The excellence of the Packers’ offense is inarguable.
Or is it?
“To me, the best offense in the league is the one that scores the most points,” coach Mike McCarthy said during Wednesday’s season-ending news conference.
The problem was, their high-flying offense crashed to the ground more often than not against the league’s top defenses.
Of Green Bay’s five losses, four came against teams that finished in the top five in scoring defense.
That the Packers’ offense stumbled a bit in those games isn’t unexpected. After all, the defenses fielded by the Seahawks, Lions and Bills are considered elite units for a reason. What’s shocking is how badly the offense performed in those games.
In Week 1, the Packers scored 16 points at Seattle. For the season, the Seahawks gave up a league-best 15.9 points per game. In Week 3, the Packers scored seven points at Detroit. For the season, the Lions gave up a third-ranked 17.6 points per game. In Week 15, the Packers scored 13 points against Buffalo. For the season, the Bills gave up a fourth-ranked 18.1 points per game. In Week 17 at home against Detroit, the Packers scored 30 points — helped by a punt return touchdown from Micah Hyde. And in the NFC Championship Game loss at Seattle, the Packers scored 22 points. The first four of those scores came on scoring drives starting at, on average, Seattle’s 32.75-yard line, with the offense moving the ball a total of 107 yards.
In all, Green Bay scored an average of 17.6 in those five games. Those teams allowed 17.3 points per game.
“We scored a lot of points,” McCarthy said. “Maybe didn’t happen every week but it happened most of the weeks.”
For it to happen against the league’s best defenses, the Packers simply need to get better on offense. They entered last offseason with a two-man receiving corps of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb and a promising No. 3 option in Jarrett Boykin. Twelve months later, nothing really has changed. The Packers have Nelson, Cobb and a promising No. 3 option Davante Adams.
However, without a consistently diversified passing attack, top defenses were able to find a way to limit Nelson. In the five games against the Seahawks, Lions and Bills, Nelson caught 30 passes for 354 yards (11.8 average) and no touchdowns, with a long gain of 23. (Compare that to the other 13 games, when he caught 75 passes for 1,258 yards, averaged 16.8 per catch, and scored 13 touchdowns, with 12 receptions of at least 25 yards.)
The Packers were unable to make defenses pay for their focus on Nelson, with Adams catching only four passes for 24 yards and no touchdowns in those five games.
How do the Packers get better? Like they always do: by improving from within. That means, from a skill-position perspective, re-signing Cobb, getting more out of Adams and rookie tight end Richard Rodgers, and perhaps getting a lift from rookie receivers Jeff Janis (two catches) and Jared Abbrederis (missed season with a torn ACL).
Because having a more diversified passing game is the only way the Packers are going to get past the Seahawks and into the Super Bowl.
“It’s going to be important for those first- and second-year players to make the kind of jumps that guys have made around here — that Randall Cobb made, that Jordy Nelson made when he was a young player, that James Jones made, that Greg Jennings made, that Mike Daniels made, that Datone (Jones) made this year,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on his radio show with ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde two days after the NFC Championship Game. “Guys are going from Years 1 and 2 and 2 and 3 and going from good, young role players to guys that are making a big impact every week.”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.