Between the bye week to find some answers, the week off to heal battered bodies and the return of Davante Adams, the Green Bay Packers offense was supposed to come out of the bye playing better.
Instead, it played worse in a 29-10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday night.
With the latest offensive dud, last year’s No. 1 ranking in scoring offense is becoming more and more of a distant memory. After a hot start to this season, Green Bay’s offense has become a lackluster unit that not even an elite quarterback like Aaron Rodgers has been able to save.
During the first three games, Green Bay averaged 32.0 points per game. During the last four games, the Packers have averaged just 19.5 points per game. In three road games, the average is merely 19.3 points per game.
“I haven’t had my ass kicked like that in a long time,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Just how badly was Green Bay’s ass kicked?
— The Packers’ longest gain was 17 yards, and two of their four longest plays from scrimmage were scrambles by Rodgers. The Broncos had 10 plays longer than anything produced by Green Bay’s offense.
“Schematically, we’ve got to probably do some different things and, execution-wise, we need to get open and complete passes,” Rodgers said. “When you’re playing a good cover team like that, we had some ideas and we just didn’t, either didn’t convert them or didn’t get to them.”
— The Packers averaged 2.0 net yards per pass attempt (50 net passing yards, 22 passes, three sacks). That’s the lowest average for the Packers since 1991 — before Brett Favre and Rodgers gave the Packers almost a quarter-century of quarterback excellence — and the worst mark in the league this season by a half-yard.
“We gave up 50 yards,” cornerback Chris Harris said. “Any time you do that to any opponent, but that’s Aaron Rodgers that we did that to. That makes it even greater.”
— The Broncos didn’t even bother using a fifth defensive back against Green Bay’s three-receiver packages. With Harris, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby dominating their matchups, receivers Randall Cobb, James Jones and Adams combined for eight catches (13 targets) for 37 yards.
“They covered us very well,” McCarthy said. “I thought we pass protected very well in the first half. There was a lot of green grass out there. I thought they did a heck of a job covering us.”
Unbelievably, the Packers rank 27th in yards per game (332.1), 27th in passing yards per game (210.1), 27th in first downs per game (18.7) and 20th in third-down conversions (36.4 percent) That would be the fewest yards per game since the 2005 team went 4-12, the fewest passing yards since 2003, the fewest first downs since 2008 and the worst third-down success rate since 1988.
The third-down troubles are particularly perplexing. From 2007 through 2014, Green Bay and New Orleans were the only two teams in the league to finish in the top 10 each season. Last year, Green Bay converted 47.2 percent of the time on third down. The Packers haven’t been better than 37 percent in any game since Week 1.
On Sunday night, the problems were numerous as the Packers went just 2-of-8 on third down. (Note: First downs via a penalty do not count in the third-down stats.) On the first third down, a third-and-12 became third-and-17 after a false start. On the second, Rodgers had all day on third-and-5 before throwing it in the area of Cobb. On the third, Eddie Lacy gained 1 yard on third-and-2. Green Bay’s lone conversions came on its scoring drives: an 11-yard completion to Richard Rodgers after Aaron Rodgers avoided a sack and a 16-yard scramble against a six-man pressure.
The Broncos handed the Packers three first downs on third down. One of them was when Talib was called for holding Cobb on a third-and-7 in the third quarter. Cobb was wide open, anyway, but Rodgers missed him. Had Rodgers thrown a good ball, it would have been Cobb one-on-one with T.J. Ward for a potential 77-yard touchdown that would have cut the margin to 24-17.
Of Green Bay’s eight official third downs, the average distance to gain was 10 yards. With the Broncos locking up the Packers’ receivers with a minimal amount of resources and the league’s best pass rush keeping Rodgers stuck in the pocket and looking more and more uneasy as the night progressed, Green Bay’s offense looked like the same unit that has stumbled following a red-hot first three games.
“We wanted to come out and be a little more aggressive in the second half, but in order to do that you have to convert third downs and we didn’t do that very well,” Rodgers said. “It’s tough to get things going when you’re not converting those third downs. We just didn’t get open enough, didn’t complete enough passes and that’s what happened.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.