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Packers’ loss to Lions requires full breakdown of blame

Defense, offensive line among the main culprits

The Packers entered the national spotlight on Sept.28 to take on the visiting Lions. With both teams at 2-1, it was a high-stakes battle to take control of the NFC North. 

With star offensive weapons Aaron Jones and Christian Watson returning to the lineup, fans were optimistic that their Packers could control the game at home. 

At least, they were optimistic until the Lions throttled the Packers in the first half, coasting to a 27-3 lead. Green Bay was thoroughly dominated in every phase of the game, and, against a very conservative Lions defense in the second half, only scored enough points to make the final score look somewhat respectable. 

Everyone knows that after a game like this, someone has to take the blame. But since the entire Packers organization was embarrassed in this loss, it seems irresponsible to allow the criticism to fall on only one individual. Luckily, I’ve run the numbers through the Blame Distributor 3000 (made with advanced AI technology), and it resulted in the following allocation of fault:

DC Joe Barry – 30% of the blame

The Packers have one of the most talented defenses in the league. But coaching beats talent when talent isn’t coached well. At least, I think that’s how the saying goes. Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry’s personnel includes eight former first-round picks – the most of any defense in the NFL – and multiple All-Pros, yet it continues to underachieve. 

That’s been the case since he was hired in 2021. He spent the offseason talking about how the defense was going to be better by virtue of being more “aggressive”. Instead, they’ve been absolutely shredded, giving up 155.3 rushing yards per game. 

Their run defense ranks 30th in the NFL, and they can’t stop it even when they know it’s coming. On one of the Lions’ many trips to the red zone, Barry put only two defensive linemen on the field, and of course David Montgomery walked in for an easy touchdown – one of his three scores of the night. Barry’s scheme includes a lot of soft-coverage looks, and he continues to get torched on the ground. 

In a press conference on Monday, Barry promised improvement: “We’ve got to correct it. We will correct it. We’re exploring everything right now. When we’re in one of those games, we have to put our foot down and stop it,” he said.

Every Packers fan wants to believe that, but it sounds all too familiar to every other empty promise from Barry in the past three years.

G Royce Newman – 20% of the blame

The Blame Distributor 3000 did not sugarcoat Royce Newman’s lousy performance. The former 4th-round pick was tasked with replacing Pro-Bowl guard Elgton Jenkins, who will be out for multiple weeks with a sprained MCL. It turned out to be a total disaster.

Newman looked completely overwhelmed on pretty much every snap, earning a miserable PFF grade of 42.7, lowest on the team. Expect a new-look lineup for the offensive line next week, with Newman on the bench.

HC Matt Lafleur – 20% of the blame

Matt Lafleur could have fired Joe Barry last year. Instead, he decided to give him one more chance, citing a strong performance from the defense to close out last season. That decision looks like it will ultimately prove costly to the Packers.

In addition, the play-calling in this game was atrocious. You’d think that the Packers would be leaning into their run game with Jordan Love in his first year as a starter.

Instead, Lafleur seems to call pass plays on most of the Packers’ first downs, and Love leads the NFL’s most aggressive passing attack, per Sports Illustrated. That strategy backfired horribly in this game. Star running back Aaron Jones got only five touches; he should have gotten 30. 

Playing aggressively can work when you have the right tools to do so, but the inexperienced weapons on this team are less than ideal for that philosophy. The Packers couldn’t get anything going on offense, though that was partly due to the play of … 

The rest of the offensive line – 15% of the blame

Every time Love dropped back to throw, there was almost a 50% chance that he would be under pressure. Of the 22 times he was pressured, he was sacked five times. It wasn’t pretty. The run game, too, was stagnant, though play-calling was certainly a factor there. 

Defense and special teams – 10% of the blame

I’ve already covered the schematic issues of Barry’s defense but neglected to mention that the entire defense forgot how to tackle. The Packers missed 13 tackles on defense, their most of the season. 

The special teams also missed two tackles, and their only bright spot was that kicker Anders Carlson made both of his field goal attempts. Otherwise, it was ugly. All-Pro kick returner Keisan Nixon failed to return a kick to the 25 yard line. Four different players committed special teams penalties, including one on Quay Walker’s boneheaded decision to jump over Detroit’s linemen on a field goal attempt, just when it looked like the Packers were starting to make a comeback. 

It’s hard to pin any of the blame on him for the loss, though, because he was making plays all over the field on defense. In any case, Rich Bisaccia was supposed to fix the special teams, but it’s been a rough start to the season for that unit.

Secondary ticket market – 4% of the blame

The Packers are known for their exceptional fans, and Lambeau is notorious for being a difficult environment for visiting teams. This game, though, felt completely different. After catching a touchdown, Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown did a Lambeau leap into the arms of…Lions fans? What were they doing there? Why was there so much blue in the stands? Why was the broadcast able to pick up “Let’s go Lions” chants from the crowd?

There were so many Lions fans at the game that the Packers put out an official statement. Home-field advantage is a major factor in professional football, but Thursday’s game felt almost like a neutral environment.

Random Packers fan – 1% of the blame

When Detroit’s Amon-Ra St Brown celebrated a score with a Lambeau leap into the arms of Lions fans, a nearby Packers fan dumped his beer all over his helmet and jersey in protest. Not only is this a classless move, but it might have fired up the Lions enough to close out the half with 20 unanswered points. 

As a rule of thumb, when a fanbase disrespects a particular player, bad things usually happen. However, had the fan chosen to further intoxicate himself rather than pour the beer on St Brown, the result probably wouldn’t have been much different – a point that was obviously recognized by the Blame Distributor 3000, seeing as the fan only takes one percent of the blame for the loss. 


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