By Thomas Marquardt
Just what is wrong with the Green Bay Packers?
That’s the obvious question after Sunday’s meltdown added to the doubts that were cultivated in weeks 1-4. Why is our once mighty offense so anemic? Where is the ball-hawking defense? WHY, oh why, are the Packers 2-3?
Disturbing to some (including me) is how things could be this bad so early this season.
Protection is a serious issue. I’m not as o-line savvy as some, but I do know that giving up 21 sacks in five games is not good.
The protection issues are real, but I also know that the O-line is essentially the same as last season minus Scott Wells, plus Jeff Saturday. They are just not doing a very good job, especially in the pass protection regime.
I won’t discount the protection issues, but there is something more subtle in the difference between last year’s explosive passing game and this year’s. Over and over again during last season I had to point out to non-Packers fans just how good Aaron Rodgers is and how he could put the perfect pass in the perfect place.
His season last year was a combination of receivers in sync with the quarterback and a quarterback who could “throw” them open. By that, I mean that even in perfect coverage, Rodgers made throws that were only great if both he and his receiver were thinking the same thing at the same time.
We saw it time and again, especially on those “back shoulder” throws. That “same mind” efficiency is missing this year and it shows. Most visibly, it leads to interceptions, but more often it puts doubt in Rodgers’ mind about whether to throw it or not.
This year I see the same receivers on the same routes hit in the hands and drop the ball or worse yet, the ball isn’t thrown at all. I watch Rodgers take sacks many times this year in situations where he’d have “thrown” the receiver open last year. Even the ever-reliable Donald Driver dropped a sure touchdown.
Greg Jennings’ injury isn’t helping on that front either. Considering that last year was one of the best quarterback season performances in NFL history, the bar may be a little high at this point.
I scream like everyone else as third and long seems to become 1st and 10 like clockwork versus the Packers D, but is that really the case? The truth is that the Packers are more likely to give up a big play on a second and long than third and long. Time and again a sack on first down leads to a gain of 10 on second down and then third and short.
At times they seem to fear giving up the big play and instead give up sizable chunks of yards while keeping everything in front of them. I was forced to watch the NFL Network replay of the game last night and noticed again how many times Andrew Luck barely escaped the pass rush to either scramble for a sizable gain or find Reggie Wayne for a completion.
Missed opportunities for interceptions and the sack-fumble that wasn’t and playing bend/don’t break defense doesn’t mix well. Those turnovers are the difference between winning and losing when you don’t have a shutdown defense. Sure, the Colts didn’t get a quick score, but they took what they could get and a game was lost that should have been in the bag.
The Packers are 2-3 with two losses in the NFC already. They are two full games behind the Vikings(?!?) and essentially 1.5 behind the Bears.
I’d like to say that all they have to do is win the games they “should” win but that is trite considering they “should” be 4-1.
I look at the Houston game as a barometer for the offense and defense for the rest of the season. If the offense sputters and the defense doesn’t hold the Texans’ offense in check, the team will be lucky to finish 8-8.
After Sunday’s loss, that means a must-win for the Packers next Sunday night.
The Packers need some confidence on both sides of the ball. If they want to be the elite team we all think they are, they need to show it versus a team everyone else considers elite.