a winner!

Nick Perry's picture

LMFAO, Really??? You think 4 plays in 1:25 is good clock management? Hell Brady went the 80 yards in 1:20 against the Saints with no timeouts to score a TD & win a game. 2 plays in 43 seconds is acceptable? Excellent play calling? Obviously TO didn't help, but there's a reason that MM was 7-26 trailing in the 4th quarter and that's with Rodgers and Farve. It was on full display yesterday. Rodgers is the best QB on the planet and can't win a game in the 4th quarter. Why do you suppose that is?

jeremy's picture

More evidence in McCarthy's apparently ridiculous postgame speech. I don't know what going on with him. I wonder if McCarthy just needs a very smart assistant at his side at all times to think things through and offer advice on the things he can't take in while he has his head buried in the playsheet.

CtSharpeCheddar's picture

21-0 FLy Eagles Fly

Derek in CO's picture

Lets all assume Rodgers wont play so we don't have to debate that smoke in mirrors bull shit all week

Albert Lingerfeld's picture

Ya unfortunately what I think is really saving from is his own pourous can't block a thing O line. Rogers could have played last week but Ted ain't risking the 23 mil dollar a year man behind these guys. He would end up out for next year too.

Lucky953's picture

As I recall the "can't block a thing line" was instrumental in putting up 150 yds rushing. That's a pretty tired complaint. Flynn is slow to make his progressions and get the ball out on time.

Stroh's picture

Yes Flynn has been slow w/ his reads and getting stuck on his progressions. That didn't used to be a problem for him tho. I think given a full offseason in the Packers playbook and learning the Packers system again will make a huge difference for him. He also didn't know our new running game when he arrived.

Nerd's picture

A staff that constantly lies to us about the availability of players and never have their guys ready to show up for a full 60 minutes.

This season didn't go down the toilet, because we lost Aaron. The defense melted down, and today that was followed by the ST.

Defense gave up 350+ and 24 points to a losing team, and it's considered a GOOD performance. lol Crucial penalties too.

I'd clean house, from the athletic trainers (who continue to fail consistently, year after year) to the ST and D staff. I guess Mike gets a pass, because of the Superbowl.

Stroh's picture

Why should the Packers tell you or the other NFL teams the availability of players? You WANT them to give away a competitive advantage? WHat F'in purpose does that serve?

Start making sense... PLEASE!!!

Nerd's picture

It serves the purpose of preventing illegal gambling from having undue influence in the league.

Hence the rationale for injury reports.

joe packer's picture

heartbreaking. just heartbreaking.

The TKstinator's picture

I am starting to think that there is a slight chance that a few bad apples might over-react just a wee bit after a loss. Possibly.

Clay's picture

Thanks for some sanity TK!

phillythedane's picture

Just a bit...

pooch's picture

This game didnt matter we will be playing bears on Sunday 3:15 for Division Championship

Norman's picture

Correct, it didn't matter whether we won or lost this game.

jack in cincinnati's picture

we're still in it!!! :)

Ruppert's picture

Disgust. For 24 hours. Then it's all "win and we're in!!!" As it should be.

jack in cincinnati's picture

did anyone hear about matthews injury? i heard some bad news that i won't repeat until it's confirmed but it didn't sound good

Bearmeat's picture

If Aaron doesn't play and Eddie doesn't play and Randall doesn't play and Clay doesn't play... we're going to get embarrassed.

If only Aaron plays, it'll be close.

If all 4 play, we get to embarrass the Bares! :D

DGB454's picture

All we need is Aaron and Starks. The Bears defense looks worse than GB's.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I'm going to go ahead and assume that Rodgers, Cobb, Lacy, and Mathews won't play.
I think Lacy has the best chance of playing out of the 4.

Albert Lingerfeld's picture

I don't knock an offense that puts up 34 points. My only gripe with Flynn was, when your running you protect that ball knowing they plan to hit you hard and strip it. Why he was high and not sliding, we will never know but I do know he has a cerebral problem.

The TKstinator's picture

I think Worilds was trying to give him a cerebral problem (possibly a hemorrhage) earlier in the game.

Jameson's picture

Here's what I took away from the game.

1. As much as I want to hurl Matt Flynn against the wall (He did theoretically give the Steelers 14 easy points) I cannot expect much out of a guy who was dumped by 3 other teams including Oakland and Buffalo. He is pretty much playing to expectations. I blame this more on Mike McCarthy. His play calling is atrocious. Why are they asking Flynn to throw it 80% of the time when running it is working? I don't know if Flynn is checking out a lot of the run plays or what, but his ability to throw anything beyond 5 yards is hard to watch.

