GREEN BAY - Based on the Green Bay Packers’ 22-0 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Lambeau Field there are a ton of things that needed fixing on offense.
No. 1 on the list should be the lens through which coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers view the direction it is taking through one quarter of the season because after the game they couldn’t have been farther apart in their assessment.
McCarthy was celebrating the fact the Packers posted their first shutout since Oct. 31, 2010, and saw nothing wrong with the fact the offense posted just 22 points on a season-high 423 total yards. He called the second half a grind but was pumped by the 56-yard touchdown drive that gave the Packers a 6-0 lead 10 minutes into the game.
Rodgers, on the other hand, was not celebrating anything.
After McCarthy’s upbeat press conference, Rodgers came into the media auditorium and dumped cold water on the occasion like it was a California wild fire.
“It was as bad as we’ve played on offense with that many yards in a long time,” Rodgers said. “I think a lot of people played really good, but there was no flow to the game.”
Converting 11 of 19 third downs, rushing for 141 yards and a touchdown and holding onto the ball for 34 minutes, 37 seconds doesn’t sound as “terrible” – Rodgers’ word -- as it might seem, but Rodgers was right about a lack of flow.
In a game where the opposition's quarterback was sacked seven times and threw two interceptions, you would have thought the offense could muster more than 22 points. Other quarterbacks have been piling up offensive numbers this season and Rodgers has thrown just seven touchdown passes, just one more than Chicago’s Mitch Trubisky threw against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
This should have been a game where the Packers piled up points.
“We were championship defensive level and non-playoff team offensive level today,” Rodgers said. “That was not great by any stretch of the imagination. We need to find ways to get our playmakers in position to get some more opportunities.”
There’s no question the offense looked disjointed and Rodgers’ passer rating of 76.9, his worst of the season, was proof. He completed 22 of 40 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown, but he was intercepted once, sacked twice and lost a fumble.
The receivers had at least five drops.
Rodgers’ sprained knee might have been an excuse in Weeks 2 and 3 for offensive sluggishness, but he was able to take snaps from under center for the first time and scrambled for 31 yards on five carries. There were some missed throws, but none seemed like they were the result of a sore knee.
What it really looked like was either an off day for Rodgers or an offense being led by a guy who wasn’t sold on the game plan and wanted to attack the Bills a different way. A total of 25 of his passes were split between Davante Adams (14 targets, 8 catches for 81 yards) and Geronimo Allison (11 targets, 6 catches for 80 yards) and yet Rodgers thought he could have done more with Adams.
“You know, a game like today… Davante is a tough cover for anybody, but he should have had 20 targets today,” Rodgers said. “They couldn’t stop him. They dared to play one-high a few times. So, we have to find ways to get him the ball -- and Jimmy (Graham) as well.”
Asked if he thought all the different formations and McCarthy’s insistence on using a three-back rotation were the reason the offense was out of sync, Rodgers punted.
“I mean, that’s not a question for me,” he said.
Later, after saying he didn’t think practicing mid-week for the first time since hurting his knee helped him one bit, he was asked if he was getting enough input in the game plans.
He left his answer open to interpretation.
“Coaches put the plan together, I tell them what calls I like and we go,” he said.
Given his tone, it was far from an endorsement of the process, even though giving Rodgers a say in what might work is something McCarthy has always done. It’s possible the new coaching structure, which features an offensive coordinator, passing game coordinator, running game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, has diluted what input Rodgers has in the offense.
It’s also possible Rodgers just didn’t like the game plan Sunday.
Many of his teammates acknowledge that the offense isn’t where it should be, but felt there were far more positives to the performance than the debacle in Washington the week prior.
It’s true 6 of the 8 possessions that ended inside Buffalo territory did not result in a touchdown and only three of the 12 total possessions netted more than two first downs. But the Washington game featured five punts, a lost fumble and two series that ended on downs.
“I think we’re still figuring things out,” said tight end Lance Kendricks, who had a drop but also a clutch third-down reception and fumble recovery. “We’ve got a nice rotation going with a lot of different personnel groupings. I think the flow of the game was starting to move a little better.”
Not having receiver Randall Cobb (hamstring) resulted in McCarthy using several different personnel combinations. Instead of just plugging rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling in Cobb’s place, he used more double- and triple-tight end sets and moved Adams around more than usual.
In addition, he insisted on rotating backs Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery and Jones, and the result was that Jones only got 11 carries despite gaining 65 yards on the ground and 17 on a single reception.
In 18 touches since coming back from a two-game suspension, Jones has five gains of 10 or more yards and three gains of 17 or more.
“I think we did a good job of sustaining drives,” guard Lane Taylor said. “We didn’t do the best job at finishing drives. I think we got a little continuity today with what we did out there today.
“You could kind of feel it when stuff was running pretty good.”
Others might have been feeling it, but Rodgers wasn’t.
When they meet again, the two are going to have to come to an understanding about what happened against Buffalo because it’s off to Detroit in six days for a game that could put them in a reasonably good position in the division.
Right now, they’re not seeing things the same way.