Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has struggled through his team's 1-2 start, with his quarterback rating almost 10 points below his career average, and concern has taken root.
What's wrong with Rodgers? Everyone wants to know. On his weekly ESPN Milwaukee radio show, Rodgers spoke directly to Packers fans Tuesday afternoon, trying to quell the panic.
"Five letters here, just for everybody out there in Packerland: R-E-L-A-X. Relax," Rodgers said calmly. "We're going to be fine."
In Green Bay's 19-7 loss at the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the Packers offense had one of its worst outings in the Rodgers era. Their lone touchdown was the fewest points they'd ever scored in a game Rodgers started and finished. They gave the Lions nine points – seven when running back Eddie Lacy's fumble was returned for a touchdown, and two more when Lacy was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
Rodgers has not been immune to the problems on the field. His 6.83 yards per passing attempt would be almost two yards below his career average, far off the blistering 9.25 yards per pass he averaged in 2011. Rodgers has never averaged fewer than 7.5 yards per pass in a season, and that was his first year as a starter.
Naturally, fans have tried to rationalize those numbers. In their panic, they've stretched with their theories. Some have wondered whether last season's collarbone injury that forced Rodgers to miss seven games has lingered into this season. Others questioned on social media whether Rodgers is distracted from football while dating actress Olivia Munn.
On his radio show, Rodgers emphatically shot down both notions.
"Those are so idiotic, it's not even worth responding to either one of those," Rodgers said.
So what is it? Why has an offense historically so dominant suddenly stumbled?
Rodgers said Green Bay did not respond well to the Cover 2 defense Detroit played Sunday.
The Lions' game plan was sound, likely one that will be copied by the Packers next couple opponents. They left six defenders in the box, constantly keeping an extra defensive back on the field. With two high safeties to prevent the big passing plays, the Lions secondary shifted coverage to receiver Jordy Nelson's side, forcing someone else on the Packers offense to make a play.
Nobody filled that void Sunday. The combination of receivers Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Jarrett Boykin combined to finish with six catches and 51 yards – one more catch and 8 fewer yards than Nelson. Running back Eddie Lacy finished with 11 carries for 36 yards, his third straight game with under 45 yards rushing.
"We're not playing fast enough on offense," Rodgers said, pointing to the fact Green Bay only ran 51 plays in Detroit. "… That defense (the Lions) wasn't tired at all, and they played like they weren't tired. Running the no-huddle, you want to tire a team out. The hope is that they'll become more undisciplined when they get tired, and they'll have more lapses in coverages or assignments when they're tired."
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