For years, the Green Bay Packers were driven by their high-flying and oftentimes unstoppable passing attack.
This season, they’re being driven off a cliff.
From Game 8 through Game 15, 35 quarterbacks have thrown at least 100 passes. Of that group, Aaron Rodgers ranks …
-- 33rd in completion percentage (56.4).
-- 32nd in yards per pass attempt (5.89).
-- 29th in passer rating (82.0).
“You go back and you talk about what we’ve said in weeks past as far as it’s never one person. It’s a unit,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said on Monday, a day after an ugly 38-8 loss at Arizona. “It takes all 11 to have success. It starts from a protection unit, to a route-running detail, to catching the football. It’s everyone, coaches included. It’s everyone. That’s something that I’ve addressed and moving forward feel good about where we’re going.”
That’s a lot of lingering flaws to address. At this point, with only the NFC North-championship game vs. Minnesota remaining in the regular season, even becoming a mediocre passing game seems out of reach.
Sunday’s loss at Arizona was another step in the wrong direction. Rodgers completed 15-of-28 passes for 151 yards with one touchdown and four turnovers. With 78 yards lost on nine sacks (eight of Rodgers and one of Scott Tolzien), the Packers finished with 77 net passing yards. That equated to 2.03 net yards per passing play, the second-worst rate in the entire league this season behind Green Bay’s 2.00 net yards per passing play vs. Denver. That kind of ineptitude seems implausible with two-time MVP Rodgers at quarterback. But that’s the state of the offense – a perennial top-10 unit that has plummeted to 24th in total yards and 26th in passing yards.
“We have a standard we’ve set here for a long time and we just haven’t lived up to that consistently,” Rodgers said after the game. “We’ve had some very poor halves and then some good halves. We felt like this could have been another opportunity today to have another bad half-good half and get back in the game. A couple fumbles later you’re down 31 and the game’s getting out of hand. We had a chance there with Mike (Daniels) picking that ball off early and then I threw the pick and things kind of went downhill from there.”
There will be no dramatic changes with the division title and a first-round home game on the line. Getting healthy would help, especially up front, where left tackle David Bakhtiari missed the first game of his career with an injured ankle and fill-in Don Barclay was beaten like a drum for four sacks. Regardless of who’s out there, it will be up to the players to win their individual matchups – no different than in the past but what hasn’t happened with any consistency this year.
“In times of crisis, think of players, not plays and I always think of the players vs. plays,” coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. “I think that so much gets made of plays and scheme, and I appreciate your desire to dissect it and analyze it and have opinions on it. But we know what we’re doing as far as designing plays. But, at the end of the day, it’s about giving the players the resources to be successful.”
For as bad as the offense performed vs. the Cardinals, the Packers are moving full steam ahead to get ready for the Vikings. With so much at stake, there’s no time to fixate on Sunday’s blowout. Through the Packers won the first matchup 30-13, Minnesota ranks sixth in the league with 19.3 points allowed per game.
“It’s over now. Shoot, they beat us, you know what I mean?” receiver James Jones said on Monday. “We played the worst we can possibly play and we’re on to Minnesota. We can’t dwell on the past and be worried about the past and go out there and lay another egg on Sunday. We’ve got to put that one behind us. We didn’t even talk about that one today. We’re on to Minnesota and let’s get on playing some football.”
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.