Aaron Rodgers has R-E-L-A-X.
“Five letters here, just for everybody out there in Packer land: R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We’re going to be OK,” Rodgers said on his weekly radio show with ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde.
In this era of analysis and overanalysis, every loss is treated as if it’s the end of the world. Thus, the world has ended twice in three weeks. The Packers — who won the Super Bowl in 2010 and the NFC North in 2011, 2012 and 2013 — are 1-2. Their prolific offense has looked ordinary at Seattle and Detroit.
So, what’s wrong?
“I think we’re close. I think we’re close on offense,” Rodgers said.
That’s not the quarterback with his head stuck firmly in the sand. He rattled off a bunch of issues that plagued the offense in a 19-7 loss at Detroit.
Execution, namely in the run game, is what stuck with Rodgers. Running the ball is a necessity to combat defenses playing a Cover-2 scheme meant to eliminate the downfield passing game by keeping two deep safeties. The Packers, who fielded a powerhouse rushing attack last season, rank 27th with 3.63 yards per carry.
“We had some opportunities to run it well,” Rodgers said. “We had some stuff blocked up but just didn’t finish the runs or didn’t get enough yards when we had the opportunity. When you’re playing a team that wants to play a lot of two-high (safeties), you have to be able to run the ball effectively or they’re just going to stay in that.”
In the passing game, Rodgers lamented his poor throw to Jordy Nelson on fourth down in the fourth quarter. Instead of a touchdown, the Packers turned the ball over on downs and the Lions ran out the clock. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Tom Clements on Monday said there were six dropped passes. When the receivers caught the ball, not much was done afterward. Packer Report had the Packers with just 62 yards after the catch.
While the situation might look bleak, Rodgers’ five-letter plea for patience should be heeded.
After all, the Packers were 1-2 at this time last year, including a frustrating loss at Cincinnati in Week 3 in which Rodgers threw one touchdown and two interceptions. Green Bay responded with four consecutive victories — with Rodgers throwing seven touchdowns and one interception — and looked like a powerhouse before Rodgers was injured the following week against Chicago.
The Packers also were 1-2 in 2012. After falling to 2-3, the vultures were circling. Instead, the Packers destroyed the Texans en route to winning five in a row and nine of 10. Rodgers went from 10 touchdowns and four interceptions in the first five games to 15 touchdowns and two interceptions in the next five.
In 2010, the Packers suffered back-to-back overtime losses to fall to 3-3. Rodgers had 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. With major questions about not only the state of the team but Rodgers’ ability to win close games, Green Bay rebounded with a four-game winning streak, with Rodgers throwing nine touchdowns and two interceptions.
Rodgers’ track record suggests he and the offense will return to their high-flying ways. If the defense’s improvement the last six quarters is the start of a trend, then not only with the Packers turn this season around, but they’ll be mentioned prominently among the top championship contenders as the calendar turns to December and January.
“They played good enough for us to win,” Rodgers said. “I said after the game, ‘The way they played today, we should win every game like that.’ You’ve got to give them credit. They’re definitely playing with more confidence. I think they know that the way offense performed is a rarity. When they play the way they played, we’re going to win most of those games.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.