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McCarthy And The Packers Offense Fail To Get On Track In Minnesota

McCarthy - NFL Mike Morbeck via


McCarthy & Rodgers unable to solve offensive woes

Last night Packer fans around the world again watched as their team came up short in a big game, and the same mystifying question reared it’s head once more. Could Head Coach Mike McCarthy be the issue, and if not what is the real problem?

Did Aaron Rodgers somehow unwittingly get cast in a Space Jam spin-off where his talent is actually stolen in real life and transferred to Sam Bradford? Has the defense been cursed with some sort of injury plague by a witch doctor who roots for the Vikings? The answer is probably a bit more logical.

As in all aspects of life when something is going wrong it comes back to the boss. Rightfully so or not the man in charge has to get his team ready and prepared. McCarthy has long been one of the most respected offensive minds in the game, but since giving up the play-calling last year and taking back the reigns he has seemed a step behind.

Ironically, when McCarthy took back the Packers offense last year in mid-December it saw a dip in production. In the final four games of the season, the games he called, the Packers only threw for 177.5 yards and 5 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. The first twelve games with Assistant Coach Tom Clements, Rodgers threw for 246.4 yards a game and 26 touchdowns to 5 interceptions.

The Packers also went 8-4 with Clements and only 2-2 with McCarthy, including a embarrassing 38-8 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in week 16.

Fast forward to this year, and there still seems to be a glitch in the once perfect system. In Green Bay’s week 1 win against Jacksonville it was the defense that saved the day when the offense failed to make plays.

McCarthy let both the offense and Rodgers down multiple times last week getting plays in late because he was distracted handling player and referee issues on the sideline.

Rodgers hasn’t been without blame, as his efficiency has been steadily heading downhill since the middle of last year. He again failed to complete 60% of his passes in this weeks 17-14 loss to Minnesota.

In Sunday’s game Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer did something McCarthy refuses to do, he adapted. Early in the game it seemed Rodgers was going to eat the single coverage of the Vikings defense alive, so he switched to zone, and wouldn’t you know it the offense slowed down.

If it wasn’t for some fortunate defensive pass interference and holding calls on the Vikings young corner Trae Waynes, the Packers wouldn’t have had much of a chance in this game. Green Bay had 20 first downs on the day and 5 of them came from defensive penalties.

In fact, it was a 40-plus yard pass interference call drawn by Davante Adams on veteran corner Terrance Newman that set the Packers up at the one yard line. This ultimately led to a touchdown pass from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson to open the games scoring.

Following the touchdown Green Bay would go 6 straight possessions (4 punts, end of the first half, turnover on downs) without any points.

They only were able to gain 120 yards during this stretch (20 yards a drive) lasting from 2 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter to 2:30 remaining in the 3rd quarter.

The game momentum flipped on a big risk, big reward play-call decision from McCarthy late in the 3rd.

Only down three, 10-7, and with the ball on the Vikings 14 yard line the Packers elected to go for a 4th and 2. It seemed like an obvious time for an Eddie Lacy dive play, but of course McCarthy called a draw play to backup James Starks out of the shotgun formation. As expected, it failed.

Possibly more puzzling was the play-call that led to the 4th down. On the previous play  on 3rd and 2 the Packers attempted a pass but Rodgers was forced to throw the ball away.

If I had the notion I was going to go for a 4th down if I didn’t convert the 3rd, I’m handing the ball off. Especially in this game, Green Bay was far more likely to gain two yards on two runs with Lacy than take the risk of a throwing an incomplete pass on 3rd and counting on Starks to gain 2 yards on one 4th down play.

I would normally appreciate a gutsy call like this, but only down 3 with a chance to tie the game and with your defense being completely overworked, you have to take the points.

As stated earlier, it isn’t all the head coach. The man under center has a lot of blame to shoulder as well.

Whether it is an inability to mesh back with McCarthy’s gameplan or a lack of focus all-around, his poor play can’t be ignored. For years his footwork and accuracy was second to none, but now it looks to be no better than a second or third year quarterback.

There were multiple plays during the game where Rodgers flat out missed receivers. His feet were constantly out of position and pointing away from his target and he seemed once again like he was nervous in the pocket as well as having trouble reading the defense pre-snap. He uncharacteristically turned the ball over twice, but could’ve had more due to multiple strip sacks the defense was unable to recover.

It is hard to believe someone who is so intelligent and meticulous could be so unprepared or unfocused, but there comes a point where even the greatest players need to be questioned.

Rodgers ended the day going 20 of 36 (only 55%) for 213 yards with 2 touchdowns (1 passing, 1 rushing) and one game ending interception made by Trae Waynes, the young corner who he picked on much of the first three quarters. In some ways a poetic ending.

The other quarterback in this prime-time game certainly doesn’t have to worry about any criticism coming his way.

Sam Bradford took a primarily running offense held to only 30 rushing yards without All-Pro Adrian Peterson and passed for 286 yards and two scores. It was hard to tell for most of the game who was the two-time MVP and who was the running punchline for years.

Although the Packers defense again played well, they were continuously gashed by standout 2nd year man Stefon Diggs. Diggs caught 9 passes for 182 yards and a big time score. He provided most of the the offense for Minnesota and made the Packers realize just how much they need injured corner Sam Shields.

Had Shields been healthy he would’ve been tasked with stopping Diggs. Shields’ has a talent for stopping speedy receivers with his athleticism and would’ve provided a much better match-up for Green Bay than Damarious Randall.

After a week 1 where Randall earned praise for his containment of Allen Robinson of the Jaguars, he earned an equal amount of hate for his lackluster showing against Diggs, who he was primarily responsible for stopping.

A bright spot in the team’s bleak showing was the performance of the front 7.

Young linebackers Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez both made a great deal of plays in stopping the run. Ryan ended the game with a team high 6 tackles (1 tackle for loss) and a great pass deflection in coverage. Martinez was also flying around the field collecting 5 tackles of his own (1 tackle for loss). Coupled with Joe Thomas (5 tackles, 1 for loss), Green Bay seems to have found something to build on in the middle of their defense.

Up front, big man Mike Daniels was able to make his presence felt early as well, stopping Adrian Peterson behind the line of scrimmage for 2 tackles in the first 2 drives of the game. He would also add a sack of Bradford and set the tone early.

Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, and Clay Matthews were all also able to get to the Vikings quarterback. The Packers certainly have proved early to have a surplus of talented players ready to put pressure on opposing teams.

From a defensive point of view this game was another success, even with giving up numerous big plays the Packers were in position to win this game multiple times.

However, until coach McCarthy figures out what is eating at the offenses effectiveness no level of defensive production can save the Packers from underachieving yet again. In Green Bay every year is Super Bowl or bust.

Before the season McCarthy stated “Division titles are important, but I don’t lose any sleep over it. Because we have a bigger goal, we don’t hang division title banners around here.” and if adjustments aren’t made McCarthy and the Packers won’t have to worry about banners of any kind, anytime soon.