GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Three games into the season, Aaron Rodgers was on a record pace for completion percentage, and the Green Bay Packers receivers had caught just about everything they could get their hands on.
Oh how the narrative has changed.
While Rodgers was completing 73.6 percent of his throws in the first three games of the season -- well ahead of his most accurate season (68.3 percent in 2011) and the NFL single-season record (70.62 percent by Drew Brees in 2009) – the Packers receivers had combined for only one dropped pass (by Davante Adams in Week 3 against the Chiefs).
In the eight game since then, the Packers have 23 drops -- the most in the league over that stretch, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
It was never more evident -- or costly -- than in the 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears on Thursday, when Adams dropped three passes (including one that wasn’t even intended for him on the Packers’ last-chance play on fourth-and-goal from the 8).
Adams also dropped what almost certainly would have been a 47-yard touchdown in the first quarter on a third-and-11 play. On that plays, Adams smoked cornerback Tracy Porter and was wide open with nothing but open field in front of him. Instead, it bounced off his hands at the Bears’ 32-yard line to kill the drive.
But the second-year pro is not the only guilty party among the Packers’ receivers.
Randall Cobb has matched Adams for the team lead with seven drops, according to PFF’s grades, but Cobb’s drop percentage is significantly lower because he’s been targeted 88 times to Adams’ 61. Since Week 3, Adams has six drops to his 23 catches, while James Jones has four drops and 18 receptions. They are both among the worst-eight receivers in the league by drop rate since Week 3, per PFF.
“No excuses, man, catch the ball,” said Jones, whose drop total doesn’t include one he said he dropped on third-and-goal from the 8-yard line in the final seconds against the Bears. PFF did not grade that as a drop.
“That’s our job; we’re receivers. Catch it.”
It’s not the only reason Rodgers’ completion percentage has plummeted to 60.5 percent (22nd among the NFL’s qualified passing leaders), but it hasn’t helped. In the past four games, Rodgers’ completion percentage when targeting wide receivers is just 44 percent, compared to 69 percent in the first seven games, and his yards per attempt to his receivers has dropped from 9.1 in the first seven games to 6.1 in the past four, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
When the Packers return to the practice field late Sunday afternoon to begin preparations for Thursday’s game at Detroit, the receivers surely will be lined up in front of the JUGS machine like always. But it’s hard to imagine they could dedicate any more of their practice time to it than they already do.
“We do more damned ball drills here in the history of football,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Thursday’s loss. “It didn’t show up tonight.”