Packers not fretting over offense

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY – As the community outside Green Bay Packers headquarters wrings its hands over the seven unexceptional halves of football it has seen from a once-prolific offense, the residents inside it don’t get what all the fuss is about.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reads the defense before snapping the ball during a 23-16 win over the  New York Giants NFL football game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI, Sunday, October 9, 2016.

A problem?

Last time they checked, they were 3-1 and fresh off a 23-16 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night.

"You know, we had 400 yards of offense, so I don't know why the hell I've got to come in here and answer questions about the things you think that went wrong,” McCarthy said in his Wednesday news conference after being asked back-to-back questions about offensive issues.

Maybe the fact the Packers managed only 23 points against a Giants defense that was playing much of the game with an undrafted rookie at one starting cornerback position and a practice squad player at one starting safety position has something to do with it.

Or the fact that quarterback Aaron Rodgers posted a 65.0 passer rating, receiver Jordy Nelson dropped a couple of passes, tight end Richard Rodgers was a non-factor, the screen game was absent and there were only three passing plays of 20 or more yards.

Or the fact, the Packers rank 25th in total offense, 31st in completion percentage and 19th in passer rating after one quarter of the season.

But they don’t quite see it that way.

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They see it as being a completed screen pass or deep ball or an avoided interception or illegal motion penalty away from being a potent offense. Make some of those plays and nobody is talking much about completion percentage, passer rating and missed opportunities.

“It’s one or two plays here or there that, if they’d gone our way, if we had executed better, that it would have looked a lot better on paper,” Rodgers said. “And actually live, as well.”

Rodgers may be right, but when the only half of consistent offensive football occurred three weeks ago against Detroit, another team missing several key defensive starters, it’s hard to imagine consistency being right around the corner.

Even Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, whose team comes into Lambeau Field on Sunday, sees what everyone else sees, which is an offense that isn’t as efficient as it has been in the past. Like Rodgers, he thinks a play or two going the other way would make the difference.

“At different times they've kind of shot themselves in the foot like every offense that's ever been assembled has, and sometimes those situations are hard to overcome,” Garrett said. “But they're doing what they need to do to win games.

“They attack you a lot of different ways, and boy they threaten you a lot of different ways as well. We're certainly mindful of that.”

The bright spot offensively for the Packers has been the play of the offensive line and running back Eddie Lacy, which makes the passing game’s impotence even more disturbing. The Packers rank 12th in rushing yards, tied for ninth in yards per carry and tied for sixth in fewest sacks, yet none of it has aided their passing game.

“We can make it look extremely easy,” Nelson said. “We've done it enough around here that that's the expectations from ourselves and from everyone else. That's a great thing. You want it that way.

“So when it's not a fine-tuned machine or it's not going the way it has consistently in the past, then everyone else worries about it and we just continue to work at it and understand that we'll get there and all you can do is practice and work."

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McCarthy acknowledged that the passing game isn’t up to par, but he said a change in approach against the Giants to less no-huddle offense and more rotation with the receivers and tight ends may have affected continuity.

He wouldn’t say that he planned to continue the approach of getting receivers Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis and Ty Montgomery more playing time. But he has it in his pocket after going the first three games with Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams receiving the vast majority of receiver snaps.

“At the end of the day, we're trying to play more players in the perimeter group,” McCarthy said. “Last week was our first real attempt at that, so we'll see how this week shakes out with game-planning.

“But we need to spend a little more time on the passing game then we've had in the past and we're doing that particularly in our meeting structure.”

The Packers probably can count on Nelson not dropping multiple passes every week, but Rodgers’ accuracy has been off for a good portion of the season and doesn’t get addressed much publicly.

McCarthy hasn’t said anything about Rodgers’ footwork or weight balance being off and has not taken exception with the number of times he leaves the pocket to extend plays. Offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett and quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt have not expressed any concern about Rodgers’ passing.

Rodgers admits that his accuracy could be better at times, but when asked the week of the Detroit game about whether his fundamentals could be better, he said, “I feel pretty good about my fundamentals.”

That was the same week Rodgers made it known that the players don’t concern themselves with what others outside the locker room are thinking and assured everyone that they are very honest about their own performance and what they need to do to get better.

He said others might be worried about him missing targets or Nelson dropping passes against the Giants, but those two aren’t.

“I said it after the game, I’m not worried about that at all,” Rodgers said. “Those things happen. I missed some passes. Those guys shouldn’t be worried about me, either. We’re going to get better. We’re not going to have inconsistent performances like that.”

McCarthy insists no one with the Packers is satisfied with what has occurred so far. He doesn't think they need the outside world to point out where they could be better.

"It’s a group of men that really operate with a lot of accountability," McCarthy said. "They do it publicly and I know they definitely do it privately. So this is a process. This is a long year. we’ve done some good things throughout our football team, but we’re well aware of not only why we’re doing things but how we’re doing things and what we need to do to get better."

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