GREEN BAY - Aaron Rodgers said all the mistakes the Green Bay Packers made Sunday were correctable. Technically, of course, he’s correct.
You fix fumbling the ball away by holding onto it. You fix getting your receiver concussed by not leading him into a collision over the middle. You fix letting a running back gash you for 157 yards by getting off blocks and tackling.
You fix getting booed at Lambeau Field by playing much better than you did in a 30-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
So, yes, every mistake the Packers made, physical and mental, can be fixed.
But as the saying goes, you can’t fix ugly. And in the wake of Green Bay’s error-filled pratfall against Dallas, one reasonable conclusion is that this team might not be good enough to overcome its many shortcomings.
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The Packers are 3-2 but playing nothing like a team that could advance in the playoffs … or even get to them.
It starts with Rodgers, whose erratic play continues to mystify. As if the interception he threw wasn’t bad enough – he said he never saw the Cowboys’ Barry Church and planted a spiral in the safety’s chest – he committed the inexcusable sin of fumbling on a quarterback draw on first and goal from the 1.
“This was definitely not his best day,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Taking care of the football is a priority for every quarterback in the game of football.”
Rodgers threw for 294 yards but a big percentage of it was on dump-offs after the outcome had been decided and the Cowboys had backed off on defense.
He threw behind a wide-open Richard Rodgers on what might have been a touchdown, threw over a wide-open Randall Cobb’s head in the end zone on what would have been a touchdown and got Davante Adams hurt when he led the receiver into a violent collision. On one play, he had about nine seconds to throw before getting sacked (but was saved by a face mask penalty).
Jordy Nelson and Ty Montgomery also lost fumbles. Putting the ball on the ground five times and losing three of them is nobody’s formula for success. Right now, however, Rodgers is Exhibit A in things that must be fixed. Quarterback, heal thyself.
“That’s what we’ll figure out here watching this film,” he said. “We’re hard on ourselves. I’m as hard as anybody on myself, so I’m going to get it fixed. It’s been a little bit off.”
The leaning tower of Pisa is a little bit off. The formula for New Coke was a little bit off. Tiger Woods’ golf game is a little bit off. Rodgers is a lot off and getting him straightened out is Job 1 for McCarthy and the coaches.
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Job 1A, separate from Rodgers’ problems, is untangling the mess that the passing game has become. There is no fix for the quarterback if the receivers can’t get open. McCarthy must consider every last option in his playbook, his personnel, his scheme and his philosophy.
“I don’t know if I agree with ‘broken,’ ” McCarthy said of the offense. “It’s definitely not clean in some areas. But it’s just like anything. You play to your strengths.”
The defense has been the Packers’ strength, but the Cowboys showed that the unit’s impressive numbers against the run were inflated by the level of previous competition. Ezekiel Elliott plowed his way to 157 yards, averaged 5.7 per carry and appeared to wear down the defense in the second half.
“Without looking at the film, just my sense is probably broken tackles,” McCarthy said of the rookie back’s success.
The Packers have had their share of injuries. Eddie Lacy is running on a bad ankle. Sam Shields (concussion) is still out. James Starks has undergone knee surgery, according to Fox Sports. Cornerback Quinten Rollins got hurt in practice Saturday, which forced last-minute adjustments. Adams was being evaluated for a concussion Sunday.
Still, every NFL team is banged up by now. Injuries are no excuse for the inordinate number of mistakes the Packers are making.
McCarthy’s mantra is that it always comes down to fundamentals. But if they’re not fundamentally sound by Week 6, what hope is there that things will change in Weeks 7, 8 and 9?