On Friday, the morning after the Green Bay Packers were stunned at home by the Chicago Bears, one of coach Mike McCarthy’s central themes was to “quit worrying so much about the play calls.”
During his conference calls with Lions beat reporters on Sunday, Packers guard T.J. Lang questioned the play-calling.
“We ran the ball 24 times with Eddie (Lacy) and James (Starks) and they combined to average around 6 yards per carry,” Lang said. “That’s something that we probably should’ve stuck with a little bit longer, in my mind. We tried to keep forcing the big play, it seemed like, through the passing game.”
Lang, however, might not have been stepping out of line in his response to a question on how much the offense leans on the talents of two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Lang’s response to that question was “probably too much.” For an offense that’s been stuck in a lengthy rut after three strong performances to start the season, Lang’s solution is for everyone else to pick up the slack. The running game helped carry the Packers’ offense down the stretch last season, especially after Rodgers sustained a late-season calf injury. With Lacy having turned in back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances, the running game could be the solution again. In the win at Minnesota as well as the loss to Chicago, the running game was the strength of Green Bay’s attack.
“Aaron’s obviously a great player,” Lang said. “He’s a guy that every time he’s got the ball in his hands you’ve got a chance to make something big happen, but I think we’ve kind of been putting a bit too much stress and too much pressure on him to be the guy to go out there and turn it around for us. I think everyone else has to start doing their part, carrying their weight, and making sure first and foremost they’re doing their job so he can feel a little bit more relaxed there on game day.”
The Packers enter Thursday night’s game at Detroit having dropped four of their last five games. In three of those losses, the offense has been held to less than 20 points — including in home games against the Lions on Nov. 15 and the Bears on Thursday.
That led McCarthy on Friday to suggest there was too much talk about scheme.
“Have you noticed that?” responded quarterback Aaron Rodgers when relayed McCarthy’s comments.
Publicly, the only player to be openly critical was guard Josh Sitton. Following the loss to Detroit two weeks ago, Sitton said, “our offense has become too predictable. Teams know exactly what we're going to do every week.”
When reminded of Sitton’s comments, Rodgers said, “Guys have been buying in and the play comes in and it’s our play, we’ve got to run it better, we’ve got to execute better.”
Receiver Randall Cobb, who has been critical of his own play, in particular, and the play of the receivers, in general, echoed that belief.
“It’s their job to scheme, it’s our job to execute,” he said.
Is the play-calling too predictable, as Sitton said? Do the Packers need to run the ball more, as Lang said? Is the scheme too vanilla? Have the proper adjustments not been made following Jordy Nelson’s season-ending knee injury?
Really, none of that matters, Cobb said. For the all of the troubles on offense, the players still believe they have what it takes to turn things around.
“We’ve always talked about scheme not being a crutch,” he said. “‘Don’t let scheme be a crutch. Go out there and play fast, do what you know you can do to the best of your ability.’ I think that’s all it’s saying. Don’t worry about what’s going on. Just go out there and play ball.”
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.