GREEN BAY—Despite looking unstoppable in Chicago, quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn’t satisfied with the Packers offense. It’s missing something, and Rodgers knows as well as anyone else what it is.
“The offense is still not where we wanted,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “We didn’t run the ball real effectively.
“Sometimes that’s going to happen when you throw it so well, but we have to be able to close out games running it.”
Rodgers is looking ahead at the potential value in grinding the clock late in a game while protecting a small lead. He’s also forecasting the need to run the ball at some point in a bad-weather game, which could be late in the season, or as soon as Thursday night against Minnesota, with rain expected in Green Bay.
Whatever the case, 292 rushing yards and a 3.5-yard per carry average through four games, which both rank in the bottom half dozen in the league, aren’t good enough.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy talked on Wednesday about getting the attempts in the running game up, and Rodgers echoed the thought, though that can’t come at the expense of slowing the offense down or ignoring favorable matchups on the perimeter.
“We like to be an up-tempo team, and the runs definitely fit in there,” Rodgers said. “We’re going to be aggressive, and if we have to throw it to open up the run, so be it. But we have to find a way to get Eddie (Lacy) and James (Starks) 25, 30 touches.”
In that vein, McCarthy took the blame for not getting Starks involved in Chicago, criticizing his own game management. Starks did not have a carry against the Bears on Sunday, the second time in four games that has occurred despite his productive 5.0 rushing average.
“James Starks should touch the football every single game,” McCarthy said. “That will not happen again.”
Veteran guard Josh Sitton emphasized the offense will always take what it’s given in terms of run vs. pass, but the run game has multiple issues that need sorting out, from the blocking to the reads to the checks at the line.
“It’s a combination of things,” Sitton said. “We all have to be better. We have to finish better up front. We have to run the ball in the right holes.”
The needed chemistry was certainly rediscovered in the passing game last week, though, and it’s a given the Packers will lean on that until the ground game finds its footing.
Receiver Jordy Nelson currently leads the NFL in both receptions (33) and receiving yards (459), while Randall Cobb rebounded last Sunday from a rough day in Detroit to post his first 100-yard receiving day since Week 2 of last season.
Even in his 200-yard game against the Jets, Nelson confessed he and Rodgers weren’t on the same page as much as they’ve been other times, but that’s getting smoothed out.
The two have been together seven years now, which has produced two-way communication in terms of adjustments and suggestions, Rodgers said. Nelson joked that he’s earned “a slight, slight privilege to say something,” but in all seriousness, the two were clearly in sync in Chicago, as Nelson caught 10 of 12 passes thrown his way, his highest ratio on the season.
“Sometimes you’re clicking and sometimes you’re not, and sometimes we’ve made it look easier than what it really is,” Nelson said. “Timing is a split-second difference. We’re going to keep working on it. We’re getting there. We made some good plays on Sunday being on the same page and stuff, so that feels good.”
A seven-catch, 113-yard, two-TD game felt good for Cobb, too, after a single-game high of just 58 yards through the first three weeks. Cobb was little more than a short-area and red-zone target early on, but he made grabs all over Soldier Field in increasing his season TD total to five, tying him for the league lead.
“Randall is a tireless worker,” McCarthy said. “The performance from prior games, it may give you more motivation, but I’ve never seen him need more urgency in his approach. He’s a very consistent professional.”
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