In their loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the Green Bay Packers put forth one of their worst offensive performances of the Aaron Rodgers era. Their run game was nonexistent, many of Rodgers’ passes were off and their wide receivers dropped too many catchable balls.
The seven points scored by the Packers were their fewest in a game since Rodgers took over as starting quarterback in 2008, and every facet of the team’s offense has looked relatively weak through the first three games of the season.
After bouncing back from a slow start in its win over the Jets last week, Green Bay was unable to get anything going against Detroit, even though the Lions did plenty to give the Pack a chance to get back in the game. Quarterback Matt Stafford turned the ball over three times, Detroit committed six penalties (including a couple that helped keep Green Bay drives alive) and middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch suffered a season-ending injury to his left ACL while celebrating a sack. It was the type of mistake-laden performance that has becoming synonymous with the Lions, yet it paled in comparison to the abysmal showing by the Packers’ offense.
Running back Eddie Lacy rushed for just 36 yards on 11 carries, including a fumble on his second carry of the game that Detroit returned 40 yards for a touchdown. Though Green Bay has faced teams in the last few weeks that currently boast the top two run defenses in the NFL (Jets, Lions), Lacy has been disappointing so far in 2014 and the inability to get anything going on the ground has rendered the team’s offense one-dimensional.
However, the Packers had a mediocre run game before drafting Lacy in 2013, and they were still able to run an efficient offense thanks to their prolific passing game. This certainly wasn’t the case Sunday, as Green Bay only managed to get 147 yards through the air.
The Detroit secondary’s main focus was shutting down Jordy Nelson, who was coming off a 209-yard performance against the Jets, and it paid off for Jim Caldwell’s team. The rest of the Packers’ receiving corps couldn’t pick up the slack, with Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and James Starks each having a drop. And though Andrew Quarless had a touchdown reception, Green Bay still hasn’t been able to fill the production void left by Jermichael Finley.
If the Packers are unable to establish Quarless or any of their other tight ends as a legitimate receiving threat, opposing defenses will continue to play single coverage on them and focus on the outside to make Nelson a non-factor.
But of all the struggles on offense this past Sunday, the most baffling was the subpar showing by Aaron Rodgers.
True, there were dropped passes and he didn’t have a running game to help him out, but Rodgers didn’t come anywhere close to playing up to his usual form. Despite being arguably the best quarterback in the league at delivering a quick, accurate strike to one of his receivers, Rodgers looked deliberate on many passing plays. In addition, the usually surgically-precise Rodgers misfired on numerous passes. Five of his incompletions were underthrown, including a pass intended for Nelson in the fourth quarter that could easily have been a touchdown.
Rodgers’ poor performance was especially confusing when you consider that he was going up against an injury-ravaged secondary. The Lions were missing safety James Ihedigbo and cornerbacks Cassius Vaughn, Nevin Lawson and Bill Bentley. On paper, it had all the makings of another outstanding outing by Rodgers against Detroit, but instead it was one of the most disappointing of his career.
While it is early in the season and there’s plenty of time to get things back on track, head coach Mike McCarthy will have to find a way to cure the ailments of his offense if the Packers are going to win their fourth consecutive NFC North title.