Following a third defeat in four weeks, the Green Bay Packers have run out of excuses.
A year ago it was Jordy Nelson‘s absence and a lack of separation. We’ve since seen the finger pointed at Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy and even Olivia Munn. At this point we may as well use the Lambeau squirrel as an excuse.
This was another humbling defeat for a Green Bay team simply a shell of its former self. A sleeping giant? Perhaps, but Mike McCarthy better hope the alarm awakes them immediately.
Forget that the Colts offense is led by Andrew Luck, one of the league’s best young quarterbacks. This Indianapolis team has been bullied by quality opponents, but it was the Colts laying down the beatdown at Lambeau on Sunday.
Injuries? Sure, the Packers are missing key players, but name an NFL team that isn’t? The Colts themselves were missing five starters.
Third down defense has been an issue all season, particularly when the game is on the line, but its not through a lack of talent. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix showed throughout the game how good he is, registering two interceptions and a sack, but couldn’t come up with the critical play when it mattered most.
LaDarius Gunter did the hard work on his near pick-six in Atlanta last week. He read the quarterback and jumped Mohamed Sanu‘s route, but couldn’t hold onto the football for a game-winning interception.
Offensively there are more than enough playmakers. Between Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb, the Packers’ pass catchers offer complimentary skill sets, yet McCarthy remains insistent on running ineffective isolation routes.
Many will point to the lack of a “traditional” running game. Losing Eddie Lacy stings, but the Packers have been moving the ball on the ground. Ty Montgomery and Don Jackson averaged 7.6 and 4.0 yards per carry respectively against Indianapolis, yet they combined for only 11 rushes.
Montgomery broke out a rush of 24 yards on the Packers’ first play, but he was given just six more carries the rest of the game.
Talent isn’t the problem. Just about everything else is.
What is the Packers’ identity?
In Atlanta, the Packers utilized five-receiver sets to great success. Even without Montgomery and Randall Cobb on the field, they were able to stretch the Falcons defense with the likes of Trevor Davis, Jeff Janis and Geronimo Allison.
McCarthy went away from these sets early against the Colts, instead insisting on forcing the ball to Richard Rodgers, who ended the game with 10 targets.
Nine weeks into the season, what is the Packers’ identity? Are they a dink-and-dunk offense? A pass-happy, no-run offense? An offense that spreads it out with its receivers, or one that wants to utilize its tight ends?
At its best, the Packers are a team that can do it all. We saw this in 2014. That offense thrived on a healthy run game, an ability to go deep to Jordy Nelson on play-action passes and a host of receivers capable of burning defenses after the catch.
What is the identity in 2016? I’m not even sure Mike McCarthy can answer that question.
Titans game a must-win
In Week 7 of the 2015 season, a banged up Packers entered a must-needed bye week at a perfect 6-0. If you had told me then Green Bay would go 9-11 over their next 20 games (postseason included), I’d have asked: “When did Aaron Rodgers get hurt?”.
What’s even more shocking is the record at Lambeau Field. Excluding the games Rodgers missed with a broken collarbone in 2013, the Packers went 37-2 at Lambeau from 2010 until Week 6 of the 2015 season. Since their bye week last year, they are 4-5 on home turf.
READ MORE: Packers have lost Lambeau aura
Maybe it’s good news the Packers now enter a three-game road stretch. Following a trip to Tennessee this week, daunting afternoons at Washington and Philadelphia await. Taking two wins from this three-game run could be considered realistic, but the Packers must overcome the Titans in Week 10. Lose, and Green Bay’s streak of seven consecutive playoff appearances will be under serious threat.
Lack of energy?
After the game, Aaron Rodgers spoke about his disappointment at the Packers’ “lack of juice” on the sideline.
“I don’t understand it,” Rodgers said. “I mean, this is what we get paid to do, is to bring it every week, and I hope the guys would say I bring it every week. I mean, I love this game and I bring energy. I’m not a rah-rah guy, but I’m a focused, enthusiastic player, and I don’t know what the lack of juice was. You kind of felt it over the entire sideline.”
This is particularly concerning. There should have been no shortage of motivation ahead of this game. The Packers were at home and victory was of high importance, given the upcoming road stretch and the fact they had already lost two of their past three.
It ultimately starts and ends with the head coach, and it’s up to Mike McCarthy to find a solution before it’s too late.