The Green Bay Packers, owners of a 6-0 record, haven't played up to their potential in several weeks. While that has yet to cost them a game, it bears monitoring as the team enters its bye week. At the same time, the team hasn't performed as poorly as it may appear on the surface.
The receivers struggled to get open again
Over the past two weeks, the Packers' receivers struggled to separate from defenders. That trend continued against the Chargers, with no receiver managing more than two catches on the afternoon.
It's clear that opposing defenses have adopted the same plan when approaching Green Bay's passing attack: bracket Randall Cobb with multiple defenders and force someone else to make a play. Right now, none of the Packers' other pass catchers have proven capable of consistently foiling that approach.
Health plays a major factor in the poor play of the receiving corps. Davante Adams essentially hasn't played in the team's last four games, and Ty Montgomery fell today to a leg injury. Randall Cobb continues to deal with a shoulder strain, and James Jones has played on a troublesome hamstring. Still, the Packers need to find a way of generating more open receivers, whether that's by getting healthier or through scheme.
Don't overreact to the massive passing numbers Green Bay's defense allowed
500 passing yards is a large amount for one game. Even in an age when quarterbacks are more empowered and protected than in any time in NFL history, such a figure remains an anomaly. Yet, Chargers signal caller Philip Rivers surpassed the mark during Sunday's game.
Naturally, many see this as a singular failure of the Packers defense. But while the unit certainly struggled at times, Rivers' stat line doesn't accurately portray how the defense performed.
As those who have watched Aaron Rodgers understand, there is no defense for the perfect throw. Some of Rivers' passes indeed went to wide-open targets, but many more were dimes to well covered receivers.
The only chance a defender has to stop such a throw is to commit pass interference, and Rivers delivered plenty against the Packers.
But what really inflated Rivers' yardage total was the number of passes. With the running game sputtering, San Diego refocused on their aerial attack, resulting in 65 attempts for Rivers, a new franchise record. When a quarterback throws that much, the yards naturally pile up. That's especially true for Rivers, one of the best at his position. On a per play basis, the Chargers produced 7.7 yards per throw. Not bad by any means, but also not an otherworldly performance.
All of which is to say that Rivers deserves more credit for his ability to throw perfectly placed passes in volume, and the Packers shouldn't be overly concerned about how many yards they allowed. After all, the unit held San Diego to 20 points, which is the more important metric.
The Packers need to get healthy over the bye week
Sure, it's an obvious conclusion, but the Packers lost too many quality players over their first six games for their winning streak to persist much longer. It's their good fortunate that the bye week falls exactly when they have reached critical mass for injuries and their most difficult remaining opponent approaches. Green Bay needs to get healthy during this time away, and it looks as though they might.
Most expect B.J. Raji, Morgan Burnett and Davante Adams to return after the bye. Each can make a significant impact, and their absences have been felt at one time or another. But the week off also gives guys like Cobb, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Lang -- players that haven't missed any games, but aren't 100 percent healthy -- a chance to recover for the back stretch of the regular season. Their recuperation matters just as much to Green Bay's prospects in 2015.