Even when Detroit turned the dial to maximum LOLion, the Packers still couldn't pull this one out, losing to one of the league's worst teams in embarrassing, ugly fashion yesterday at Lambeau. Boos at halftime, more offensive struggles, and general disarray highlight just some of our thoughts on the Packers third straight loss.
For all the hoopla surrounding Eddie Lacy's demotion and subsequent deactivation, the Packers' ground attack did little with James Starks leading the way. The offense fed Starks for 15 carries, receiving only 42 yards in return. As a result, the running game made life even more difficult for Aaron Rodgers, who has struggled to complete even routine throws since the bye week. The offense has fallen into a state of disarray not seen since the eight-game Rodgers-less stretch in 2013.
Meanwhile, the defense seems to have lost the ability to consistently pressure the quarterback. Mike Daniels and Clay Matthews had their usual strong performances, but the rest of the defensive front appeared lifeless at times as Matthew Stafford extended plays well beyond their shelf life.
If there's a silver lining for the Packers, it's the development of rookie cornerback Damarious Randall. The Packers often left him to cover Calvin Johnson with only deep safety help over the top, and Randall responded by holding Megatron to just three catches for 45 yards. The rookies' crucial onside kick recovery further showcased his value to the team.
If Aaron Rodgers isn't hurt or concussed I would be shocked. He made several throws today off his back foot while falling away from no pressure whatsoever. I HOPE he's hurt or concussed because every other option is terrible. Davante Adams is also terrible, displaying poor technique, poor route-running, and poor hands. I'd rather have Jarrett Boykin back at this point.
I'm worried, but I will wait one more week before getting extremely worried. The defense still looked good, and the Lion defense has actually been pretty great at stopping the Packers in the past. Yes, they don't have Suh and have some other injuries, but the talent on Detroit isn't as bad as they've shown, and the new regime may have kicked some life into them.
This game looks horrible, and probably is, but I'll give them one more week before I completely freak out. Aside from that, this is the worst professional football game I've ever seen and both teams should be awarded at least 2 losses each for participating in it. This game was the football equivalent to Billy Madison's answer to the question of literature and the industrial revolution.
The pinpoint accuracy that has been Aaron Rodgers' trademark for the last several years appears to have left him. At least, he doesn't have it on every pass any more. Whether it's missing open receivers or throwing a fade route to Davante Adams too short on a 2-point conversion attempt that could have tied the game, his errant passes are as much a problem for the Packers' offense as his receivers' struggles to get open.
Sure, Rodgers shows it on occasion - think back to a late third-and-long when he had time to set up in the pocket, set his feet, and deliver the football on a dime to Justin Perillo. Granted, his offensive line has forced him to run for his life, and it's tough to get your mechanics just right when you're on the run constantly. Still, what made Rodgers so special in the past was his ability to drop in a perfect pass despite having to work with poor footwork or protection. With that gone, he looks...ordinary.
James Starks continued to show why he is getting the starter's reps with his work in the passing game, but he had little to no running room provided to him. Meanwhile, just about every member of the Packers' receiving corps had a crucial drop or two, which is the last thing you can afford when your QB is struggling to get you the ball already.
As for the defense, two things stand out to me - there is no pressure on opposing quarterbacks whatsoever at this point, and Damarious Randall is going to be really, ridiculously good. He's having a Casey Hayward-like rookie year, and he's doing it exclusively on the perimeter. Feel good about your future number one cornerback, Packers fans, because there's little else to feel good about right at this moment.
I try not to get too psychoanalytical when watching sports but at this point, what else is there to say? The Packers on-field play just plain sucks right now and the reasons for their suckage are too capacious for this here space anyway. So rather than try and dissect just why the Packers lost, I'd like to discuss how they looked in doing it. Which is to say, not good.
There's certainly plenty to be said about receivers not getting open, or the offensive line struggling, or the alarming inaccuracy of Aaron Rodgers, but far more concerning to me over the last three weeks has been the general disinterest the Packers seem to be playing with. They were down huge against Denver before most finished their first beer and ever since, the most fire we've seen from this team is when B.J. Raji nearly reduced Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to a set of dental records.
Could the play calling be better? Sure. But what good is a well-timed (and designed) play if the players execute it with all the zeal of someone driving to work on a Monday morning? I suppose this could all just be a mid-season lull but there's a palpable staleness to this team that just feels like Mike McCarthy's system isn't resonating with the players the way it once did.
And maybe that shouldn't be a surprise. We're now on year nine of the Mike McCarthy era and while I'm going to stop short of saying he should be fired, I do think we're getting to a point where just maybe - a change of scenery might do both the team - and the head coach - some good. Adam Gase is going to be bid on like a Chippendale's dancer at a retirement community this off-season. There's next to zero chance the Packers will be one of those teams bidding for his services, but, if there was ever a time for it, now might be it - especially as Rodgers transitions to a point in his career where he's less able (and willing) to take the hits that McCarthy's system subjects him to. Under Gase, Peyton Manning put up the single most prolific season of any quarterback in history at age 37. Hell, even Jay Cutler looks pretty good again. What could one of the brightest offensive minds in football do with Aaron freakin' Rodgers as his quarterback? I suppose that's a question probably not worth asking. But then again, maybe the Packers should ask more questions. Because right now, they sure as hell aren't finding answers.
I've spent my time since the game ended reflecting on a time in my life when a Packers team looked this out of sync and confused...and I got nothing. Granted I wasn't old enough to understand football until Favre came to town so I may be a little spoiled, but the fact remains that this team is simply lost. No one is playing with passion and no one wants to step up and do anything about it.
I tend to be an optimist (to a fault) when it comes to Packer football, so I have not lost all hope for this team. But for the first time in what must be at least five years, I am starting to look at other teams in the NFC and worrying about even making the playoffs as a Wild Card team. The good news is, with seven games remaining, Green Bay has a two-game cushion on a spot in the postseason.
My mind has been racing to think of a reason for the near month-long struggle this team has found itself in. Simple answer: there's a ton. Rodgers doesn't have the same chemistry with his receivers that has been the biggest reason for his past success. The offensive line has been underwhelming and can't provide lanes in the run game or time in the pass game. Receivers cannot get open and are quick to blame others when they fail to make a play. JUSTIN PERILLO was the most productive pass-catcher yesterday. A third-string, undrafted rookie tight end should not be the most reliable weapon. Props to him for stepping up, but it should never come to that.
Defensively, they forgot how to sack a quarterback. How can a team go from having one of the best pass rushes in the first six weeks to have no sacks in three straight games? I don't get it. Overall, I am at a loss for words. I think something needs to change on the coaching front to shake things up, but I don't know what. It is easy to say McCarthy should go back to calling plays, but Rodgers still has the freedom to change the call at the line regardless of who makes the original call. Many have called for Capers' head, but his unit stepped up time and time again yesterday when having to defend a short field.
The importance of next week's game cannot be understated. If it turns into the fourth loss in a row, it is officially time to start looking, and hoping, for a Wild Card spot. That's not normal and I don't like it.