Why They Lost: Green Bay Gets Demolished In Denver

3 of 6

Nov 1, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver

Randall Cobb

(18) runs with the ball during the first half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 29-10. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Separation Anxiety

This issue is one that may not go away.

The inability of the Packers’ receivers to get any separation has been one of those underlying issues for the team most of the season. In fact, Aaron Rodgers has mentioned it in the postgame interviews after the previous two victories, mentioning that his receivers were not gaining separation outside.

It mostly gets glossed over because the team has been winning, but if you pay attention you would notice that it could become a major problem given the wrong circumstances.

This week we saw those wrong circumstances take hold in a major way.

Nov 1, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver

James Jones

(89) on the bench late in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Packer 29-10. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Even with the return of Davante Adams — who has been talked up mightily by Rodgers, McCarthy and others around the team as a possible fix to what ails the Packers in terms of the deep ball — these receivers for Green Bay absolutely failed to get anything resembling separation.

Adams only saw two targets, getting one single catch for eight yards. James Jones did less; one catch that got two yards (though it should have been for 12 yards and a first down; the officials failed to call forward progress, though it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things). Richard Rodgers was second on the team with 4 targets, 2 catches, and 16 yards. Randall Cobb? Plenty of targets (9), good number of catches (6), but a measly 27 yards on those passes.

Give that secondary credit; they are undoubtedly a talented group and played a pretty perfect game in terms of coverage from start to finish. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris are two of the more excellent corners in the league and make a dangerous combination for all opposing offenses. Bradley Roby is a good third-option corner too, and the safety combo of Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward is pretty good in its own right.

There’s only so much praise that can be given to them when this has been a consistent problem for this Packers team (as evidenced by Rodgers’ mentions even after wins).

People will tend to say this all boils down to one player missing (in this case, Jordy Nelson); that oversimplifies things however. Nelson is undoubtedly great and a major asset on the outside that definitely opens up the field to Rodgers when he plays.

But there is a certain level of effort that needs to be discussed.

Watch how long Rodgers would end up holding the ball at times in this game. He was trying to extend plays despite being pressured more on the night than ever before as a starter. The offensive line allowed pressures, but did enough to keep the rush off him for extended periods that let Rodgers hold the ball as long as he did.

The issue was his guys not breaking free. The guy throwing it can only do so much if the people he needs to throw to don’t give him any space; he doesn’t need much either, as he’s proven this and other years.

The past three postgame interviews give us some insight on just how frustrated he must be with this issue; he only really says something if it is a problem, and the repetition of this issue over multiple weeks shows just how much of a problem this is.

The slate isn’t all cupcakes from here either; Carolina (great coverage linebackers and new favorite broadcast mention CB Josh Norman), Minnesota (twice; young, well-coached defense with many pass-rush and coverage options), and Arizona (Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary, Calais Campbell pass-rushing) are still on the schedule.

There’s still enough weak spots in the schedule for Green Bay to easily make the playoffs — few teams can pressure and cover like Denver — but figuring out the answer to this problem (if they can answer it at all) could be the difference between a deep playoff run and another lackluster finish to match most of the Packers’ postseasons since that Super Bowl in 2010.

Next: Large-Scale Targets