Packers collapse faster than British pound, lose heartbreaker in London
The Packers blew a 17-3 lead over the Giants during their first trip to London.
A week of bad British puns turned into a comparably bad outing for the Green Bay Packers in London. The team blew a 17-3 lead to the New York Giants, ultimately falling 27-22. The offense again looked disjointed while the defense failed to come up with stops in the second half.
Today's edition of The Leap examines what went wrong for the Packers in London and puts the loss into perspective.
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How concerned should the Packers feel about their defense following the London loss?
Jason B. Hirschhorn: The Packers should feel deeply concerned about their defense. The Giants came into the game with a running quarterback with a compromised ankle, an undermanned receiving corps, and Saquon Barkley as the only field-tilter. Making matters worse, Barkley missed a chunk of the game while receiving medical treatment for an injured shoulder. Still, Green Bay couldn't find stops when it needed to and subverted itself with penalties at critical moments.
The few defensive bright spots for the Packers didn't come close to negating the mistakes. Barkley, the NFL's leading rusher entering Week 5, managed just 70 yards on the ground of which 40 came on a single play. As a result, the Giants regularly found themselves in difficult situations on second and third down, an outcome that should have led to an easy day for Green Bay's defense.
Instead, the Packers routinely folded in those situations. The Giants finished 6-11 on third downs with four of those conversions going for double-digit yards. Once again, Green Bay seemed to lack any answer for crossing routes, allowing the maligned Darius Slayton and diminutive Richie James to eat defenders alive. All with Daniel Jones and his aforementioned ankle injury serving as the triggerman.
For all the offseason discourse about the talent the Packers have stockpiled on defense, the team hasn't figured out how to deploy it correctly, at least not for a full game. That reflects poorly on the coaching staff, defensive coordinator Joe Barry in particular.
Who bears the largest share of the blame for the Packers' offensive inconsistencies?
JBH: Matt LaFleur? Aaron Rodgers? Really, you can make a compelling case for either one after the past three weeks.
Rodgers' comments earlier in the week about "airing it out a little bit more" probably should have raised more red flags. After the Giants marched down on a 15-play, 91-yard touchdown drive during the third quarter, everyone in Western Civilization could have forecasted the hero-ball approach the reigning MVP would take in response. The Packers went three-and-out as Rodgers took three shots down the field, two to Allen Lazard and another to Randall Cobb. A punt and six plays later, New York pulled ahead on the scoreboard for the first time.
But while Rodgers holds considerable agency in how the offensive plays unfold, LaFleur can control how much of a role the backfield tandem of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon play. Jones finished with 15 touches, but only six came after halftime. Dillon saw just two touches during the final 30 minutes of regulation.
But the numbers only tell part of the story. Facing third-and-2 from the New York 8-yard line while down seven points with just over a minute remaining, the Packers threw on back-to-back plays rather than feed their running backs. The Giants batted down both balls, resulting in a turnover on downs.
"I'd put my money on giving me or AJ Dillon two downs to get 2 yards," Jones said following the game.
For an offense still figuring out the post-Davante Adams passing game, that degree of underuse cannot happen, especially during a game Green Bay led for 46 minutes. Whether Rodgers or LaFleur deserves more blame is subjective, but the two haven't done enough to lift the Packers this season.
Has the time come to hit the panic button? If not now, when?
JBH: Not yet, though the Packers have little time to course correct.
The track record for Rodgers and LaFleur suggests solutions will come, and the upcoming schedule offers multiple get-right opportunities (the New York Jets at home, the Washington Commanders on the road). Additionally, for as poor as the Packers have played, the conference's other preseason favorites have largely struggled coming out of the gate as well. Even within the NFC North, the division-leading Minnesota Vikings blew a 21-3 lead over the Chicago Bears before making a fourth-quarter comeback. Green Bay still has a path to the promised land, albeit one less traversable than expected.
But all of this provides little comfort to the Packers at the moment. They don't look close to ready to compete offensively when they have to face title contenders. Week 8's tilt with the Buffalo Bills and Week 12's matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles will reveal how much, if at all, Green Bay improves.
JBH: The rotation at left tackle continued unabated on Sunday, with David Bakhtiari ceding more snaps and series than a week ago to Yosh Nijman. Perhaps Bakhtiari's 70 snaps last week -- exactly double his total from his season debut in Week 3 -- forced the Packers to recommit fully to a timeshare. Maybe the course reversal had more to do with the wear of an international flight. Either way, the decision stood out for a player that seemed to have trended in the right direction.
The next two week will reveal whether the Packers' handling of Bakhtiari was mere precaution or if he simply doesn't have his legs underneath him. But if it's the former, the coaching staff has seen everything necessary to make changes along the offensive line.
Royce Newman, the Packers' starting right guard for the vast majority of the past season and change, still comes up small in pass protection too often. He yielded a sack in London that pushed the offense out of field-goal range. For a game decided by a single possession, such a mistake looms large.
But the Packers don't have to live this way. The coaching staff doesn't have to keep rolling Newman out there, and the team has better options.
Simply put, Nijman offers more at tackle than Newman does at guard, and Elgton Jenkins offers more along the interior than as a bookend tackle. This will come as no surprise to regular readers of The Leap. Peter discussed the idea of moving Newman to the bench last Thursday while I broke down Nijman's case to start at right tackle the week prior.
The transition requires some practice time, and perhaps the week coming back from an international trip doesn't offer enough time. But the Packers shouldn't continue with the charade much longer. If Bakhtiari can hold down left tackle, the O-line reshuffle must happen.