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Analysis: Where has it all gone wrong for the Green Bay Packers offence?

We take a closer look at why one of the NFL’s best offences has broken down.

IT DOESN’T TAKE any level of coaching expertise to figure out that something’s not quite right with the Green Bay Packers offence since they came off their bye week at the end of October.

Over the course of their first six games, Green Bay were averaging 27.3 points per game. In the five weeks since, a streak that has featured four losses, that number has dropped to 19.6 ppg.

That’s a difference of nearly eight points — or a touchdown with a two point conversion — per game.

The points their defence is conceding — 16.8 (pre bye) and 22.8 (post bye) — has changed significantly too but, today, our focus will be on three of the main problems faced by Aaron Rodgers and the offensive unit.

1. The receivers are failing to get open

I’m not an idiot, I know that might come as a surprise to some, but I’m not and I realise that you can’t use one piece of game film to hang a particular fault on a team but there has been ample evidence over the past few weeks that, without a true number one receiver, the rest of his wideouts are failing to create separation.

On the opening drive against the Lions in week 10 — who happen to be their opponents again tonight — the Packers went into their hurry-up offence and had a first down right at midfield.

4.13 seconds later, Rodgers’ pass to Devante Adams fell incomplete. Now it wasn’t a great pass — it was far too low to start with — but as the play breaks down, look how little separation his receivers have.

Here’s how it played out on TV:

Source: NFL Gamepass

This is what Rodgers had to work with one second after the snap hit his hand:

Source: NFL Gamepass

This after two:

Source: NFL Gamepass

And this after three:

Source: NFL Gamepass

Now, Rodgers is not without fault here. As I’ve already mentioned, the pass was poor despite being under little or no pressure, but he also missed a check down to the wide open James Starks (red).

On the very next play, Rodgers would exercise that option while facing much more pressure and Starks would take the pass 17 yards for a first down.

Source: NFL Gamepass

4.13 seconds from snap to pass is also a lifetime when you consider Tom Brady — the leader in the race for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award — has an average throw time this year of 2.2 seconds according to Pro Football Focus.

2. The offensive line is not doing its job

Green Bay’s offensive line is ranked 14th in the NFL when it comes to pass protection DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). The beauty of this Football Outsiders statistic is that it takes into consideration the quality of the opponents faced.

14th obviously puts the Packers right in the middle of the, erm, pack but they have given up 26 sacks already this year — Rodgers was sacked just 28 times in 2014 — with only nine quarterbacks picking themselves up and dusting themselves off more than number 12.

Here’s another play from the Lions game earlier this season. This time the Packers have first down inside their own half but Rodgers ends up taking a a sack for the loss of seven yards.

Source: NFL Gamepass

And from another angle:

Source: NFL Gamepass

The pocket bends immediately but doesn’t break and while the line and Starks do a good job with the initial pressure, they completely forget about Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead (yellow) who comes in for the sack.

Source: NFL Gamepass

This is not the first time the offence has managed to ignore a defensive player.

Here they are a week before forgetting all about Carolina Panthers free safety Kurt Coleman (#20).

Watch as left tackle David Bakhtiari touches nobody, not even Panthers defensive end Mario Addison who he is supposed to be blocking, allowing Coleman a free shot at his $110 million quarterback.

Source: NFL Gamepass

And from another angle:

Source: NFL Gamepass

3) Their wide receivers can’t hold onto the football

As Rodgers was completing 73.6% of his passes in his opening three games of the season, a rate good enough to beat the NFL’s single-season record (70.6% in 2009 by Drew Brees), the Packers receivers combined for just one drop.

In the eight games since, Green Bay receivers have 23 drops to their name which, according to Pro Football Focus, is the most by any team in the league over that time.

Drops lose games and, with three of them in this game alone, Devante Adams almost single-handily lost the Packers their Thanksgiving Day match-up with the Chicago Bears.

Adams finished the game with just two receptions for 14 yards, despite being targeted 11 times. By far his worst drop — though they’re all bad — came early in the game when he gained separation from his defender and had nothing but the endzone in front of him:

Source: NFL Gamepass

It’s a perfectly thrown ball by Rodgers and Adams has already beaten the Bears corner back Tracy Porter but he just lets the pass bounce off his hands.

Source: NFL Gamepass

And from another angle:

Source: NFL Gamepass

The All-22 view is even more damning on Adams, showing just how easy it would have been to score the touchdown had he done his job and caught the football:

Source: NFL Gamepass

This is hardly an anomaly. Rodgers targeted Adams 21 times against Detroit in week 10, when the receiver managed to haul in 10 passes for just 79 yards.

But he’s not the only problem for the Packers either.

Randall Cobb also has seven drops on the season according to Pro Football Focus and, since week three, that website’s stats show that both Cobb and Adams are amongst the worst eight receivers in the league in terms of drops.

Conclusion

We have enough of a sample size to suggest this isn’t something that is easily correctable for the Packers.

Defences will continue to play really tight man coverage, knowing that separation is an issue, which in turn forces Rodgers into either holding onto the ball for longer — and taking more sacks as the offensive line crumbles — or throwing riskier passes and increasing the chance of an interception. 

At the moment, Rodgers has just four picks on the year, but he’s on pace for his worst season, in terms of interceptions, since 2010.

Will the Packers make the postseason? They should, but in their current guise, this is not the kind of offence that can win a Super Bowl.

Read more in our Coaches Film series here

The Ravens beat the Browns last night with an ultra-rare walk-off ‘Kick Six’

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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