With Carmen Vitali
FOX Sports NFC North Writer
Sometimes when you mess around, you find out a little more than you wanted.
Last week, the viability of Green Bay’s winning ways was called into question. The offense still lacked identification. The team relied heavily on their defense to limit their opponents’ scoring output, and the road to 3-1 was, in fact, pretty ugly.
“That way of winning I don’t think is sustainable because it just puts too much pressure on our defense,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said after the game.
Yes. Things had yet to change.
“If we get into a rhythm and start a little faster, we can smooth some of the things out,” Rodgers said.
And they did in Week 5 against the New York Giants in London. Green Bay put points on the board on their first drive, punted on their opponents opening drive for the first time all season and then scored their first touchdown on their third possession.
They followed it up with another score and the second touchdown drive was a wonderful balance of runs up the middle (by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon) and short passes as the Packers dipped and dunked their way on a 13-play, 75-yard drive. . drive that took 7:44 off the clock and put Green Bay in complete control.
The score was 17-3 early and Green Bay looked like they had found something.
Perhaps this was the sustainability Rodgers had talked about. He kept their defense off the field and kept the New York Giants on their heels. The Packers had possession of the ball nearly five full minutes longer than the Giants by the end of the first half.
But there is something like overcorrection, which we saw in the second half. That’s where the Packers messed up a little too much and found out what happens when they do. Green Bay basically drifted too far and over the curve, running off the court instead of keeping it contained to what their offense does well.
They all but abandoned a game that had served them well over the previous four weeks. Dillon had just two carries in the entire second half, despite finishing with an average of 5.7 yards per carry. Jones had just six carries. The Packers had just three possessions in the final two quarters, if you don’t count the last play of the game where Rodgers went down and was stripped of the ball.
In fact, when the Packers had a chance to tie the game inside the 10-yard line, they forced something that wasn’t there. It was third and 1 at the six and out of the shotgun, Rodgers elected to throw. It was to his trusted veteran, Randall Cobb. Well, I guess we can’t blame them for that. It was incomplete, just the second touchdown pass of the season for Rodgers. But this is four-down territory, folks.
So on fourth and 1, the Packers have that aforementioned set of fantastic running backs that have served them well time and time again this season. They need a crappy yard. Shotgun formation… they can’t… no they won’t…
Rodgers’ pass never reached the receiver as he too was hit at the line, ending the game.
Yes, the quick passes worked in the first half. Yes, balance was achieved with the attack during this time. But inside the red zone, with a packed field and a Giants defensive line missing Leonard Williams, I would have thought the answer was a little more obvious: run the ball. Where New York coach Brian Dumball succeeded on Sunday, the Packers failed. They overtrained.
And the Packers overcorrected to the point of coming full circle. A lot was asked of the defense again, especially in the second half, and this time they broke a little. By the end of the game, the Giants had taken the lead in the time-of-possession battle, winning by nearly five minutes. Green Bay’s defense failed to deliver. And as a result, a struggling Daniel Jones threw for over 200 yards for the first time this season. So while the Packers tried different things, they still had the same problems.
“We’re a little bit of a rollercoaster team,” Rodgers said after the game. “The biggest problem, and I wish I had the perfect answer or explanation for this, is that we haven’t played consistent football in all three phases.”
With all that being said, the quarterback stalked his surroundings with a “keep calm and carry on” attitude. And that’s what Packers fans should probably do, too. What Green Bay did in the first half worked. Incorporating high completion short shots along with their rushing attack is a recipe for success if ever I saw one. They should know that now and I think we’ll start to see a more balanced and complete attack going forward. Combine that with how the defense is able to play and improved special teams play, and you can play good football in all three phases, Rodgers said.
The Packers may have messed up, but they may have picked up some useful information along the way.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stints with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added Super Bowl champion (and floater) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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