The Green Bay Packers lost their final regular season game of the 2021 season 37-30 in Detroit. Here are some thoughts on where the team stands heading into their playoff bye week
1. No big injuries
We’ll have to see what the deal with WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling and CB Chandon Sullivan’s injuries are. However, it appears the Green Bay Packers escaped from their Week 18 game with minimal new injuries outside of those two.
This is a huge development given the week-long angst over the team making it clearly stated they intended to play their starters. It’s nice to see the team got out of Detroit with no major losses.
That said, MVS and Sullivan are key contributors, so their status must be monitored. The offense has much more room to maneuver when MVS is on the field, his deep speed forcing defenses to stay in two-high shell.
And Sullivan, while embattled and struggling too often this season, is a seasoned 2-year starter at the Nickel position.
We’ll see what Head Coach Matt LaFleur lets on in his Monday Presser tomorrow around 2:30pm CST.
2. Returning OL starters look good
For over a month, Green Bay Packers fans have pined for updates on LT David Bakhtiari’s status and return. Bakhtiari made his return to the field on Sunday, starting a game for the first time in 379 days.
Bakhtiari looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, playing blindside protector like he was never gone. Bakhtiari did leave in the middle of the team’s 4th drive after playing 28 snaps, but it was his decision to come out as he felt winded.
Bakhtiari’s day was done, but fans shouldn’t be overly concerned. Expecting Bakhtiari to play a full game with no ramp-up period was extremely presumptuous. Coach LaFleur said tomorrow is the key day as the team will see how Bakhtiari’s body responds to the game reps.
Bakhtiari showed his usual chipper attitude postgame, stating he got closer to Dr McKenzie than he ever intended. He also stated in his postgame presser that it was QB Aaron Rodgers who pushed for Bakhtiari to be back out there with him.
“Long, long journey. I was tough. So happy to see the other side.” pic.twitter.com/JWijbsWIQt
— Bill Huber (@BillHuberSI) January 9, 2022
Bakhtiari wasn’t the only returning starter the Green Bay Packers got back on Sunday. C Josh Myers made his return from the IR list after undergoing knee surgery after the Week 6 Chicago game. His return was a welcome sight for fans.
Myers’ return allowed the Green Bay Packers to re-shuffle their starting offensive line, going left to right with Bakhtiari-Runyan Jr-Myers-Patrick-Kelly. Myers provided a much-needed boost in the run game, as his size and strength allow him to get better push on the interior than Lucas Patrick had gotten starting in Myers’ steed.
Myers will also be checked out by the medical staff tomorrow after he played a half on Sunday. That was an impressive effort by Myers to play as well as he did for as long as he did after missing 10 games.
3. Solid Special Teams
For the second straight week, the Green Bay Packers got solid play from their Special Teams unit. The only blemishes on the day were K Mason Crosby leaving a kick wide right on a PAT and rookie WR Amari Rodgers bringing out the kickoff ahead of the Packers’ final drive instead of preserving the clock.
Otherwise, the unit had a clean day, being called for no penalties, showing strong lane integrity in their coverage units, and Rodgers did have a couple of good returns, including his lone punt return that went for 23 yards, eclipsing WR David Moore’s long of 21 last week for the team’s long return on the season.
For the Green Bay Packers to get to the Super Bowl, they just need this level of Special Teams play through the playoffs. What at some points this season seemed unattainable and almost laughable to suggest now highly realistic.
Crosby was straight down the middle on his final two kicks of the day, a good sign his missed PAT was an outlier.
4. Defense on Cruise Control
The Green Bay Packers defense, on the other hand, resembled the undisciplined, leaky unit that allowed four straight opponents to score 28 or more points from weeks 11-15. The unit missed tackles, got lackadaisical in coverage, and did not maintain contain on two separate trick plays by Detroit.
Yes, this game didn’t matter for the Green Bay Packers and yes, the Detroit Lions play hard for their coach. But what you don’t want to see from the Packers heading into the playoffs is poor fundamentals.
Last week against Minnesota was really the only game that side of the ball showed any semblance of the unit that shutdown 3 high-powered offenses in a row from weeks 8-10.
The unit was missing its stalwart in the middle, LB De’Vondre Campbell, who was sitting with an elbow injury. That said, it’s inexcusable for this unit to have so many mental errors this late in the season.
Hopefully, this is partly the result of mental fatigue and the team will perform better when they come out of the bye after getting a week off to rest and recoup. Also, the unit should get All-Pro CB Jaire Alexander back as well.