Honolulu blue and silver lining: Packers finally have chance to get healthy (with notable caveat)
Over the next 24 days, the Packers can accomplish the one goal that has eluded them this season: get healthy.
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Four days after completing one of the great comebacks in the history of Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers couldn't quite muster an encore. Though they managed to slash a 24-point deficit to just 10 with about 15 minutes left in regulation, an inexcusable special-teams gaffe late in the fourth quarter helped put the game out of reach.
The final result, a 34-20 defeat in prime time, hardly seemed in the offing at the outset. An opening-drive interception from Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff spotted the Packers great field position just minutes into the contest. However, that first Green Bay possession foreshadowed the struggles to come. The offense lasted just three plays and netted no yardage while quarterback Jordan Love took the first sack of the night.
The series culminated in a field goal, the only points the Packers would produce until the third quarter. Heading into halftime, the offense accounted for just 32 yards and three first downs, two of which came off Detroit penalties.
"We got our ass kicked," a visibly irritated Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur said when asked what caused the first-half struggles. "If I knew, it wouldn't have happened."
After playing behind mostly stellar protection this season, Love had a considerably different experience on Thursday. The Lions' defensive front bested the Packers' offensive line throughout the game, finishing with 11 quarterback hits and five sacks. Love had only taken three sacks total heading into the week.
The noticeable uptick in pressure doesn't come as a total surprise given the current state of the Packers' offensive line. After opening the regular season with an enviable and experienced group up front, injuries have decimated the pass protection. All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, who hasn't played since the opener, landed on injured reserve before the game. Left guard Elgton Jenkins hasn't so much as practiced since spraining his knee midway through Week 2's matchup with the Atlanta Falcons. On the other side of the line, tackle Zach Tom battled through a knee injury suffered a week ago while guard Jon Runyan Jr. tweaked his ankle during Thursday's tilt.
"It is what it is. I don't think anybody's feeling sorry for us," LaFleur said of the undermanned O-line. "We got to get better. We got to look at what we're asking our guys to do. Everything wasn't good enough. The plan wasn't good enough. That was humiliating being down 27-3 or whatever it was at the half."
Thursday night will sting the Packers for some time. The loss puts them at a clear disadvantage in the NFC North race, especially given their next showdown with the Lions takes place at Ford Field. This also marks the second time in two weeks Green Bay has come out flat to open a game, a concerning development for a young roster learning how to win consistently in the NFL. The team will have to sit with this defeat for 11 days before it takes the field again for a road matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Still, a golden opportunity lies ahead for the Packers. Between extra rest days following a Thursday night game and their upcoming bye, they play just once over the next 24 days and not again before Monday, Oct. 2. During this period, they can accomplish the one goal that has eluded them this season: get healthy.