This is not a team in crisis. No really, it’s not. If you look around the internet, you’d think the Green Bay Packers was holding up the NFC North basement. It’s laughable, I know. After all, the team is one of only a handful that is still undefeated heading into week six.
Repeat after me: There are no style points in football.
This isn’t fantasy football where commissioners (not including yours truly) tack on extra points for arbitrary benchmark above and beyonds. No, touchdowns are still worth six points, a field goal is worth three and an extra point is still worth only one.
So quarterback Aaron Rodgers did not have a stellar day. But let’s be realistic, the streak of no interceptions was eventually going to come to an end. He is, after all, still human. He sorts glass from plastic like the rest of us.
There’s no question the offense stuttered this past Sunday, but they didn’t roll over and play dead. They still managed to put points on the board and didn’t collapse from their own inertia.
The growing mountain of injuries isn’t helping matters. Thankfully, the bye week is right around the corner, and will give the Packers the time to heal and regroup. That said, there is definitely room for improvement.
We have become accustomed (read: spoiled) when it comes to an Aaron Rodgers offense, so an off week or two still gives us all pause. Are they crushing teams by a three to four touchdowns like they did at home last year? No, but the team has the benefit of a stout defense this year that is preventing teams from even knocking on the door as a threat. In years past, that Capers defense could only hold the opposing team’s offensive flood back while it sprung leaks left and right. The offense needed a larger cushion because the defense couldn’t put it together for 60 full minutes.
Yet when we look at the current offense, two things stand out after last week. First, the line is battered and the pocket is collapsing a little faster than is desired. Sure, right tackle Bryan Bulaga returned fairly quickly after injuring his knee. I highly doubt he was playing at 100%. And let’s face it, Don Barclay is not a reasonable facsimile to Bulaga. He clearly struggled while trying to fill in at tackle.
Couple that with Lang ducking out early last week with a right knee injury, and the entire right side of the offensive line was not stable. Barclay replaced Lang initially, but was later replaced by second year veteran Josh Walker. The line was weak, and the Rams formidable defense exploited it.
That’s one of the reasons the running game fizzled out, and Rodgers was the leading rusher last week. The line simply failed at the run block. Without the ground game, the offense suddenly became fairly 2-dimensional; it comes down to Aaron Rodgers’s arm. And if that fails, he’ll take off running.
Usually, the aerial game is enough to make up for a poor ground attack. But this past week, the receiving corps was bare bones. Without Jordy Nelson, that deep threat is no longer there. Defenses tend to then double team Randall Cobb and have done a fairly good job neutralizing him. Couple that with his still-healing shoulder, and the Rams’ defense did a pretty good job taking him out of the picture for most of last week’s game.
Losing Davante Adams didn’t help matters. While he is only a second year veteran receiver, he has already earned both Rodgers’ trust and admiration. His absence was clearly felt and underscored after last week’s game when Rodgers pointed out, “…Davante Adams, I think, is a Pro Bowl caliber player and without him and without Jordy (Nelson) we need to find some other ways to attack the outside stuff and still be effective inside.”
It’s a bit of a Captain Obvious statement, but Rodgers does have a point there. It’s harder to make a play when your choices of reliable targets are greatly diminished.
Meanwhile Ty Montgomery is still very much a rookie. Even after he ran a sloppy route and zigged when Rodgers clearly zagged on a pass, he managed to come through with another score and leap into the waiting stands. His mistakes are teachable, and the rookie mistakes will hopefully diminish as the season progresses. Rodgers has high expectations for his receivers. He hasn’t given up on Montgomery, and perhaps he is the one player that will benefit most from the receivers and quarterbacks meeting jointly to break down film and game plan. He seems to take feedback well and improves weekly.
That left James Jones as the Old Faithful target. Thankfully all he does is catch touchdowns. He has remained a constant for Rodgers and reinforces the importance of his return to the receiving corps every time he takes the field. Rodgers trusts him and knows more often than not that a pass lobbed in Jones’ direction will land in the receiver’s waiting hands. When options are few, expect Jones to be the go-to receiver Rodgers will look for when it hits the proverbial fan.
Thankfully Adams and Lang returned to practice as of today. That anemic offense just got a nice boost. Expect the run and the passing games to improve with the return of both of these players.
To quote the great philosopher AC Rodgers, relax. The team is still undefeated. The Packers have managed to shove the Seattle and San Francisco monkeys off their backs. They have defeated a formidable St. Louis defense and are still on top of the division.
Every team stumbles from time to time.
Just chill out, people. The bye week is coming and the team is not as banged up and limping as you think.--------------