The Green Bay Packers lost to the awful, lowly, dung-heap known as the Detroit Lions on Sunday, 18-16. The result may have been more conclusive, but Detroit did everything it could to lose this game. Much could be said, and much will be written, about the Packers’ current 3-game losing streak. Big picture, however, it is time to make an admission: the Packers have a a shit offense right now.
Detroit scored 18 points yesterday in Lambeau Field. They are an awful team averaging 18.6 points per game. They gained 287 total yards. Detroit’s horrible players are averaging 332 yards per game. The point here is not that the defense played particularly well: it is that the defense played well enough to win. While that has not always been the case this year, it has been true more often than not.
In years past, the defense instead often played bad enough to lose. Yet they were bailed out by the Packers’ offense. Not so this season. Green Bay has not scored over 30 points since week three, is 21st in yards per game (less than a yard per game better than the Jaguars), and though they remain 11th per game in scoring, the eye test strongly suggest something is off. Not only did the offense struggle on the road against a Denver team that suddenly looks less than stellar and against a strong Carolina Panthers squad, they have failed to take off against San Fransisco, St. Louis at home, San Diego, and now the lowly, trash-heap 2-7 Detroit Lions, who have given up 29 points per game on the season, and previously could not stop a pass from being completed if it hit a defender directly in the hands.
What is that something? Well, many culprits raise their hand. The offensive line play has been sub-par, coming off its best season in years. Injuries to wide receivers and middling-to-poor tight end play have provided Aaron Rodgers with few weapons, and even fewer getting open. Eddie Lacy has taken a serious step back in his third season, and the running game has suffered (sorry, the “Starks Express” does not make up that hole in the offense). Aaron Rodgers himself is clearly off, completing a lower percentage of his passes then at any time since becoming a starter in Green Bay. It would be fair to say he looks extremely uncomfortable in the pocket, and for the first time in his career is exhibiting poor fundamentals on some throws. On others, he simply seems to be throwing the ball too hard in an effort to squeeze it into small spaces. For whatever reason, downfield accuracy is lacking as well.
But the most suspect item, at least in this writer’s view, is the change in offensive responsibilities this season. Mike McCarthy stopped calling plays to concentrate on other areas of the team, and offensive coordinator Tom Clements stepped into that role. The Packers have been noticeably worse after their first 15 plays this season (indeed, as the “A-Team” for FOX noted yesterday, Green Bay came into the game with more first quarter points than any team). Part of that may be that Clements is a poor play caller. Part of it may be that with Clements concentrating on calling plays, he can no longer take an active role in the chess-match that is in-game adjustments. No one outside of the Green Bay locker room is in a position to say.
McCarthy remains dedicated to the change, and Aaron Rodgers seems to support sticking with Clements as play-caller as well. A game with the now division-leading Vikings looms large next week. A Viking victory would make them 4-0 in the division with a two-game lead over the Packers, and of course a tie-breaker going forward. The Packers offense has been bad. That is weird. And it is high time for that to change.