GREEN BAY – Allen Lazard leaned against his locker and thought about what happens to the Green Bay Packers’ offense at times. The wide receiver likened it to the struggle of trying to find an outlet in the dark for your phone charger: You know it’s there, and occasionally you find the fit. But more often than not you spend your time just missing.
“That’s really what it is,” Lazard said. “We know we can do it. We obviously have the manpower. We have the right people out there. We just got to come together as 11 just to be able to close out the game in a better way.”
It’s what happened again Sunday in a 21-13 victory over Chicago at Lambeau Field. The Packers opened the second half by exploiting matchups for Davante Adams and Aaron Jones and accumulated 139 yards on 10 plays and scored two touchdowns to go up 21-3.
Of those 10 plays, Adams and Jones touched the ball for all but nine, the other being Jake Kumerow’s 49-yard reception that set up a Jones touchdown run two plays later.
“We had a number of snaps with him in slot,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of Adams’ movement for matchups. “He was playing both Z and X, gonna have to do that. We had Aaron (Jones);split out a few times; didn’t really target him when he was split out at receiver, but the more we can move him around, it just gives the defense more things to worry about, and he’s a dangerous runner for us.”
But after that?
On five consecutive possessions, the Packers punted. They earned one first down and ran 18 plays for a total of 24 yards.
The biggest culprits? A lack of early-down efficiency led to third-down failure.
The Packers didn’t convert on third-and-7 and third-and-5 before facing a third-and-20 due to a holding penalty.
On a third-and-4 Rodgers was sacked for the first time and lost 11 yards. Rodgers said he was looking for Adams and expected the route to head outside – only Adams broke in.
“There was a ‘backer kind of playing that inside area,” Rodgers said. “By the time I tried to get back to my back-side option, I had guys in my face and couldn’t throw it away.”
On their final possession and with a chance to salt the game away with a first down on third-and-5, the Packers played the percentages and had Rodgers take a 1-yard loss on a slow boot and slide.
In other words, 0-for-5.
On the two scoring drives, they went 1-for-1 on third down, with Kumerow’s deep shot coming on third-and-4.
“We have a lot of playmakers on this team and to get everybody a shot at getting the ball in their hands and making somebody miss is big for us,” Kumerow said. “Aaron (Jones) and Davante do a tremendous job of making plays for us and moving the ball but you can’t leave it to only those two guys obviously. Some guys gotta step up and sometimes you never know when that’s going to be really. I didn’t expect the ball on that play but I was ready for it. You never know.”
The dip in production after the Adams-Jones explosions are symptoms of a larger issue facing the offense throughout the year: inconsistency.
On one hand, they had a nearly seven-minute, game-winning drive against Detroit. They scored 14 fourth-quarter points in New York. They salted away the win in Kansas City with a 5-minute, 4-second end-of-game drive.
On the other, they went scoreless in the second half against Minnesota, scoreless in the first half against the Los Angeles Chargers and had scoreless fourth quarters against Philadelphia and Carolina.
“The difference from last year to this year is we’ve won the close, ugly games. Or most of them I should say, which shows the character of the team,” Packers tight end Robert Tonyan said. “I think that we just need to stay together and just keep progressing, honestly. The bond is there and we’re just going to keep progressing with that and it’s just going to click. The playoffs are all about getting hot at the right time.”
After finding success early in the second half Sunday, the Bears completely took the Packers out of their game -- largely thanks to an overloaded front and aggressive, downhill movement into the line of scrimmage. Tonyan said the calls were still aggressive to try and put the finishing blow into the end zone, but it never came together.
Over those final 18 plays, Rodgers went 1-for-6 for 5 yards with a sack. Adams didn’t catch a pass and Jones rushed two times for six yards.
“When we’ve been in those situations this year where we need to run the ball in the fourth quarter to close the game out, we’ve done a pretty good job for the most part,” Lazard said. “Today was probably, for those situations, probably the worst we’ve had this year. We’ll come back tomorrow look at the film and we’ll learn from it because more than likely the next weeks will be the same.”