Packers have no excuses for embarrassing loss to inept Broncos
Coming off a bye with a healthier roster and facing a terrible opponent, the Packers shouldn't have played as poorly as they did in Denver.
The Green Bay Packers have figured out precisely nothing with their extra time off other than how to just keep being them. Hey, at least they’re consistent. In a 19-17 loss to the previously 1-5 Denver Broncos, the Packers showed they do not currently have any idea how to fix what’s gone wrong with their team to date.
Today's edition of The Leap focuses on why that is, who is to blame, and what they do now.
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Who is the most to blame for the offense putting together another first-half stinker?
Peter Bukowski: Let’s start with who isn’t the most to blame: It can’t be the young pass catchers. Christian Watson has been hurt. Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, and literally every true tight end on the roster are rookies. Romeo Doubs can’t do everything, though he didn’t do enough on Sunday, dropping two critical passes in addition to catching a crucial touchdown pass.
I can’t blame the running backs because Aaron Jones has been hurt and AJ Dillon just together by far his best performance of the season. Even Emanuel Wilson got in on the act and looked like he had some legitimate explosiveness when he got the chance.
The offensive line has struggled, particularly in the run game. But Zach Tom is a first-time starter at right tackle, Rasheed Walker is a first-time starter playing for the injured David Bakhtiari at left tackle, and all three members of the interior offensive line have been hurt at various points this season. They haven’t played great, but I can’t blame them.
That leaves Jordan Love and the coaching staff. Well, Love just made his sixth start as a preferred starter. He made two terrible throws to end the game but was otherwise solid by the numbers.
In fact, his advanced stats were excellent, though undoubtedly helped by Romeo Doubs bailing him out on an underthrown ball in the end zone.
The answer is the only group left: the coaching staff.
I expected more from head coach Matt LaFleur. This offense cannot find the right balance of run and pass, though they came closest today. Between conservative, easy plays and dialing up deep balls, they’ve done a terrible job featuring their best players. The offense has lost some of its core identity we saw earlier in the season when play-action and motion were essential to the LaFleur scheme.
Looking around the league, there are teams doing more with less talent irrespective of the caveats from above. And what’s more, LaFleur showed himself to be an adept coach, adapting Aaron Rodgers’ play style with his offense, cresting in 2020 when the two blended their styles with maximum efficiency.
Early in the season, LaFleur appeared to be doing that with Love. But when they came out firing against the Detroit Lions and the blocking couldn’t hold up, the play-calling has been gunshy ever since.
LaFleur is the most to blame because not only does he have the most control, he also has the most track record. He’s done this before. He found a way, against long odds, to pull back out MVP-level play from Rodgers, got him to buy into a system that wasn’t truly his, and they couldn’t stop winning.
We expected peaks and valleys from the young guys and for LaFleur to paper over it with his boy geniosity (not a word). Shame on us, I suppose.
What is holding the offense back most?
PB: This is a related but different question, and the answer is everything. The run blocking stinks so the run game is inconsistent. LaFleur calling run-run-pass drives and second-and-long runs bogs down the rhythm and by process undercuts any advantages the offense could otherwise create. There’s no life to the offense, no verve, no tempo, and they seem too scared to experiment beyond a trick play here or there.
When they do get good play calls, or at least workable ones, guys aren’t in the right spots, run aim points by offensive linemen are off or they fall off blocks, teams sniff out screen calls seemingly every damn time, and there are still guys in the wrong spots on the same f*cking concept where it happened last week!
Seriously. LaFleur ripped Luke Musgrave on the field after he ran an out that was supposed to be a stick. Christian Watson was running the out. On Sunday, Watson ran the out and Jayden Reed also ran the out. Seemed like the idea was for Watson to run the stick.
We can’t say for sure, but that’s how it looked. Either way, two guys running the same out on the same side is not how the concept was drawn up. This has now happened once to each side of the formation, two games in a row.
It just can’t happen.
Guys are not being coached well. They’re not being schemed well from a play-calling standpoint, and they’re not playing well.
Where can the Packers turn to get back on track?
PB: They can’t. And that’s the point of today’s newsletter. If they had the answer to consistency, we would have seen it coming out of the bye relatively healthy.
But that’s not to say all hope is lost. It’s not.
The Packers have four losses and three of them came in one-score games. In all three games, Green Bay had a chance to tie to take the lead in the fourth quarter and failed. In one of their two wins, they had the same chance and nailed it.
We can’t forget, the Packers offense also had a fourth-quarter lead in three of their losses. Let’s not let the defense off the hook entirely. They blew a two-score lead to the Atlanta Falcons, and let a Broncos team ready to hit “1-2-3 Cabo” drive for the game-winning field goal.
But Love and Co. had their chances too. Love ended each of the last two with prayer interceptions he underthrew on deep balls. And he had Watson vs. the Raiders at least.
This group just needs to play. They need reps and continuity. They’re extremely talented and there could still be a 2022 Lions-esque run in them if LaFleur can calibrate the dials a tad more effectively and things start to click for the Brat Pack.
The season isn’t over, but it’s on life support with the division-rival Minnesota Vikings coming to Lambeau this upcoming weekend.
PB: In the fourth quarter, with the Wisconsin Badgers down two scores, Jason texted me and suggested if we had really been thinking ahead, we would have made a bet on the outcome of Saturday’s game between Wisconsin and Illinois with me, a Badgers supporter, and Jason an Illinois alum. I agreed to the bet despite the score because I love you guys and believe in the #content.
The stakes? The loser would have to say nice things about Packers players who went to the other’s side.
When I took the bet, I assumed I would have to make the video about Illinois players and I was readying my Geronimo Allison ammunition.
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