Four Downs: Packers lack quick-strike threat on offense
Every week I’ll share four observations the day after the Green Bay Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers’ 34-23 loss at Atlanta on Sunday night:
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has plenty of good skill-position players to work with, and the Packers are going to score their share of points. But they don’t have a quick-strike offense. Namely, they don’t have any receivers who can stretch the field consistently. Jordy Nelson used to be a deep threat but is less so now at age 32. Davante Adams made a spectacular 33-yard touchdown catch against the Falcons, but he’s not a burner (4.56 40). Randall Cobb does his damage on short routes and finding seams over the middle, and Geronimo Allison is a big target (6-3) but lacks deep speed (4.67 40). The Packers’ fastest receivers are Trevor Davis and Jeff Janis, who both run 4.42. But they’re the Nos. 5 and 6 receivers and rarely get on the field. And tight end Martellus Bennett isn’t the downfield threat that Jared Cook was last year. So looks like it’s going to be mostly a ball-control offense this year.
Bennett had a rough night in his second game with the Packers. If you want to be a hard grader, he had four drops. One, on a third down, would have been a tough catch for a 6-foot-6 player on a low throw, but that ball has to be thrown low, and it’s one he needs to dig out. The Packers got the first down anyway because of a pass-interference penalty. Another also came on a third down, which he juggled until he landed out of bounds, but it became a first down anyway because of a defensive holding penalty. The other two were just plain drops.
It looks like coach Mike McCarthy is going to have to let officials know before games that they always have to be ready for a quick no-huddle snap when the Packers are on offense. It’s certainly incumbent on officials to be more ready than they were on one play in the first quarter Sunday night. After a second-down play, Atlanta tried to sub several defensive players. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers saw it, rushed to the line of scrimmage and tried to get off a quick snap to catch the Falcons with too many players on the field and get a free play. It’s one of his favorite tactics. According to ESPN, Rodgers last week threw the 12th free-play touchdown pass of his career. But referee Walt Anderson stopped the play, and his announced reason was that the officials weren’t ready. It gave the Falcons all the time in the world to get ready for the snap. That shouldn’t happen again the rest of the season. Officials have to know that’s always a possibility with Rodgers at quarterback.
Clay Matthews had one of his best rushing games in a while. The outside linebacker had 1 ½ sacks, his first multi-sack game since he had 1 ½ at Washington in the playoffs of the 2015 season. Matthews also had three quarterback hits. It didn’t hurt that Atlanta lost starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder on the last play of the Falcons’ opening drive. Regardless, the Packers don’t have a lot of pass-rushing depth, so they need Matthews to be a consistent factor at age 31.