GREEN BAY—Four long touchdown drives against one of the league’s top defenses isn’t a bad day’s work, but five three-and-outs isn’t acceptable to one of the league’s top offenses.
If there’s one thing the Packers are striving for in Week 2 after such an up-and-down offensive performance in San Francisco, it’s more consistent production. The benefits are obvious – getting more opportunities to score, changing field position, giving the defense rest.
The Packers employed a lot of no-huddle in Week 1, and when it got rolling, it was highly effective. When it didn’t, the consequences were significant.
“We have to be more consistent and help our defense out a little bit,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on Wednesday. “We lost the time of possession battle pretty significantly (38:35 to 21:25). That puts a stress on our defense. We also had four scoring drives over 60 yards. It was the good with the bad.”
Two of the three-and-outs included the only two sacks of Rodgers on the day, while penalties immediately preceded both of the offense’s turnovers. Including the giveaways, the total of either fruitless or damaging possessions was seven.
“The negative plays are really the setback,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “It disrupts your rhythm.”
When the Packers were in rhythm, Jordy Nelson (seven catches, 130 yards, one TD) and Randall Cobb (7-108-1) were big reasons despite neither catching a pass in the preseason due to injuries. Their timing with Rodgers looked smooth, and both had their share of key grabs, none more eye-catching than Nelson’s 37-yard spinning, tip-toe job along the sideline to set up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Jordy Nelson is a prime-time player,” McCarthy said. “It was great to get him back. I thought he got off to a big start. Jordy was Jordy.”
James Jones didn’t enjoy such a great start, however, even though he was the healthiest of the top three receivers last month. Jones didn’t have a reception and had only two passes thrown his way, but a player McCarthy referred to as a “class act” and an “emerging leader” wasn’t sweating one quiet game.
“There ain’t anything to yap about,” Jones said. “We’re just trying to win. I’d be real selfish if I came in here, had an attitude or something about the way my teammates played. Jordy had a great game, Randall had a great game. I’m happy for all those dudes. I’m the one who said we were all going to have 1,000 (yards).
“I wish we would have won, but I ain’t mad about it. I know the ball will come. Every game you’re not going to get 10 passes. Just keep grinding. That’s how I’ve been my whole career. Just keep working.”
A similar approach by Jermichael Finley (5-56-1) paid off within the 49ers game. On the next series after Finley had a slant pass bounce off his hands and into San Francisco safety Eric Reid’s for an interception, Rodgers hit Finley for 13 yards on the first play and then capped the drive with a 12-yard TD to the big tight end.
Finley, who missed Wednesday's practice with a toe injury, called the sequence “huge” for him, having Rodgers get him back into the flow right after a miscue. Rodgers’ message was to get used to it.
“All year, it’s not going to be about going back to Jermichael, it’s going to be about going to Jermichael because he’s open, he’s talented and the ball is going to come his way,” Rodgers said. “That’s basically what I told him on the sideline (after the interception). Nothing’s changed. He’s still a go-to guy in this offense, a guy who gets open for us, and you have to find ways to get him the football.
“Regardless of what happens out there, he’s going to be seeing the ball come his way a lot.”
The Packers also will continue using their no-huddle plenty. It’s a given it’s in the game plan this week after Philadelphia and new coach Chip Kelly’s ultra-fast-paced offense ran 53 plays for more than 300 yards in the first half on Monday night against the Washington Redskins, who visit Lambeau Field on Sunday.
“That’s what we want to do with our no-huddle as well,” Nelson said. “It won’t be as fast as what Coach Kelly is trying to do, but we want to push the tempo, get the defense on their heels. I think the Eagles did a good job on first down, staying ahead of the chains and getting first downs. That’s when you can get the tempo really rolling.”
The goal, of course, is for more reliable and less feast-or-famine results.
“It’s on us. We have to score more points,” Rodgers said. “We feel like we should get into scoring territory every possession, and obviously if we don’t do that, we look in the mirror and we say there were things we could have done better.
“Regardless of how many points our defense gives up or doesn’t give up, we know we’ve got to outscore the opponent, and that’s about us.” Additional coverage - Sept. 11