What’s wrong with the Green Bay Packers? Since asking Mike McCarthy apparently is off the table, we’ll have to do our best to guess.
Their problems deepened in a 30-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Lambeau Field, dropping Green Bay to 3-2 with a short week to prepare for the Chicago Bears on Thursday night and solve whatever issues they have. They include health and depth on defense, and some questionable clock management at the end of the first half, decisions that burned them as the Cowboys drove 97 yards in 34 seconds.
But the offense’s ineptitude for stretches is stunning. The defense struggled Sunday but had bailed out the offense in previous games. The Packers actually won the field-position game against the Cowboys but lost the turnover battle — and the game. Lambeau fans booed the Packers late in the game. You can understand their frustration.
Aaron Rodgers entered Week 6 as the NFL’s least-accurate passer and got back on track in that category with a 31-of-42 performance (but for fewer than 7 yards per attempt). But this is the 13th straight game Rodgers has failed to reach 300 yards passing, coming up just short. This version of a player is unrecognizable as the old Aaron Rodgers was roundly called the league’s best over the past few years.
He also threw an awful pick to the Cowboys’ Barry Church early in the third quarter and fumbled at the Dallas 1-yard line on his next possession. That’s where the game tilted — the Packers owned the ball almost 11 of the 15 minutes in the third and were outscored 3-0 in the quarter. By the end of the game, when it was a two-score game, scores of Packers fans had already exited the stadium.
Fire Mike McCarthy. Fire Dom Capers. Give it to Eddie Lacy more. Blame Olivia Munn. Trade Rodgers to the Cowboys for Tony Romo. OK, we made up the last one. But the others are the default panic suggestions by Packers Nation when we see this talented team go through a rut like this.
Most of those aren’t realistic, although the Lacy suggestion holds some merit. The problem, though, with James Starks out for this game, was that Lacy didn’t have a quality backup. That forced the Packers to shift players such as Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery into hybrid roles. And when they ran Lacy late? The fans booed. Can’t win ’em all.
It’s clear McCarthy has shifted his personnel philosophies the past few weeks. They’re using new formations, new combinations of players and trying anything they think can work. It’s a novel approach for a team that used to be deadly running the same stuff ad nauseum. They used to do it because few could stop it.
Those days are gone — for now, at least. Rodgers hasn’t been himself; he missed a wide-open Cobb in the red zone, and though the Packers scored thereafter, it was a reminder of how inaccurate QB1 has been at times this season. Rodgers’ most trusted cohort, Jordy Nelson, who also fumbled, has been off as well. Davante Adams dropped a catchable pass and got hurt. Jared Cook was out, backup Richard Rodgers also dropped a pass, and Lacy can do only so much with his bruising style.
So what do they do to improve? It starts with Thursday’s game, and the short prep likely can help the Packers streamline and keep things simple against a team they know fairly well, even if it’s the first time this season they’ll face the Bears. The big play, the explosiveness and the quick-strike ability of this Packers offense hasn’t been here most of this season.
It starts with Rodgers. Everyone else must pick up the pace for sure — and McCarthy’s play-calling always is a subject of consternation and debate. With games left against the Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and others (including a three-game trip in November), the Packers must elevate their game offensively. The level they’re currently at right won’t cut it against the better NFL teams.
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