GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers’ offensive struggles have become as predictable as coach Mike McCarthy’s explanation for them.
A day after another stunning home loss to an NFC North foe, which, incidentally, was the first time the Packers have lost consecutive home division games in the same season since 1992, McCarthy could not have been more clear about what ails a perennial top-10 offense that now ranks 21st in total yards and 23rd in passing yards.
“So much is made of scheme,” McCarthy said Friday. “Frankly, I think too much is made of scheme. At the end of the day, it’s about running your routes or defending the route or blocking your guy or getting off the block and eventually tackling the guy and getting the football.”
It would be nearly impossible to interpret that as anything other a message to his players about their production following Thursday’s 17-13 Thanksgiving night loss to the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
“It’s the attention and the details,” McCarthy said. “Our issues are technique and discipline in the technique, and quit worrying so much about the plays. Just win the route or win the play called.”
It was essentially a continuation of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ message after the Packers failed to pull off the game-winning touchdown with four plays from the Bears’ 8-yard line in the final minute.
Rodgers spoke at length after the game about making sure his “preparation is as high as it’s ever been because we’ve got to get on the same page in the passing game.” He noted that on several of the throws he missed, his receivers ran to one place while he was throwing to another.
He did not shy away from the notion that he and his receivers are “just on different pages.”
It explains, at least in part, why Rodgers’ last five games were historic in one regard: According to ESPN Stats & Information, it marked the first time in his career that his quarterback counterpart posted a higher passer rating than him in five straight games. Even Jay Cutler, who had never won at Lambeau before Thursday night, blew Rodgers away with a 90.8 rating to Rodgers’ 62.5 mark.
“Our passing game’s not where it needs to be,” McCarthy said. “I think any time you see basic plays -- a slant route turns into an interception, like it did last night -- the timing isn’t as clean, which would lead to the details and the fundamentals.”
At this point, barring a major shift in scheme or play-calling, which appears unlikely, it’s worth wondering if the makeup of the Packers’ current offensive personnel is good enough. James Jones failed to catch a pass for the second time in three games. Davante Adams caught just two passes for 14 yards despite 11 targets and had anywhere from one to three drops depending on your definition of a drop. Tight end Richard Rodgers almost never breaks any tackles.
It has shown up in Rodgers’ efficiency, or lack of it, when throwing to his receivers. He has completed just 56.9 percent of his passes when targeting wide receivers this season, which ranks 26th out of the 32 qualified quarterbacks. That’s nearly 10 percent lower than his percentage from last season and he’s just two years removed from leading the NFL with a 71-percent mark in 2013 (see accompanying chart).
In the heat of the moment after the latest loss, McCarthy suggested changes might be forthcoming before next Thursday’s game at Detroit.
“Well, I said more than that,” McCarthy said Friday. “I talked about demand, which is a job responsibility of the coach. I talked about changes. I talked about emphasis. I talked about adjustment. The same thing I’ve been talking about for years around here. It’s every game; everything we do is constantly evaluated on that. If you look at the offense, the passing game is not clean.
“We’ve made scheme changes from last year to this year and it’s not productive enough. We’ll take another hard look at it, as we continue to do, and we’ll either emphasize some of the changes we have made or go back to emphasize some of the basic emphases of our offense and do more of that.”