The early returns on the 2014 Green Bay Packers don’t look good. The Packers have played 12 quarters this season. As a team, I believe they grade out positively in three quarters, neutral in one, and negative in eight. The level of play currently exhibited by the Packers isn’t good enough to win the NFC North, let alone the entire conference.
Green Bay’s defensive effort on Sunday would be good enough for a victory on most days, but a paltry seven points from the offense spoiled the effort. The Packers held Detroit’s high-octane offense to 10 points, forced three turnovers and sacked Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford twice. They also committed fewer penalties and held Calvin Johnson to less than 100 yards receiving.
There is the preferable notion following every defeat suggesting a team shot itself in the foot. Failing to execute a game plan properly is another popular excuse. There are problems that go beyond simple execution, though. It starts with the coaching and crosses over to the field.
The Packers are underachieving right now. Nowhere is that more evident than on offense, where quarterback Aaron Rodgers is averaging 232 passing yards per game. That puts him on pace for about 3,712 for the season, which would be the lowest of his career as a starter. Meanwhile, running back Eddie Lacy is averaging a deplorable 38 rushing yards per game, putting him on pace for just 608 for the season.
The offense was the No. 1 reason for off-season optimism. The idea that Rodgers would have a potent running game behind him had many believing this could be the best offense of the Mike McCarthy Era. Other issues - namely the offensive line - are contributing to Green Bay’s decline, but the onus is on your star players to perform at a high level.
In the cases of Rodgers and Lacy, that’s not happening.
As poorly as Green Bay’s offense played, the Lions were clinging to just a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Facing a pivotal third-and-2, Detroit put the ball in running back Reggie Bush’s hands. Second-year safety Micah Hyde failed to contain the outside, allowing Bush to explode around the edge and score a 26-yard touchdown. It was the only touchdown of the afternoon for Detroit’s offense, but it was enough to seal victory over the rival Packers.
Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin deserves immense credit for his game plan. He had the secondary shadow wide receiver Jordy Nelson for much of the game with an extra defender, while relying on the pass rush to disrupt Rodgers. His plan worked well. Rodgers was off with a couple of his throws and none of the other receivers found any holes in Detroit’s coverage.
Dud of the Game
Point the finger at the passing game, which let the Packers down. While it starts with Rodgers, the receiving corps also is accountable. Specifically, receiver Randall Cobb failed to deliver when the team needed him most. He caught just three passes for 29 yards against a banged up secondary that didn’t put a whole lot of emphasis on him. In the midst of a contract year, many (myself included) feel Cobb could be a key component in Green Bay’s offense for many years to come. Perhaps it’s time to re-examine his long-term value to the team.
The Packers need to find a compliment to Nelson. You can’t drop Rodgers back as much as McCarthy does and expect the team to win relying on just one big play threat. The obvious solution is that Cobb plays better, but McCarthy needs to call a better game.
Last year, Lacy had 20-plus carries in 10 of the 15 games he played in. He's averaging just 12 carries per game this year, an unacceptable amount given his talent.
Lacy is not the type of runner that will gash a defense for five yards on a consistent basis. He’s a bruiser. He’s going to get better as games progress. The more carries he gets, the more he’ll wear down a defense. McCarthy would say Lacy’s lack of touches has to do with the team’s slow starts. Fumbling on the first drive doesn’t instill confidence in a coach, either. Even so, McCarthy has to stick with his bell cow.
Patience is the key to being a good play caller and McCarthy’s lack of patience with Lacy is exposing Rodgers to an early-season beating behind an offensive line in flux.
Luckily, next week McCarthy has an excellent opportunity to right the ship against a Chicago defense that is highly vulnerable against the run. A heavy dose of Lacy complimenting Rodgers is the key to beating the Bears. It’s also the key to the rest of the season. Hey guys, please visit Row12.com for weekly articles done by myself on college and fantasy football. We also have a great staff of writers that cover just about every major sport.