Football fans everywhere were stumped on Sunday as the Green Bay Packers, one of the best home-field teams of all time, were defeated by the surprising rookie Dak Prescott and the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys.
The 30 -16 loss was the worst home loss for the Green Bay Packers since their 37-20 loss to the New York Giants in the 2011 in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, according to the Associated Press.
Despite throwing for a season-high 294 yards and completing 31 of 42 passes, Aaron Rodgers didn’t get his first (and only) touchdown until there was 6:53 left in the fourth quarter. Rodgers had an interception and a fumble (in the redzone) on the game, accounting for two of the four Packer turnovers. There were a number of uncharacteristic missed throws, reads and plays by Rodgers Sunday against the 17th-ranked Dallas Cowboys defense, and Packers fans surely let him hear it.
An injured James Starks forced a less-than-100% Eddie Lacy to handle almost every carry of the game for the Packers, resulting in 17 attempts for 65 rushing yards. It’s not certain whether Lacy, who has been plagued with a sprained ankle lately, will be able to rebound in time enough for the Packer’s quick Thursday night football appearance against the Chicago Bears. If Lacy is still hobbled, there is speculation that wide receiver Ty Montgomery may help out with a portion of the carries next week.
Offensively, the Green Bay Packers are in a rut, and a lot of it has to do with their starting quarterback. In their first five games, Aaron Rodgers has a completion percentage of 60.2, and is averaging just 6.5 yards per pass. He already has five fumbles this season, which is more than he had in each of his 2010, 2011 and 2013 seasons.
The most worrisome part about this slow start for the Packers offense is that this isn’t a new trend. Last year, the Pack offense ended the year averaging 334.6 yards per game (good enough for 23rd in the NFL) and 218. 9 in passing yards per game (ranked 25th). This year, strikingly similar numbers have come from the Packers, averaging 331.8 yards per game as well as 226.6 passing yards per game.
The Packers defense is what is carrying this team currently. Ranked third in rushing yards allowed, 10th in passing yards allowed and tied for sixth in sacks, the defense is the side of the ball that has kept Green Bay in the five games they’ve played so far.
There are aspects of this offense that are working well, however. The Green Bay offensive line has been terrific, routinely allowing Aaron Rodgers a clean pocket to throw each game. According to Pro Football Focus, they have allowed 27 pressures, 10 better than any other team in football, and rank first in pass-blocking efficiency. If Eddie Lacy can return to 100%, the Packers rushing attack should be consistent enough to take some of the pressure off of Rodgers, allowing the offense to run more play-action plays and alleviate the arm of Aaron Rodgers.
The next five games could provide a huge boost of confidence to this Packers offense, particularly to Aaron Rodgers and his receiving core. With games against the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans and Washington Redskins, Rodgers and company won’t have to face a single top-10 defense, which should come as a delight to Packers fans. With Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams (barring he is sidelined still after clearing concussion protocol), there is no doubt that the Packers have the potential for some sizable offensive performances.
The bottom line is that the Packers don’t necessarily need more from Rodgers; they need him to be better. The MVP quarterback needs to return to his efficient, take-over-the-game self, because that is how this offense will thrive. This Packers defense has done its part through this point in the season, and now it’s time for the offense to return the favor.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Stockman/Getty Images.