On Monday, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said the offense had the right players and the right scheme to bust out of a slump that hit rock bottom with Sunday night’s loss at Denver.
So if it’s not the players and it’s not the scheme, then why is the Green Bay passing attack ranked an unprecedented 27th entering Sunday’s showdown at Carolina? Are the receivers not getting open, as Rodgers said after the game? Or does Rodgers need to trust his accuracy and his receivers’ willingness to fight for the ball and try to “throw them open,” as assistant head coach and play-caller Tom Clements suggested?
It’s all of the above, plus a little bad luck, quarterbacks/receivers coach Alex Van Pelt said on Thursday evening.
“We need to create more separation outside and give Aaron more places to throw from the receiver group,” Van Pelt said. “At the same time, Aaron’s got to trust the receivers and give us opportunities. It goes back and forth. We’ve discussed it in the room. We made all the corrections in our technique.
“Can we do things differently? Yes and no. There’s times in the game last week where we were open and Aaron might be working the other side of the field. It’s not like we were blanketed all day out there. There’s separation. It just seemed like that game, every time we looked to one side of the field, the other guy was open, or we had a guy open and maybe there was a little bit of pressure in the face and he had to move out of the pocket.”
Rodgers is the NFL’s all-time leader in career interception percentage and the Packers seemingly are always at or near the top of the league’s giveaway table. That’s of undeniable importance in a league in which the giveaway-takeaway tally is the most important statistic in most games. However, there’s also a time and a place for trying to make a play, such as when trailing by two touchdowns on the road in a game in which the offense has done almost nothing, as was the case during the second half at Denver. Moreover, with James Jones and Randall Cobb, Rodgers has two reliable veterans to bail him out if the ball is a bit off-target or the defensive back makes a good break on the ball. He’s spoken highly of second-year player Davante Adams, as well.
“Yeah, there’s part of that that comes with it, for sure,” Van Pelt said of the trust factor. “But, at the same time, we never want to jeopardize the ball security. There’s always that fine line and there always will be. We have guys that can make contested catches and Aaron knows that and he’s thrown the ball to guys that were covered plenty of times in the past, so it’s nothing new for him. If he continues to make good decisions and take care of that football, we’ll be in position to win the game, more times than not.”
The Packers face another big challenge against the undefeated Panthers. Carolina ranks No. 1 in the league with an opponent passer rating of 64.5.
“I’m not disappointed with our guys,” Van Pelt said. “We all need to get better, be more productive, be more available with the receiver group for Aaron. Half of that’s on the coaches to get it done with scheme and put our guys in the right position, which we addressed, and then actually coming through and creating the separation on our own, which we addressed, as well. Very confident going forward. We have the talented guys to get open and obviously we have Aaron to put it anywhere he wants on the field. It was an off-day for us. We’re not accepting it at all. We corrected it and are moving forward and looking forward to another opportunity to go out there and make plays.”
Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.