All looked well for the Green Bay Packers when kicker Mason Crosby nailed a 48-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to extend the Packers lead to 20-10 over the New York Giants. The Offense had the best first half of the season and the defense had limited Giants star running back Saquon Barkley to 55 yards.
In a blink of an eye, the New York Giants scored 17 unanswered points and shut out the Green Bay offense in the second half. The Green Bay Packers left London in a familiar and disappointing fashion, unable to play a complete game.
Throughout five games of the season, the Packers have yet to play a complete game on offense or defense. The offense ranks ninth in total offense (1,811 yards) but 22nd in points per game (19.4 ppg).
Many attribute the Packers offensive blunders to head coach Matt LaFleur’s poor play calling, while others blame the lack of offensive weapons. However, the core of the Packers offensive struggles is on quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
In March, the back-to-back MVP signed a 3-year $150.815 million contract extension linking Rodgers to the team through the 2024 season. In his 2020 and 2021 MVP seasons, Rodgers threw for 8,414 yards, 85 touchdowns and nine interceptions (116.7 passer rating).
But in 2022, Rodgers hasn’t looked the same. He’s missed multiple wide-open receivers, overthrown routine passes and thrown the ball away when he could’ve run for extra yardage.
Through five games, Rodgers has completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,157 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions (95.8 passer rating).
“I feel like the stats look a little better than the game,” Rodgers said after beating the Chicago Bears in Week 2. “The standard I set for myself is pretty high. I feel like it is attainable, and my definition of success, I feel like, rests gently on my shoulders and my ego. But I missed some throws that I should never miss. And there were some opportunities for more points out there… I’ve got to play better moving forward.”
Despite the lackluster start to the season, Rodgers thinks the offense will start to click sooner rather than later.
“I expect that typical stretch coming up at some point where we get really hot,” Rodgers said after practice on Wednesday. “Hopefully it starts this week. But I think that’s right around the corner.”
One way Rodgers and the Packers may look to ignite the offense is through running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Through the first five weeks of the NFL season, Jones leads the NFL in yards per carry (6.4), yet has only carried the ball 61 times.
Multiple times this season, when the Packers are trailing, Matt LaFleur has seemingly forgotten about Jones. For example, last week on 3 and 2, the Packers trailed by 7 with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter at the Giants 6-yard line. Instead of running the ball, the Packers ran two pass plays that were both batted down at the line.
“I’d put my money on giving me or AJ Dillon two downs to get two yards, I’d put my money on it,” Jones said after the loss to the Giants.
After the game, LaFleur acknowledged that he needs to do a better job of giving Jones and Dillon touches throughout the game.
“When the outcome isn’t what you want and Aaron Jones has — what did he have? — 13 carries or whatever, and AJ (Dillon) had six, yeah, it’s hard to sit up here and justify that to everybody, to our team,” LaFleur said at a press conference on Monday. “We’ve got to be — I’m talking to myself — more disciplined in our approach in terms of making sure that they get the necessary touches throughout the course of the game.”
The Packers offense is predicated on RPOs (run-pass options) and Rodgers has said that he’s checked out of run plays based on defensive looks and how many defenders are in the box. LaFleur noted that he trusts Rodgers and the decisions he makes for the offense.
“Certainly, we’re playing against a team this week that in many instances can load the box on you. You just want to try to do what’s best for your team and to try to put them in the best position possible and hopefully it works out,” LaFleur said.
The Packers offense has had a rough start to the year, but they will improve as the season goes on. In order to do that, Rodgers needs to stop playing hero ball, and LaFleur needs to start practicing what he preaches by putting the pigskin in the hands of Jones and Dillon.