In 2014, the Green Bay Packers began the season 1-2, which included a 19-7 loss at Detroit where the Packer's offense only crossed midfield three times. After this inexcusable loss to the eventually bottom-dwelling Lions, Rodgers famously told the Green Bay faithful to "R-E-L-A-X." They went on to go 11-2 the rest of the way before losing in soul-destroying fashion at Seattle in the NFC Championship.
Although he didn't spell out another calming 5-letter word to the media after Sunday night's game, he essentially echoed the same sentiment from that post-game press conference almost a year ago. However, if the Packers don't immediately begin a similar turn around, they're going to be hearing a lot of 4-letter words from their fan base. Now let's dive into the major issues from this game:
Stagnant. Predictable. Uninspired. Basically the 3 key words you can use to describe any offense where Mike McCarthy is calling the plays. There was the sole exception to the "predictable" part of McCarthy's game plan, which was when he decided to go for it on 4th and 2 from the Viking's 14 yard line. Now it's easy to have hindsight on these types of decisions and say that because it resulted in a turnover on downs, it was a dumb decision. Whereas if it had resulted in a 1st down and an eventual Packer's touchdown, we would've welcomed this new and improved ballsy Mike McCarthy. But the main issue I have with that playcall is that a field goal would've tied the game at a point where our offense had been struggling to put together drives, plus he handed the ball to James Starks when I would've much preferred to see Eddie Lacey on those types of short yardage situations. You can see in the time-stamped video below that Lacey would've had the power to get the extra few feet needed to convert, but hindsight is 20/20.
Regardless, a lot of other things went wrong for this game to end in a Green Bay loss, so let's shift focus.
The Positives: The offensive line looked good, Lane Taylor isn't making me miss Josh Sitton (yet). Aaaannnddddd... that's about it.
The Negatives: Pretty much everything else. Lacey looked slow and indecisive, despite the fact that the O-line was giving him plenty of room to run. Jordy clearly isn't at 100%, he lacked explosiveness to the point where Minnesota didn't feel the need to send safety help over the top, which led to the middle of the field being jammed so that Cobb and Richard Rodgers were essentially ineffective. Aaron Rodgers looked fine, he moved well in the pocket and made good throws when given the opportunity, but he also fumbled three times and threw a pick on what should've been the game winning/tying drive.
So how does all of this get fixed? I think it starts with the play calling. It's almost as if McCarthy refuses to budge from his formula he had back in 2011 when Cobb was young and explosive and Jordy had all his original ligaments attached to his knees. Neither of them are winning 1-on-1 match ups on a consistent basis. Davante Adams is slow and drops 20% of the balls thrown his way (not actually, but it feels like it), and no one else on the field is much of a threat.
Despite these clear problems, McCarthy still has the receivers almost always running isolated routes and rarely utilizes tactics that minimize these issues, such as pick routes, pre-snap motion plays, and bunch formations. It's bananas. The only reason he gets away with doing this is because Rodgers can use his legs to extend plays and give receivers time to eventually get open. If McCarthy had a pure pocket passer at QB, the offense would find it hard to even cross mid-field and the quarterback would find it hard to walk after getting sacked 15 times a game. Someone needs to sit McCarthy down and hit him over the head with Bill Belichick's playbook.
Not too bad overall. Holding a team to 17 points in today's NFL is pretty commendable, even with Sammy Sleeves at QB. But there are still pretty obvious issues that need addressing.
The Positives: The run defense looked really good, which is possibly the first time I've ever said that as a Packers fan. The D-line generally got a really good push upfront and I'm impressed with how the rookie Blake Martinez and AJ Hawk 2.0 (Jake Ryan) have been playing. They fill the gaps, play well in coverage, and rarely miss tackles (unlike AJ Hawk 1.0). Matthews and Peppers were terrorizing the offensive tackles and causing the pocket to collapse pretty quickly on Bradford. Now that I've complimented our D-line and linebackers, let's move onto our secondary.
The Negatives: The secondary. With Sam Shields out and thus our best cover corner missing, we turned to Damarious Randall to cover the explosive Stefan Diggs, and explosive he was. Randall gave up 9 catches for over 180 yards and a touchdown. Safety help over the top should've corrected this, but a lot of Diggs' receiving yards came after the catch as he juked our entire secondary out of their collective jockstraps and left me wondering if I'd been feeling a little overconfident about HaHa Clinton-Dix. We can hope that Shields will be back next week, but given his history of slow recoveries from concussions I wouldn't be too optimistic.
Luckily we're facing the Lions next week and that's never gone badly for us in a slow-starting season on week 3. Let's hope we can maybe score more than just once this time.