LANDOVER, Maryland — — Aaron Rodgers finished the game face down on the grass after navigating an out-of-bounds lateral on a frantic and missed final game.
That’s not exactly what the four-time NFL MVP envisioned when he returned for another season in Green Bay.
Rodgers and the offense spat, penalties piled up at the most inopportune times and the packers lost their third game in a row, 23-21 against Washington Commanders Sunday for their longest skid since 2018.
Treat a sore thumb and out of sync with receivers, Rodgers was 23 of 35 for 194 yards and the Packers went 0 of 6 on third down. Green Bay (3-4) had just 232 total rushing yards to Washington’s 364 and lost Allen Lazard to a shoulder injury, making him the third receiver on the team to fall in the first losing streak under coach Matt LaFleur.
“We just have to play better – all of us,” said Rodgers, who registered his throwing hand at halftime after sticking his thumb on a few snaps. “There are probably a number of plays in each phase that we could have done better The margin of error is so tight, a few calls don’t necessarily go our way and we don’t execute at all in attack in certain situations . …
“It’s not winning at football.”
Rodgers is right: the problems were not limited to the attack. Amari Rodgers continued his struggles returning punts missing the one that put Washington in the red zone, and the cornerback Eric Stokes was flagged for a costly illegal contact penalty that wiped out a fumble return touchdown and later for unsportsmanlike.
The negatives outweighed the few positives: a 63-yard-6 pick from Taylor Heinicke by De’Vondre Campbell and two touchdown passes from Rodgers to Aaron Jones – whose second completed a 75-yard drive helped by Washington penalties that pulled the Packers within two with 3:26 left in the fourth quarter and gave them one last chance to end the skid before falling short.
Play behind a redone offensive line without an All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, Rodgers struggled to find a rhythm, sometimes missing wide-open receivers and others putting the ball in their hands for ill-timed drops. The Packers rushed for just 38 yards.
“We didn’t handle the ball particularly well, didn’t catch it particularly well and I didn’t really move much to extend plays until that last drive,” Rodgers said.
The Packers had no third conversion for the first time since 1999 — there are 370 games with Brett Favre at quarterback and before Rodgers graduates from high school. That added to the Packers “losing to teams that we think are better than,” Jones said, and losses rarely go like this for a team used to winning.
“Our guys are extremely disappointed,” LaFleur said. “I don’t think anyone thought we would be in this place where we are right now.”
With no necessary blitz and no basic defensive scheme, Washington’s front four also played a role in burning Rodgers out and making him look more like a rookie than a four-time NFL MVP. 38 years old. Only a series of shots on goal against the Commanders (3-4) ended the match in the final minutes.
Heinicke, making his first start of the season in place of injured Carson Wentz, threw for two touchdowns and was 20 of 33 for 200 yards after starting 1 of 7 for 14 yards with the interception. One of those TD throws was a perfect pass for Terry McLaurin.
“He plays like it’s his last game every time,” McLaurin said of Heinicke. “That energy is spreading throughout this team. You just want to be able to do this game to elevate it.
Heinicke also found McLaurin for a 12-yard completion on third-and-9 just before the two-minute warning, prompting “Terry! Terry!” chants from Commanders fans outnumbered Packers supporters and helped seal the team’s second straight ugly victory.
“You can earn enough; you can win lousy,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said. “If you’re going to win lousy, who cares?”
WELCOME TO WHO?
Washington chose this as its annual “comeback game”, hosting dozens of former players who paraded through the stadium and then met with fans before the game. Among the participants: Art Monk, member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Mark Rypien, quarterback winner of the Super Bowl.
Struggling team owner Daniel Snyder was not in attendance, but his wife, Tanya, spoke at a pregame rally that included video of 90s highlights from the founding of the franchise in 1932. Curiously, during her speech to the crowd, she referred to “seven decades of fantasy football.”
She closed her remarks by referencing the club’s former nickname, which was dropped in July 2020, saying: “Hi Redskins. And let’s beat Green Bay.
Packers: LB Rashad Gary was assessed for a concussion in the second half. … Bakhtiari (knee) was inactive after being added to the injury report on Saturday. … Green Bay as also without a wide receiver Randall Cobb and reserve interior lineman Jacques Hansonwho went on injured reserve.
Commanders: Rookie TE Cole Turner suffered a concussion trying to make a catch late in the second quarter and was quickly ruled out. …Rookie WR Jahan Dotson missed a third straight game with a hamstring injury.
Packers: Visit the Buffalo Bills next Sunday night.
Commanders: Visit the Indianapolis Colts next Sunday.