3 Takeaways from Packers' Week 11 Loss
Sunday proved to be a disaster of a day for the Green Bay Packers. They came into Week 11 with a claim to the No. 1 seed in the NFC thanks to a Week 8 head-to-head win over the Arizona Cardinals. However, the Cardinals picked up yet another win with Colt McCoy at quarterback, while the Packers fell to the NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings.
Green Bay made a valiant comeback effort. After falling behind 23-10 in the third quarter, the Packers stormed back to tie the game at 31 late in the fourth. However, a weathered and winded defense couldn't stop Kirk Cousins and Co. from getting into position for the go-ahead field goal.
The loss is a bitter one for the Packers because the Cardinals are showing few signs of slowing down. They now have a one-game lead over Green Bay in the standings and should have star quarterback Kyler Murray (ankle) on the field in the foreseeable future. With only one team getting a bye in each conference, it was important for the Packers to keep pace with the Cardinals—that head-to-head win being a tiebreaker.
The Packers can only control what they do, and on Sunday, they didn't do enough. Here are our three biggest takeaways from Green Bay's 34-31 loss in Week 11.
The Packers Aren't Good Enough to Afford Sloppy Football
The Packers are still a Super Bowl-caliber team, and Sunday's loss doesn't change that. It's worth noting too, that Green Bay played with less than a full roster. Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith remain sidelined, while pass-rusher Rashan Gary (elbow) and running back Aaron Jones (knee) both missed Sunday's game.
However, Green Bay had opportunities to win. The Vikings have repeatedly blown leads this season, and it looked like they might do so again. But Green Bay made numerous mistakes throughout the game that ultimately cost them.
Notably, the Packers were penalized eight times for 92 yards. They only gifted Minnesota two first downs via penalty, but they repeatedly hurt themselves in the field-position battle. Kicker Mason Crosby missed yet another field goal—a 32-yard attempt in the second quarter—while the defense allowed the Vikings to convert nine of 13 third-down attempts.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was special, throwing for 385 yards and four touchdowns, and Green Bay still has the makings of a stellar team. However, it isn't good enough to overcome multiple miscues against a quality opponent.
The Packers will need to clean things up ahead of Week 12's game against the Los Angeles Rams.
It May Be Time to Think About Auditioning Kickers
Changing kickers midseason is a dicey proposition, as reliable ones aren't just sitting there, waiting to be signed. However, the Packers have to at least consider their options following another critical miss by Crosby.
He cannot take all of the blame, as kicking is a team process. However, the 37-year-old vowed to be a part of the solution heading into Sunday's game.
"I'm going to always take ultimate responsibility for what happens out there on the field," Crosby said, per Ryan Wood of Packers News. "We're always going to fine-tune it and work on it and make sure we get whatever we need to fix right."
Only, the Packers didn't get it fixed, and Crosby's miss proved to be a difference-maker. He had a miss and a blocked kick in the Week 9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and has now missed nine kicks (eight field goals) on the season. His field-goal percentage of 65.2 is his lowest since the 2012 campaign.
The Packers will most likely stick by their longtime special teams ace, but it's time to at least consider what other options might be available.
Green Bay Needs to Maintain Balance on Offense
Sunday's game showed that a good Packers defense—one ranked fifth in points allowed—can be vulnerable when it's frequently on the field. Injuries played a role, to be sure, but the fact that Green Bay surrendered 408 yards and 34 points is concerning.
The reality is that the defense is banged-up, and the Packers would be wise to give it rest with a balanced ball-control offense. That wasn't much of an option Sunday, as the team fell behind by double digits, but it should be a focal point moving forward.
The running game was efficient even without Jones. AJ Dillon rushed for 53 yards on only 11 carries, while the Packers averaged 5.0 yards per rush as a team. However, they also ran the ball only 19 times while throwing it on 33 occasions.
This allowed the Vikings to hold a two-minute advantage in time of possession while running 12 more offensive plays than the Packers. When Minnesota got the ball with a little more than two minutes remaining in regulation, the Packers defense was gassed. The Vikings drove 64 yards in eight plays and put the proverbial nail in the coffin with a 29-yard Greg Joseph kick.
Rodgers is great—as is wideout Davante Adams, who racked up 115 yards and two scores on seven receptions—but the Packers as a whole are much better when they have balance on offense.