2. I'll never in a million years understand why MM doesn't give James Starks more opportunities especially with Rodgers out. It seems Starks only gets carries when Lacy is injured and that's just ridiculous. I love Lacy but Starks is awesome as well. He deserves more chances. Chances he can't seem to buy no matter what he does.

3. This team finds a new way to look bad. The special teams coverage was truly awful. I don't think Sloclum has produced one really good ST unit since he's been here. So how is he still here? Everyone is calling for Capers head. I call for Sloclum's.

4. For a team like the Packers who won't sign a free agent for $20, they have to be able to evaluate draft talent better. Raji, Hawk, Perry, Jones, Sherrod, Bulaga have all been disappointing first round picks. Now yes a few of those are injury related so it's hard to slap the "bust" label on them but even still we need production from our draft because we don't bring in free agents. And it's eye popping how poorly so many of our drafted guys are playing. If we won't dump off our poor draft choices and replace with a free agent or two we best find better scout people.

5. I watched part of the Carolina/Saints game and it's amazing to see what a play making linebacker and a dominant d-line can do for a defense. Our d-line seems to get pushed back and be rendered useless pretty quickly. And with guys like Hawk and Jones as our linebackers well enough said.

6. The Bears looks horrible last night. We'll have a chance with Cutler playing (funny I'd say we'd be pretty much toast if McCown was playing!) because that was an embarrassing display last night. With that said they are the ones who looked horrendous so they'll be hot for us to try and erase that game from their minds. We've had these "we must win" games several times this season and we seem to lie down for them. I don't see Rodgers playing though. I think that injury is worse than they are leading us all to believe and like to "tease" the other team into thinking he may play. If there is significant risk to him this week I don't see how it improves in a week to allow him to play.

Evan's picture

I agree about Starks. I love Lacy as much as the next guy, but Starks has a burst that Lacy just doesn't have - and the size to move the pile.

Not to look past next week's game, but I wonder what will happen with Starks this off-season. I'd love to see him back, but with Harris and Lacy, he'll probably find a better opportunity elsewhere.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree and disagree with your points.

I blame the loss more on Flynn then McCarthy because I don't care who it is, Can't fumble inside the 20 yard line. Also can't throw that pick 6.

I do agree that Starks deserves more opportunities to play. He has been very, very good this year. I just don't think McCarthy knows how to rotate RB's.

I agree that Carolina's defense is great, but you also have to look at where they drafted most of the players. Kuechly was the 9th overall pick. They got Star Lotulelei at 14. Packers don't usually pick that high.

Jameson's picture

I get blaming Flynn. I do too, but I guess for me I think MM's play calling is terrible considering what Flynn's strengths and weaknesses are. Personally, I don't expect much out of Flynn. He was brought in mid year. He was dumped by Oakland and Buffalo for a reason. He is what he is. I didn't expect miracles but yes Flynn has to take accountability as well. Him running into Quarless (how do you make that throw? Go down! Sheesh) and the fumble are inexcusable and not MM's fault.

But Raji was picked 9th, Hawk at 5, and Harrell at 16. So while yes we typically pick lower in the round, we've had chances to pick studs and we haven't.

cLowNEY42's picture

"Raji, Hawk, Perry, Jones, Sherrod, Bulaga".

Yuck.

How on earth is this team even competitive?

jack in cincinnati (aka jack in jersey city)'s picture

we all need to thank ted thompson for putting this team together. while i think he has made a few mistakes this year, he's done a very good job providing us with enough depth to stay competitive in a shitty division

keith carterke's picture

EI remember when most of u wanted to get rid of Starks and keep stinking Green. Starks won't be back next season because another team will pay him what he is worth. I want all defensive players picked in the draft.

Jameson's picture

I want a linebacker or two, secondary help, a KR/PR, some d-linemen, and a o-linemen.

We got LOTS of holes. I'd beg for a free agent or two but that won't happen so here's hoping we do something in the draft.

Lucky953's picture

Starks makes me nervous. I keep waiting for the ball to be stripped. He's had injuries consistently. No way he's able to produce what Lacy has on a bum ankle. Doesn't have the power of Lacy but leBeau thought they're the best 1-2 combo in the league. Still think a healthy Harris beats him out for #2. I agree the DL seems to get knocked off the ball 50% of the time, but ILB (Brad Jones is NOT the answer) and safety are the two biggest holes to fill. Daniels and Datone will continue to get better, Raji probably not. Pickett can still play, barely. Worthy is coming off a serious knee injury, so wait til next year.a. Need a tall WR with speed. OL: God only knows.

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