A popular argument on my Twitter timeline following the Green Bay Packers’ 37-29 loss to the Carolina Panthers was who should get more blame the offense or the defense, not surprisingly since sports fans are always looking for somebody to blame.
The offense was brutal in the first half, horrible on third downs yet again and either lost yardage or gained zero yards on 13 first-down plays. However, they did end up with 29 points against a great defense on the road, how ever it is that they did it. Defensively, the Packers were horrible in the first half and allowed the Panthers to pile up the points and yards despite shaky accuracy from Cam Newton. The bright side was they only allowed 10 points in the second half to keep the Packers in striking distance. So, really the answer to the blame question is what it usually is — but is the boring answer to say, so people trying to give hot takes won’t say it — it’s on everyone.
Seriously, who is playing well on the Packers? James Starks had a nice game and Davante Adams looked healthy, which is probably the biggest plus from the game. Other than that it’s hard to find many positives. Who knows what has happened to the offensive line that we saw last year. Corey Linsley and David Bakhtiari have both regressed, Bryan Bulaga appears to be playing with a knee issue and even Josh Sitton is allowing sacks. They were such a huge part of the Packers’ success last year and if they don’t get it together nothing will get better.
Aaron Rodgers also has to take his share of the blame. He wasn’t terrible, but the stats probably make it look better than he was. He got 40 yards on a meaningless heave to Davante Adams to end the first half, 36 came from on the miraculous throw-and-catch to James Jones — which was a great play by Rodgers, but not something you want to rely on — and James Starks picked up 76 screen yards in the fourth quarter against a conservative defense. Rodgers’ typical razor sharp accuracy was off.
Then there was the last play of the game on offense, which cannot really be explained how it wasn’t converted. For all of the heat Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay coaching staff received for its game calling they saved the best for last. It was beautifully designed starting with Cobb in the backfield to get him to the edge off a pick route. He was wide open, but Rodgers for whatever reason looked off him too soon and looked to the backside slant. Even after messing up, Rodgers had an opportunity to throw to Adams on the slant and did not. He had enough time to make the first throw to Cobb because he had enough time to go to the second read. Why he did not give the read the play was designed for more time or throw it to Adams nobody knows. It was the equivalent of LeBron James missing a wide-open layup at the buzzer to tie the game.
Defensively, we’ve all seen this before. All that has needed to be said about Dom Capers has already been said. He should have been fired after 2011, so to keep harping on it is wasted energy. The defense has enough talent to not allow 1,475 over the last three games. We’ve seen third and very longs be converted against a three-man rush and running quarterbacks run free. The sad part is that Newton didn’t even play well and the Packers still got shredded. If he was accurate it would have been a 50-point burger. The middle of the field was as wide open as usual and the pass rush was nowhere in sight.
The Packers will probably go out and play well defensively over the next stretch of Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler games, but nobody will believe it until it happens against good quarterbacks. The next four games division opponents should do some good for the Packers to get them back on track, and they should not come out of it worse than 9-3.All is not lost in that regard, since they’re still 6-2 and it matters more how you’re playing at the end of the season. If Carolina is the best team in the conference the Packers should feel good about that because they can beat that team if they went back there and didn’t play like crap.
Every team not named the Patriots in the NFL goes through a lull at some point. The Packers still have everything they want to accomplish this season in front of them. How they respond to this adversity will determine the path of the season.