NFL Wire News

Perfect Packers (6-0) aware of plentiful flaws


The Sports Xchange

GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The Packers are well on their way to winning a fifth straight NFC North title and generally considered the team to beat in the NFC this season.

Yet, as Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy gave players a full week to rest on their laurels thus far for the team’s Week 7 bye, his team’s perfect 6-0 start hasn’t been without imperfections.

“We’ve had six of them this year, (and) they’ve been all different types of wins,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “We’ve had pretty ones. We’ve had to grind it out (in other games).”

Their unbeaten record, which has the Packers out in front of the division pack by no fewer than 2 1/2 games, also includes a great escape. That happened Sunday, when Green Bay needed a goal-line stand in the final seconds to ward off the visiting San Diego Chargers 27-20.

As several of the players fled Green Bay on Monday to return home or take a midseason getaway, the consensus opinion that is coursing through the team is twofold. While the Packers have positioned themselves for greater success the remaining three-plus months of the season, including the playoffs, they have underachieved to some extent.

“We’ve won six in a row, but there’s a lot of work to do,” veteran receiver James Jones said. “We all know it don’t mean (anything) if we can’t finish the season off the way we want to do it.”

The most pressing concern as the coaches huddled for a few days this week for a self-scout of the pre-bye portion of the season is coming to grips with what has been a peculiar offense of late.

The Packers have scored a touchdown on their first possession the last three games and have scored an aggregate 35 points in the first quarter of those games. However, they have averaged just 23 points per game in the recent stretch and fell short in each of those games of fulfilling what veteran guard T.J. Lang said is a team goal of 28 points.

In fact, Green Bay has scored fewer than 28 points in four of its six games.

“Obviously, this is a different team than years past,” Lang said. “I know everybody would like to score 38 points a game, get those blowouts that we had last year, but the fact of the matter is it’s not going to happen every week.”

A slew of injuries on the offensive side has contributed to the occasional lethargy.

Rodgers has had to adjust throwing the football to a depleted cast of receivers on a weekly basis. It started when top playmaker Jordy Nelson sustained a season-ending knee injury in the preseason and continuing with budding second-year pro Davante Adams’ missing the last three games with an aggravated ankle injury.

What’s more, the Packers have been getting diminished returns from lead back Eddie Lacy, who has been limited to 67 carries and 260 rushing yards, presumably still feeling the effects of a sprained ankle he suffered in Week 2. James Starks, who topped the 100-yard mark in Sunday’s win over the Chargers, leads the team in rushing with 286 yards and hit the bye week with his first career two-TD effort.

Green Bay’s offensive line also endured another knee injury to veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who missed three games before returning in Week 5.

The Packers are counting on being a healthier team when they return to action Nov. 1 with a prime-time road game against the undefeated Denver Broncos, who also are on their bye week.

“We just need to not have the lulls,” Rodgers said of the offense. “We need to just be a little more consistent throughout the game. We’ve started out really well (with the early touchdown drives) … (but) we just haven’t been able to put it together.”

Despite their shortcomings with football in hand, the Packers continue to rate among the NFL’s most prolific offenses. Their scoring average of 27.3 points ranks them fifth in the league, with all but seven points (on an interception return for a touchdown by rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins) manufactured by the offense.

Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP, also has overcome the frequent lapses to maintain his high level of play. He has completed 68.1 percent of his passes for nearly 1,500 yards, 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions for an exceptional passer rating of 115.9.

And, unlike previous seasons in which Rodgers & Co. lit up the scoreboard with regularity, the Packers haven’t needed to score even 30 points to win a game this season. The Kansas City Chiefs’ 28 points in Green Bay’s 10-point victory in Week 3 has been an exception for a much-improved Packers defense, which is allowing an average of only 16.8 points to rank No. 3 in the 32-team league.

“Just the way our defense has been playing, they’ve really been carrying us the last couple weeks,” Lang said. “It does give you plenty of optimism that we feel like we’re not even our standard of football yet on offense. There’s flashes of it, but complete-game-wise, we feel like we have a lot more to give. To still be 6-0, it says a lot about the quality of this team.”

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