The Green Bay Packers are suffering from split personalities right now.
At various points, Green Bay has given fans glimpses of who they can be. In spurts they have shown a bruising offense with a strong running game, a stout defense with a lockdown secondary, and a competent special teams group that might be headed for bigger things as the season progresses.
Yet here we are a quarter of the way through the season and they haven’t been able to put them all together for a full game. The surgical offense is turning the ball over too much, the much-hyped defense can’t seem to stop the run, and the special teams still haven’t made that signature play.
Put it all together and you have a Packers team that is 3-1 but could just as easily be 1-3. The offense showed both sides of its personality against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while the defense was dominant. Unfortunately Tom Brady can only be held in check so long and the Buccaneers came within a De’Vondre Campbell tip of sending that game into overtime. Who knows what would have happened there, given the anemic Green Bay offense in the second half.
Green Bay wasn’t able to avoid overtime the following week, as the Packers struggled against a New England Patriots team that played most of the game with a third string quarterback. This time both sides of the ball showed their split personalities as the defense was gashed on the ground, though they made plays when they had to. The offense, meanwhile, was the inverse of its form in Tampa. With an unusually erratic Aaron Rodgers under center, this time they struggled mightily in the first half before correcting themselves in the second.
From the outside, this team is maddening. If they can string together a full game of all the things they do well and at least improve on the things they don’t, they’d be one of the league’s best teams. They have shown flashes of this and what they could be but then things inexplicably change.
For example, look at the Patriots game. Aaron Jones starts running the ball really well, but the team takes the ball out of his hands and Rodgers starts playing hero ball. Head coach Matt LaFleur said after the game he was fine with Rodgers going that route because eventually New England would start stacking the box.
Well, Jones has yet to run into an eight-man box all season, which is a remarkable statistic. Rodgers may have something to do with that by checking out of run calls but the point remains. This forces Green Bay to play hero ball when in fact the Packers could run it down opponents’ throats.
Then the second half of the game started and the offense found its rhythm and took smarter deep shots. It’s no coincidence they scored 20 points after halftime.
It’s a similar story defensively. Joe Barry hasn’t really stacked the box either and basically dared New England to run the ball against them, which they happily and successfully did. The Packers have struggled against the run all season and it is now officially a pattern of concern at the season’s quarter mark.
In happier news, the defense keeps making plays when they have to. They found themselves with their backs against the wall in overtime when New England started at midfield but they were able to force a punt. It’s that infuriating inconsistency that makes this Packers team such a tough one to watch. They have shown what they can be but not for a full game yet.
Rodgers said he valued “production over potential” in June when asked about the young receivers but that phrase really applies to the entire team.
The Packers have a few more weeks to convert that potential into production. When they travel to Buffalo to face the Bills on October 30, the schedule will be much less forgiving of inconsistency.
There is still time to put it all together, but that time is running short. Once the Packers leave Buffalo, we should have a good idea of who they really are.