The date was September 23, 2014.
After three games of the regular season, the Green Bay Packers found themselves in a precarious position. With a 1-2 record, the early returns for a postseason-hopeful franchise were bleak with a floundering offense and an all-time low completion percentage from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to that point. Coming off an especially lackluster loss to the Detroit Lions, the Packers left many fans wondering what kind of team they were going to watch the remainder of the season.
It was on a radio show that following Tuesday that Rodgers delivered the most memorable remark of his career, given in just five letters. R-E-L-A-X.
Four years later in similar circumstances, Green Bay fans should once again heed Rodgers’ advice.
At 1-1-1, Green Bay is not out of the playoff or divisional hunt by any means. In fact, from 2012-2014, the Packers started 1-2 each season and still made the postseason. It’s also another season - just like 2014 - in which Rodgers is coming off a collarbone injury (and now a knee injury) that has led to a slow offensive start. Interestingly enough, Rodgers was in the first year of dating Olivia Munn in 2014, and dodging questions about their relationship and its connections to his struggles. He’s in his first season with new girlfriend Danica Patrick by his side, but I doubt anyone in the media will be referencing that in questions about the team’s sluggish start.
But similarities certainly exist between the two seasons, and here on September 26, 2018 the Packers must re-route. In 2014, Green Bay was able to reel off four straight wins following the tough start with the help of a jump-started offense. Behind two defensive takeaways and a near-flawless Rodgers performance against the Chicago Bears in which he completed 22 of 28 passes for 302 yards and four scores, the Packers shook off their rust quickly en route to a winning streak. It’s that kind of immediate calm and focused game at Soldier Field that helped make the “relax” statement as iconic as it came to be.
And the two previous seasons that the Packers started with a 1-2 record? The Packers won each of their very next games - both at home. Rodgers finished 20-of-30 for 274 yards and a score against Detroit in 2013 and 31-of-41 for 319 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception against New Orleans in 2012. If the trend of strong performances after early struggles continues in week four of the 2018 season, it will again come from Rodgers at the friendly confines of Lambeau Field.
While Rodgers has his work cut out for him against the Buffalo Bills’ defense this week, there is room for him to lead a rally once again. After finishing seventh in the league in total defense a year ago, the Bills rank 11th in the early stages of the 2018 season. But Buffalo’s pass defense is in the middle of the pack, averaging 256.7 yards allowed per game with seven total touchdowns. The Bills have forced four turnovers, but just one via the interception after their starting cornerbacks and safeties combined for 15 picks a season ago. Despite a solid game against Minnesota last week, the Bills have been shaky defensively outside the numbers, surrendering 78 points the first two games.
As tough as it has been to watch at times, the Packers’ offense is not far from getting back to its potent capabilities. Self-inflicted errors in the form of penalties, drops, and long third down attempts have held the unit back from finding rhythm and reaching the red zone with regularity. But this offense is already far better than the one that ranked 28th in the league through three weeks of the 2014 season and offers contender-like production if it reaches any level of consistency.
So as the Packers prepare for a home game tilt with the Bills this week, take a deep breath and relax, Packers fans. We might all be in for a peak Rodgers-esque afternoon.