This one is on McCarthy and Rodgers.
Yes, Sam Bradford’s play was exemplary and Stefan Diggs showed again that he’s a star in the making, but the Pack’s defense overall was not the issue on this night. Statistically, the teams were basically even in total yards and time of possession.
Mike McCarthy did not have a great night calling plays and Aaron Rodgers struggled all night with ball protection and accuracy. It added up to just a 14 point night, which will not win you many games in the NFL.
Let’s start with the head coach. He’l defend the decision to pass up a 32 yard field goal late in the third quarter that would have tied the game. “We were on a 12 play drive and I thought the advantage was to the offense in that situation,” he said after the game. But handing the ball to James Starks on fourth and two against that defense was a disaster. That decision completely changed the momentum of the game. Through two games, fourth downs have been killers for the Pack on both sides of the ball.
I would have liked to see a larger dose of Eddie Lacy in the second half; he’s one of those guys who gets better as the game goes along. But McCarthy went pass happy and his quarterback didn’t deliver.
Rodgers was off his game from the start. Through two game,s the offense still looks an awfully lot like last year’s. There were seven active receivers on the roster, but only three saw the field (why did Ty Montgomery get no snaps?). And the Pack seems intent on getting Jordy Nelson into the flow–he again was the clear cut leader in targets. With the Vikes’ pass rush causing problems all night, it’s a head scratcher that we don’t see more screens and quick hitches dialed up. The Pack’s offense seems to always be determined to go downfield, even if nothing is open.
Obviously, the Vikes’ defense was up to the challenge. I thought the Pack would find mismatches in the secondary, but their coverage was solid all night. Randall Cobb and Jared Cook were afterthoughts as the Pack zeroed in on Trae Waynes, who’s horrid night was saved by his game-saving pick late in the fourth quarter.
Credit where it’s due: Mike Zimmer’s defense wreaked havoc all night. But the Packers’ D wasn’t far behind. The run defense was exemplary, completely bottling up Adrian Peterson, before he left with an apparent knee injury. The problem, of course, was the Stefon Diggs-Damarius Randall matchup. Coming off a game where he was the highest graded CB in week 1, Randall was abused by Diggs all night.
Sam Bradford’s play was outstanding–he was getting pummeled all night but stepped up and made big play after big play. It looked like he and Diggs had been playing together for years, not days. With the Pack concentrating on stopping the run, Randall was forced to win one on one matchups and on this night he was not up to the challenge.
Despite the fumbles, the late pick and the sluggish offense the Packers were in this one till the final minute. There’s no shame in losing a division road game by three, especially on a special night like this was.
But as the team heads back to Lambeau for the next five weeks, there is much work to be done on the offensive side of the ball. This next stretch of home games against the Lions, Giants, Bears and Cowboys will tell us all we need to know about the 2016 Packers. Those four defenses will provide opportunities for the Pack’s offense to awaken from its slumber. But if we’re still scratching our heads a month from now and the team doesn’t score points in bunches against those teams, we’ll know there are serious issues for the once potent Pack.
The sky is not falling. The season is young and the Packers are heading home until Halloween weekend. There’s plenty of time to get the offense on track. But McCarthy needs to take a good, hard look at his personnel and understand he may have to change some things.
Last week Zimmer said, ‘you can’t really call this a rivalry until we win a few of these.’ After Sunday night, I think we’re all ready to call this a rivalry. And one that will resume on a cold Christmas Eve day in Lambeau–likely with a division title at stake.