Hey, would you look at that. The Packers won. Not only did they win, they didn’t get in their own way most of the time. I’ll be honest. I fully expected them to lose this past Monday in Philadelphia. Instead, rumors of their demise is greatly exaggerated. While one win does not a winning streak make, its still better than the alternative. And definitely better than a kick in the head.
No, they didn’t just beat the Vikings. And this wasn’t a win against the Seahawks. But no one broke in half. Rodgers’ hamstring doesn’t appear to sound all that bad (famous last words, I know.) And the defense didn’t completely fall apart. Oh, and Schum actually kicked one farther than my fifth grader.
So where do they go from here? The have to capitalize on the strides made this past week and look forward, not backwards. (Sometimes easier said than done.)
Aaron Rodgers needs to be healthy looking beyond this week.
Rodgers hurt? Everyone panic. At least joking about the
Tardis which is bigger on the inside potty tent was a good way to joke around while Rodgers was getting his sore hamstring wrapped beneath it. If we take him at face value, the injury isn’t all that bad. Yes, he gimped around the rest of the game and was walking with a noticeable limp that night. I fully expect him to be limited in practice this week. Likely next week as well. Hopefully he isn’t weaving a tapestry of BS like he did when he tore his calf and pretended nothing was wrong. But his level of play and relative mobility following the tweak tell me this is not as severe as the calf injury from two years ago. But don’t expect him to be leading the team with rushing like he did the past few weeks. He is likely going to be strictly an air assault. Any thoughts of running are going to be reserved for scrambling for his life at this point.
That means someone other than Rodgers needs to pick up the slack in the running game.
Let’s face it, when your QB is the lead rusher several weeks running, you have absolutely, positively no true running game. Starks is back, and he makes a great target for the occasional screen pass. But he is not putting up big numbers, and he still cannot find a way to make it into the end zone. No running back or fullback has managed to until last week when Ripkowski banged one in.
Repeat that out loud: Last week was the first time an RB or FB found a way to score on the ground.
That is a shocking statistic.
Rodgers has found the end zone with his own feet three times already. No true running back has. And the Ripper did his best impersonation of John Kuhn on Monday and finally plowed in for six.
Oh sure, the Packers now have Christine Michael. But he’s likely mastered a handful of plays at this point which means his main purpose when on the field is going be throwing a block here or there. He is not a reasonable facsimile for Eddie Lacy.
The Packers need to find a way to incorporate a legitimate running game into the offense or, as I mentioned two weeks ago, every defense is going to throw everything and the kitchen sink at Rodgers knowing that 99.9% of the plays are going to be through the air.
The Packers need to consistently target other receivers not named Davante Adams.
Remember how we all used to complain that Adams couldn’t catch a ball even if he was wearing oven mitts covered in Crazy Glue? He is clearly Rodgers’ favorite target right now. He scored twice last Monday. But he seems to be Rodgers’ only consistent target. Wasn’t this supposed to be the great return of Jordy Nelson, that is absence is why they Packers floundered so much last year? With the emphasis on being 99 parts Air, one part Ground, the receivers are simply just being covered like flies on stink because the defense knows that the favored targets are going to always be Nelson, Cobb and Adams. Why isn’t Montgomery being utilized more often? Why aren’t there more true blue plays to Cook now that he is no longer hurt? If the Packers are going to run a reasonable facsimile of a zebra formation (Nelson, Cobb, Adams as WR, Starks or Montgomery faking a running formation, and Cook/Richard Rodgers as the TE) and the pass is going to go to Adams 9 times out of 10, there’s a good chance they are also going to figure it out and find a way to cover Adams as well knowing full well the TE and RB are likely decoys.
Diversity makes defenses think. We saw some different plays (why hello there, long lost screen pass) this past week that we have not seen in forever. If the playbook is shortened because the lack of a ground game, then McCarthy and Rodgers need to continue to mix it up and not fall back on the first and only option of lofting it to Adams. It’s time to bring the other receivers back into the game with more regularity.
And god no, that does not mean line up Janis.
The Texans are a good next match up for the Packers to build on any momentum formed two nights ago. The need to find that rhythm that has been lacking. While the Texans aren’t an arduous challenge, they do serve a purpose. Hopefully the offense will continue its progress and fluidity while the defense continues to improve with a cast of a bunch of third and fourth string nobodies. It is imperative that they build on this momentum, because the challenge in two weeks will be a the more daunting when their Achilles Heel, the Seahawks return again.--------------