clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers miss Jordy Nelson more than we thought they would

New, comments

How far can the Packers go this year without their normally-dominant offense?

Something is off with the Packers' offense. Green Bay rallied back in the fourth quarter to make it an interesting one in the end, but fell to the lowly Lions 18-16 after another slow start.

Even with the 2014 NFL MVP in Aaron Rodgers running the show at quarterback, Green Bay is having a lot of trouble moving the ball and scoring points, and they've lost their last three games. The latest stumble comes at the hands of the previously 1-7 Lions, who came into this game with the 26th ranked defense and without a win in Lambeau since 1991.

Green Bay has averaged just 18.3 points per game over their last three games, lowering their total to 25.4 points per game on the year, well off their 30.4 points per game rate from last season.

The Packers mustered just three points in the first half against Detroit -- their lowest first-half point total this season -- and there were a rare smattering of boos at Lambeau as the teams headed into the locker rooms. With that slow start, the Packers broke a streak of 26 straight games with a first-half touchdown, previously the longest active streak in the NFL. The last time that the Packers had been held to three or less in the first half with Aaron Rodgers under center was in Week 3 of 2012, that Fail Mary game in Seattle.

It was a forgettable one for Rodgers this even with the two late touchdown passes that made things interesting. His 57-percent completion percentage was out of character and once again, three-and-outs continued to be an issue. After coming into the game with a league-high percentage of three-and-out drives (40-percent), Green Bay added another five three-and-outs and had a long stretch of ineffectiveness. After an opening drive that produced a field goal, Green Bay punted on their next nine possessions.

So what is going on in Green Bay, which normally features a well-oiled machine on offense? Obviously, the loss of Jordy Nelson has been a bigger deal than many would've thought. The Packers lack a true vertical game at this point and Davante Adams has yet to emerge as a true replacement. Nelson was second in the entire NFL last year in catches of 40-plus yards (eight, behind only DeSean Jackson), and as a team, Green Bay only has five of those plays all year after getting 15 last season. It's a different dynamic -- they're less dangerous downfield, and part of that may be because of sub-par protection from the offensive line.

The offensive line issues have affected the run game as well. Eddie Lacy is now hurt, but clearly hasn't been as effective as he's previously been for the Packers. The former All-Pro has yet to notch a 100-yard game this season, and has averaged just 2.3 yards per carry over his last four games, coughing the ball up three times. James Starks has been good in replacing Lacy, but after scoring 14 touchdowns on the ground last year, Green Bay has rushed for just four this season thus far. They rushed for just 47 yards on 18 attempts against the Lions on Sunday.

In addition to the obvious changes on personnel that Green Bay has had to weather, you have to wonder how big of a difference it's made that Tom Clements is calling plays this year after head coach Mike McCarthy gave up play-calling duties over the offseason. Green Bay has scored 30 points just one time this season after reaching that benchmark eight times last year. They eclipsed 50 points twice last season -- and their high this year so far is 38 in Week 2 against the Chiefs.

The Packers defense has been better than most expected, but how far can this team go with continued sub-par play from their offensive group? It's tough to know, but after falling to 6-3, winning the NFC North is no longer a lock for Green Bay.