The Green Bay Packers lost their third straight game in Denver last Sunday, dropping their season record to 2-4. This was a winnable game, but the Pack made some critical mistakes that unfortunately, have been made too often throughout the season. Here is a look at some key problems the Packers need to solve to turn their season around:
Packers Problems: Number Five, the Defense Isn’t Making Big Plays
The defense hasn’t played terribly, but while they gave up fewer than 20 points in the last two weeks, they also only created one total turnover in those games. Keep in mind their opponents, the Raiders, and Broncos, were among the most turnover prone teams in the league entering their games with the Packers.
Head coach Matt LaFleur admitted as much in his Monday press conference. “We have to find a way to generate more takeaways,” he admitted. “We’ve got to create those turnovers. That’ll help, especially when you’re having some struggles or inconsistencies on the offensive side of the ball, just to set up field position, to have a short field.”
The Packers kept the Broncos struggling offense under 20 points, but they didn’t make plays that could turn the momentum of the game around.
Number Four: The Defense Isn’t Coming Through in the Clutch
The defense also failed to come up big when the Pack took a 17-16 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Broncos went right down the field and kicked what became the game-winning field goal after a nine-play, 41-yard drive that took 4:41 off the clock.
“We were up one point in the fourth quarter with like six minutes to go,” cornerback Rasul Douglas said. “We’ve got to get off the field…I blame the defense like I always do. It’s always on us. We don’t want to put the ball in the offenses hands to win or lose the game. It’s supposed to be on us, that’s what we’ve got to do. They gave us a chance up one and we didn’t get off the grass.”
The defense needs to step up when it matters most to win football games.
Packers Problems: Number Three, the Run Blocking
Regardless of who is running the football, they are often met by defensive players behind the line of scrimmage. The result is losses or minimal gains.
Right tackle Zach Tom is the only Packers player with a strong run blocking grade according to Pro Football Focus. Center Josh Myers, right guard Jon Runyan, left tackle Rasheed Walker, and left guard Elgton Jenkins are all struggling to block against the run.
The poor offensive line play has contributed mightily to the Packers offensive struggles this season.
Number Two: Poor Decision Making
The Packers young offensive players continue to make poor decisions far too often for the offense to move the ball consistently.
That group includes the team’s starting rookie tight end in Luke Musgrave and the inexperienced receiving corps. This group doesn’t always run the right routes and isn’t in the right place.
Quarterback Jordan Love, who is in his first year as a starter, is also struggling with decision making. He often fails to locate the open player or throws the ball to the wrong place.
The game-clinching interception against the Broncos was a prime example where Love tried to force the ball deep downfield to a receiver who was not open. The safety did not go where the Packers expected him to go, but Love didn’t read the safety well and threw to a player who was double covered.
Dillon was open in the flat and would have been a better choice, but Love got greedy and went for the splash play when it wasn’t available.
Love and his young receivers and tight ends all need to make better decisions to get the offense clicking consistently.
Packers Problems: Number One, Coaching
LaFleur’s play calling has been shaky at best. He doesn’t seem to adjust when things don’t go well early. The offense has struggled early in nearly every game, but the opening game plan hasn’t significantly changed.
With the offensive line struggling, LaFleur hasn’t made changes to the lineup except when injuries struck, and he had no choice.
While Myers and Rasheed Walker are playing poorly, both remain in the lineup. The Packers have Yosh Nijman available to play tackle and Tom can play center, guard, or tackle.
When the offense is struggling, changes need to be made in lineups and strategy, but those changes don’t seem to be happening.
If the Packers hope to get a fair evaluation of what Love can do, these issues need to be cleared up and the team needs the offense to run more efficiently. Plays need to be called that play to the players’ strengths and that creates an identity for the offense.
Thus far, this has not happened, and the offense seems to be regressing rather than getting better.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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