The Green Bay Packers (13-1) lost for the first time in 364 days—a stretch of 20 games—as the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off the upset of the season Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, 19-14.
Five observations from the Packers’ first taste of defeat since Week 15 of last season:
1. Playing perfect to end perfection
I said before the game that Kyle Orton would have to play a perfect game for the Chiefs to have a chance. He was about as close to perfect as you could ask for on Sunday, completing 23-of-31 passes for 299 yards. The key stat, however? Zero turnovers. Orton made all the easy throws and avoided that one game-changing giveaway.
The Chiefs offense did a fine job of hurting the Packers in the screen game early then picked apart the Packers’ zone after Dom Capers was forced to adjust. But even with the Chiefs’ offense rolling, there was anticipation for a turnover from the defense that could turn around the game. It never came. With the Packers offense struggling for the first time all season, not getting that one momentum-shifter was huge.
2. Dropping the rhythm
The issues on offense went deeper than just drops, but it was painfully obvious how those missed opportunities in the first half stymied the rhythm of the Packers’ offense. Jermichael Finley saw a couple of easy ones go right through the hands, but he also had a handful of opportunities to make game-changing catches, which admittedly were tough plays, and couldn’t convert. Aaron Rodgers called the drops a “physical mistake” after the game, but it’s mental for Finley. He’s clearly pressing, and dropping the first ball that came to him Sunday only snowballed the mistakes.
He wasn’t alone, as Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson also dropped balls which they normally catch. If those plays are made, the Packers likely score enough points to win. Greg Jennings wasn’t the one dropping those passes, either. His impact was felt in the offense, but not having him on the field had absolutely nothing with the inexcusable drops.
3. Man down
The Packers’ already aching offensive line saw both Bryan Bulaga and Derek Sherrod suffer injuries. Bulaga left in the first half but seemed fine on the sidelines after returning from the locker room. McCarthy labeled his injury as a “knee sprain,” which again, can mean a number of things. Bulaga will have a MRI later today. Sherrod suffered a major injury, which McCarthy confirmed as a broken leg, and won’t be playing football anytime soon.
The Packers were then forced to shift left guard T.J. Lang to right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith to Lang’s spot. On the very first pass play following the change, Dietrich-Smith was beaten badly for a sack on third down. With Chad Clifton’s status for 2011 still in the air, getting back Bulaga is of utmost importance. I don’t think the Packers can win the Super Bowl with Bulaga and Clifton missing the rest of the season.
4. No fluke
This was no fluke win for the Chiefs. Green Bay was outplayed on both sides of the ball for 60 minutes. While the Packers briefly led in the third quarter, the Chiefs had complete control. It was a flat performance across the board. Rodgers wasn’t razor sharp, the receivers lacked focus, the offensive line was beaten several times in pass protection and the defense couldn’t get off the field until the Chiefs were in the red zone. The Chiefs held the football for over 37 minutes, too. If Kansas City was just more efficient inside the Packers’ 20-yard-line, this could have been a blowout.
5. What’s next?
Was this a “good” loss? Maybe. No loss is ever encouraged, but it’s better to work through a game like Sunday in Week 15 rather than the playoffs. Rebounding in the final couple of weeks would be nice, but will the Packers push the envelope if they have home-field advantage locked up? The injuries along the offensive line are especially concerning, and the 49ers have two chances to lose a game before the Packers play the Chicago Bears on Christmas night. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if McCarthy plays it safe now that history is out the window.
There will be questions about several decisions from McCarthy. A third-and-one run with John Kuhn lacked imagination, no challenge was asked for after Leonard Pope appeared to fumble a long pass play out of the back of the end zone and some wondered why the Packers went for an onside kick with three timeouts remaining…Rodgers broke Brett Favre’s record for touchdown passes in a season when he connected with Driver in the third quarter for his 40th score…Mason Crosby missed a 59-yard field goal in the first half, then missed again after the Chiefs were called for 12 men on the field. That was the closest the Packers came to scoring during the first 30 minutes.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2