GREEN BAY – There are two things Mike McCarthy believes can fix his up-and-down offense, which he has always built around the guy who takes the snap.
“Running the football, not getting the quarterback hit – those two things right there will give the quarterback a great opportunity to be successful,” McCarthy said Monday, a day after the 37-29 loss in Carolina.
The one-two punch the Packers envisioned for this season in the running game hasn’t materialized. Eddie Lacy got over his ankle injury but now has a groin injury, though there’s no indication it’s serious.
James Starks has been playing more and “deserves” to, according to Offensive Coordinator Edgar Bennett, but both he and McCarthy stressed no one is giving up on Lacy, who has now gone four straight games with less than 40 yards rushing each game. On Sunday, he had five carries for 10 yards and a fumble.
“I’m not losing patience with anybody,” McCarthy said. “I love this football team. This is a great bunch of guys.
“They don’t come much better than Eddie Lacy. He’s not doing some things well right now, but he’s trying to correct them, and it’s my job to help him.”
Added Bennett: “We definitely have to get him going.”
Starks turned three screen passes into big gains against the Panthers, including one touchdown, but the rushing production is still in fits and starts for him, too. Starks had three carries for 28 yards on a first-quarter TD drive but managed just 11 yards on his other seven rushes in the game.
In pass protection, mental mistakes were the primary problem. McCarthy said they were higher than they should be for a midseason game, and the offensive line and running backs not being on the same page with the protection calls contributed to Aaron Rodgers being sacked a season-high five times.
Two of those sacks came with the Packers at the Carolina 40-yard line, where the offense is just a few yards away from kicker Mason Crosby’s field-goal range. Those are the missed opportunities that hurt the most because they take potential points off the board.
“We had a couple of mental errors that should not occur, and that certainly was disappointing to see,” Bennett said. “Those corrections were made today.
“Everyone is involved when we say the protection unit. Everyone understands their role in that and what we have to do in order to improve.”
The mental miscues were across the board on offense, according to veteran receiver James Jones, as the Packers scored just 14 points and gained only 235 yards through the game’s first 50 minutes. That was not the recovery from the 10-point, 140-yard outing the previous week that the Packers expected.
“A lot of guys in this locker room have played a lot of football,” Jones said. “We know what it’s supposed to look like, and the last two games it’s not what it’s supposed to look like. We know that we have to start playing good football.”
Jones said “everybody’s mad” on a Monday like this one, and while the ultimate goal is for a team to be playing its best down the stretch, that doesn’t excuse the performances in the two straight losses.
“None of that matters,” Jones said of trying to peak at the right time. “We’re 6-2. Ain’t no playoffs guaranteed unless we start winning some ballgames.”
More from the coaches: Second quarter sacked Packers defense