Battered by more injuries, Packers get shut out again
By GENARO C. ARMAS
Dec. 24, 2017
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Battered by more injuries, the Green Bay Packers left Lambeau Field for the final time this season with a whimper.
They were shut out for the second time at home. The playoffs were already out of reach.
The Packers are trying to win while also being forced to rely on young and inexperienced players in key roles. The result was a 16-0 loss Saturday night to the rival Minnesota Vikings.
"I never felt more defeated, more embarrassed by a performance," receiver Randall Cobb said. "Yeah, we had opportunities, and we didn't connect when we did."
The Packers managed to hold a 239-236 edge in total yards. They were still blanked twice in a season for the first time since 2006.
In its defense, the team fielded a lineup that often looked like one coach Mike McCarthy might send out for a game late in the preseason. The Packers had already been eliminated from playoff contention for the first time since 2008.
Starting outside linebackers Clay Matthews (hamstring) and Nick Perry (ankle/shoulder) missed the game, along with cornerback Damarious Randall (hamstring).
Brett Hundley was 17 of 40 for 130 yards with two interceptions in taking over at quarterback again for Aaron Rodgers, who returned to injured reserve this week after missing seven games earlier in the year with a collarbone injury.
The Packers didn't have leading receiver Davante Adams, who is in the concussion protocol, and then they lost wideout Jordy Nelson and tight end Richard Rodgers to shoulder injuries in the first half. Running back Aaron Jones (knee) also exited in the second quarter.
"We had a lot of moving parts. You have to adjust. We had a lot of young guys get their first chance tonight," McCarthy said.
The hard turf at chilly Lambeau didn't help, either, as some players had trouble with their footing early in the game. With the Packers unable to connect on medium-to-long range passes, the best plays came when Hundley broke free for big gains on the run.
"We're going to fight to the end. We kept it close, but we've got to make the situations — the situational football, we have to be better at," left tackle David Bakhtiari said.
The bright spots included receiver Michael Clark, a 6-foot-6 undrafted rookie free agent who had three catches for 36 yards. But with so many options sidelined, Clark ended up getting targeted nine times, with many coming toward the end of the game.
Justin McCray filled in admirably at right tackle after Jason Spriggs (knee) got hurt on the first play from scrimmage. McCray moved over a spot after starting at guard because Jahri Evans also missed the game with a knee injury.
On defense, tackle Kenny Clark continued his late-season pass-rush surge with two sacks to give him 4 1/2 over the last four games.
These are all things for the Packers to try to build on going into the season finale next week at Detroit.
But Green Bay isn't used to having its season end so early. All the Packers can do now is take a couple of days off to celebrate the holidays before returning for one last work week.
"The game's over with. Can't do nothing about it now. Watch film, enjoy the holiday," cornerback Davon House said. "Christmas is coming up, so we've got a lot of things to be thankful for. Then go and get ready for Detroit."
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