Packers receivers not helping Rodgers
Yes, Aaron Rodgers over the last three weeks hasn't played near the level he has set as a two-time NFL MVP.
But if one of his issues might be holding the ball rather than taking some risks on throws to closely covered receivers, truth be told, his receivers aren't doing much to gain his trust.
Looking back at video of the Packers' 18-16 loss to Detroit on Sunday, the Packers' receivers dropped at least six passes and missed several chances to make plays that might have turned the game. Overall, they didn't give Rodgers much help.
James Jones and Davante Adams had two drops each, and Randall Cobb and tight end Richard Rodgers each had one. On a day when the Packers scored only 16 points and needed only 19 to win, those miscues were huge.
Cobb had maybe the most costly drop on the day. It came late in the first quarter on a third-and-9 during a stretch when the Packers punted on nine straight possessions (save a kneel down at the end of the first half). Play caller Tom Clements dialed up a play to get Cobb open against man-to-man coverage: Three receivers bunched to the right, with Cobb on the outside.
At the snap, Cobb dipped in behind the other two on a fake pick play. Cornerback Quandre Diggs saw the pick and tried to get around it, so when Cobb broke back outside he was wide open for the short catch and run. Cobb easily had the first down, probably was looking at least at a 20-yard gain and with only a safety to beat deep might have even turned it into a 59-yard touchdown. But he dropped the pass and the drive died.
One of Adams' drops came early in the fourth quarter when the Packers were desperately trying to get back in the game trailing 12-3. On a second down, Rodgers threw a perfect back-shoulder ball about 15 yards down the sideline. It hit Adams in the hands about waist high, but Adams dropped it, the drive fizzled a few plays later and the Packers punted.
Another play was maybe emblematic of the day. If you can criticize Rodgers for not trying to fit some passes into tight windows and instead waiting for something cleaner that never materializes, there was a play where he stood tall in the pocket and delivered a throw in rhythm into a tight window.
In the fourth quarter on third-and-9 with 9:24 left in the game Rodgers dropped back, set up and with a rusher or two closing in fired to closely covered tight end Richard Rodgers for what should have been the first down. But Richard Rodgers dropped it. The Packers caught a break when Detroit was called for interference, so they got the first down. But it was a ticky-tack call on linebacker Tahir Whitehead, and the ball was catchable.
Even second-year receiver Jared Abbrederis, who had a good game in the first extended playing time of his career, made a rookie-type mistake on what might have been a big gainer. Early in the second quarter he was lined up in the slot when the cornerback lined up over him, Josh Wilson, blitzed. So did the nearest inside linebacker, Stephen Tulloch.
Abbrederis knew to turn his head for the hot read, but he made the mistake of continuing his skinny post pattern up field. When he saw Tulloch had blitzed also, he should have cut off his route and run straight across the field, wide open, for the quick throw. There was plenty of open field because the other receivers were running deep routes and the Lions were in man coverage, so Abbrederis might have been able to turn it into a big catch and run.
Instead, Rodgers couldn't throw because Abbrederis drifted into the safety who was charging up to cover him. Rodgers was sacked for a seven-yard loss. It looked like Rodgers held the ball, but in reality the mistake almost surely was on Abbrederis.
The Packers haven't been getting much out of their tight ends as receivers or blockers, so Justin Perillo might have earned extended playing time with his five-catch performance Sunday.
The second-year tight end made several key catches in the Packers' failed fourth-quarter comeback, and though he's not a body beautiful player nor a dynamic athlete, he looks like he might be one of those guys who somehow does just enough to get the job done.
His most impressive play was a 24-yard reception on third-and-15 early in the fourth quarter. What stood out was that he made the play in traffic — he had three defenders around him, and Whitehead had tight coverage at his hip. But Perillo reached up and made the clutch catch in a crowd.
With how poorly Richard Rodgers has been blocking, there's probably good reason to give Perillo a longer look and maybe have him start splitting snaps at tight end.
» The Packers' run blocking unit kept breaking down, which helps account for the team's rushing total of only 47 yards and a 2.6-yard average. Late in the first quarter center Corey Linsley missed a block on defensive tackle Gabe Wright that might have sprung Cobb on a big gain, because there was a big hole and no one in the middle of the field if Cobb had broken the line of scrimmage. And on a third-and-2 late in the second quarter, right guard T.J. Lang didn't even attempt to combo block defensive tackle Jason Jones, who burst through the gap between Lang and tackle Bryan Bulaga to blow up the play and end the possession.
» Rookie fullback Aaron Ripkowski has shown some striking ability, but he'll have to be more assignment sure to get on the field more. On a play early in the second quarter, the Packers lined up in their inverted wishbone with Ripkowski and Kuhn in front of James Starks. Ripkowski bolted through the hole and wiped out Whitehead. The problem was, he blocked the wrong guy. Tulloch presented the nearest threat in the hole, and the rule for the blocker there is, when another colored jersey is in your face, block it. Tulloch dumped Starks for no gain.
Former football coach and player Eric Baranczyk offers his analysis of Green Bay Packers games each week. Follow him on Twitter @EricBaranczyk1