A few years ago, defenses trying to stop the Green Bay Packers’ high-octane passing attack kept two safeties deep in an effort to take away the big play.
On Sunday night, the Denver Broncos took an approach that hardly could have been more different. They played their base 3-4 defense against Green Bay’s three-receiver sets and dared the Packers to throw the ball.
The Packers couldn’t throw the ball — their 2.0 net passing yards per attempt was the worst in the entire league this season — in a 29-10 loss at Denver that seems like so much more than just a loss from a big-picture perspective.
“I think the most important thing about the video study is to make sure you knuckle down and try not to overreact or get outside of yourself and try to do different things,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We have very good players, we have good schemes.”
Even though the Packers are 6-1, those players and schemes haven’t been nearly good enough for the past month. During the first three games of the season, the Packers averaged 32.0 points per game — about on par with their league-leading figure from last season. During the last four games, however, the offense hasn’t even been mediocre.
— 19.5 points per game ranks 27th.
— 298.5 yards per game ranks 30th.
— 180.8 passing yards per game ranks 27th.
— 5.83 net yards per passing attempt ranks 28th.
— 5.38 yards per play ranks 21st.
— 31.1 percent third-down conversion rate ranks 22nd.
— 55.5 plays per game ranks 30th.
— 27:51 time of possession ranks 30th.
“We have been explosive in certain games but obviously we haven’t been consistent. That’s the bottom line,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “We need to go back and self-scout, make the necessary adjustments and corrections. Everyone’s on the same page and we certainly can put up the numbers and the points and the yards that we’ve done in years past. We’ve got to continue to learn from weeks past, grow from it, make our corrections. It all starts in the classroom, then we take it the practice field and we should reap the rewards on Sunday.”
On Sunday night, Aaron Rodgers looked as indecisive as he’s looked at any point in his Hall of Fame-worthy career. He completed 14-of-22 passes for 77 yards. With 27 yards from sacks subtracted from that total, the Packers mustered just 50 net passing yards. Green Bay finished with 140 yards. For perspective, the Packers finished with less than 200 yards of offense just two other times with Rodgers in the starting lineup, with Sunday’s debacle being worse than the 181 yards at Tampa Bay in 2008 (when Rodgers sustained a shoulder injury) and 184 yards at Minnesota in 2008.
After the game, Rodgers referenced the need to “probably do some different things” schematically. Nothing major will happen in that regard, McCarthy said.
“I think it represents frustration,” McCarthy said. “As far as our scheme and the way we give players opportunities at the line of scrimmage, the adjustment components, the decision-making components at the line of scrimmage, I think that’s really a reflection of frustration between players and coaches. The fact of the matter is, we’re not executing and being able to get more into the things you like to do. When you’re at 50 plays two weeks in a row, I know I’m not complaining about the scheme. There’s a lot more to be focused on.”
If it’s not scheme, is it the players? Does Green Bay have the firepower on offense?
“Our players are good enough, our scheme is good enough,” Bennett said. “We feet like we have everything in place. We’re still 6-1. We’ll continue to improve and we’ll certainly improve from Sunday night’s performance.”
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.