Green Bay Packers’ Offensive Outage Reaches Low Point

For years with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Green Bay Packers offense was the envy of the league. On Sunday against the lowly Detroit Lions, it reached another low continuing a mid-season funk that might have just hit crisis mode.

Many of the answers were short and sounded sobering. For the Green Bay Packers offensive players, such responses have become a familiar refrain in recent weeks.
   
“I’m not sure,” said tight end Richard Rodgers of his unit’s most recent struggles. “We’ll just have to watch the film and see what happens.”
   
“We’re not making plays, man,” said wide receiver James Jones just minutes later.
   
“It’s frustrating when you’re not scoring, for sure,” added quarterback Aaron Rodgers of a long midgame drought.
   
If not crisis mode, than this is about as close as the Packers' offense can come.
   
The Packers scored just 16 points on Sunday – their lowest output in a game at Lambeau Field since a 2013 game quarterbacked by Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien against the Eagles – in a stunning two-point loss to the NFC North foe Detroit, which broke its 24-year losing streak in Wisconsin.
   
Being humbled over the past two games against undefeated Denver and Carolina was one thing, but the Packers struggling for production against the 1-7 Lions is another. These Lions came into the game as one of the worst pass defense units in the league and were down to playing backups in the secondary. Yet they looked much more the confident group than the MVP quarterback and many of his receivers.
   
“We played physical,” said Lions journeyman cornerback Crezdon Butler, who just signed Saturday when the Lions placed starting cornerback Rashean Mathis on injured reserve. “We didn’t want to sit back and let the receivers get into their routes. We didn’t want them to have timing throws. We were looking to get up in their faces fast. We didn’t want (Rodgers) to be able to control the game. We wanted to control him, so we brought pressure and we were in their faces.”
   
Such was the case on a two-point conversion attempt that was at the center of a wild last two minutes that saw Matt Prater miss his second extra point of the game, the Packers recover an onside kick and Mason Crosby miss a 52-yard field goal as the clock expired. After Rodgers hit tight end Justin Perillo for an 11-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 18-16 with 32 seconds left, the Lions brought an empty pressure on the two-point try. Rodgers got the pass away cleanly but Butler got his hand on just enough of the ball to knock it loose from Davante Adams in the end zone.
   
That Butler was even in the game was a sign of how low the Lions were on the depth chart. Mathis’ replacement, Nevin Lawson, was in and out of the game all afternoon with injuries. And cornerback Josh Wilson left because of injury on the play before Perillo’s touchdown.
   
The Packers had the matchups they wanted just about all day. They attacked Lawson and cornerback Quandre Diggs when he was in the game. But sustained drives were too few.
   
“We had a good first drive, three points, and then a huge struggle from that point,” said Aaron Rodgers. “We didn’t have a ton of terrible drives, we just didn’t convert enough. We missed some opportunities and that’s what happens.”

Though they were better on third down (9-of-19) than they had been since the season opener and got to 82 plays in the game (a season-high by 10 plays), the Packers had a season-low 47 rushing yards (2.6 per carry) with James Starks as the No. 1 back and Eddie Lacy inactive (groin). Rodgers again uncharacteristically missed some throws, so his career-high 35 completions were offset by a career-high 26 incomplete passes.

“We kept getting opportunities to win that ball game,” said Jones. “Like I said, when we were 6-0 we were making them plays. Lately, we ain’t been making those plays. We just have to go back to the drawing board. There’s nothing that needs to be changed. If the opportunity’s there, we got to make the play."

Jones, who was the Packers' top playmaker at receiver over the first quarter of the season, has gone invisible. In a game where Rodgers threw 61 passes, Jones was targeted just twice with no catches. He has just three catches in the last three games.

Clearly, Adams on Lawson was the matchup Rodgers wanted to work on Sunday. But Adams’ career-high 10 catches only told part of the story. The other part was that it took 21 targets to reach that total. Adams also had just 79 receiving yards on those 10 catches and more times than not the connection with Rodgers was off.

Adams’ frustration with the Lions appearing to get away with some physical play in the secondary bubbled over when he was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct in the fourth quarter after he shoved linebacker Kyle Van Noy. By that point, the Packers had punted nine times (with five three-and-outs) and trailed 12-3.

“Any offense you go to that’s at the top of the league, they’re making plays,” said Jones. “The whole wide receiver crew, I speak for all of us, we’re not making enough plays.”

Yet after that drought, the Packers still had a chance. Instead of Adams, Jones and Cobb (five catches in 10 targets) making the clutch plays in a comeback attempt, it was backups Perillo (five catches, 58 yards) and Jared Abbrederis (four catches, 57 yards). Abbrederis saw his most extensive playing time of the season in the four-wide receiver sets. He was hit hard by Glover Quin and left the game after catching a 32-yard pass down the sideline to set up Richard Rodgers’ 4-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. The contributions of the two backups were not lost on the quarterback when asked about how the offense can avoid the droughts in the past two games that have put the Packers in deep holes.

“I think it’s about getting your best guys on the field and trying to find a way to get them the ball,” said Aaron Rodgers. “Jared has earned some opportunities. He did a nice job for us. Justin did a nice job for us, as well. Made some plays. Just get those guys in good positions and try to be effective. If teams are going to continue to load the box up and dare us to throw the ball with some one-high press, we’ve got to convert.”

Until then, it might be the same old refrain.

“We’ll look at the film,” said Rodgers. “We’ll make some corrections tomorrow.”


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