GREEN BAY – Balance was the word of the day for the Packers’ offense.
Not just run-pass balance, which was important. The balance between the quick-hitters and the big plays was also valuable in the 34-27 victory over the Lions on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
When Aaron Rodgers and Co. are connecting on the quick throws, the timing is there, and nothing is more critical to a West Coast offensive system than timing, as Rodgers alluded to earlier in the week.
The synchronicity was evident right out of the gate, when Rodgers found tight end Jared Cook on a slant for 15 yards on the game’s first third down, and when he did the same on a 14-yard TD pass to Davante Adams five snaps later against a third-down blitz.
“We had a number of three-step (drops) today that we hadn’t hit in the past,” Rodgers said. “That’s all about spacing and timing, the receivers getting off press coverage.
“When we’re hitting those on time, it kind of sets everything else up off of that.”
It was no surprise, then, that on the first snap of the Packers’ second drive, Rodgers found Jordy Nelson deep over the middle that the veteran receiver turned into a 49-yard catch-and-run.
Rodgers called it a “vintage Jordy play,” and he followed up later with another one, a 17-yard TD on a fade route near the pylon. Nelson’s hands and footwork were perfect, reminding Rodgers of a similar TD grab he had in 2014 at home vs. Philadelphia.
“We finally hit a couple balls down the middle and over the top outside, and that helps with the quick game,” Rodgers said.
If it sounds like the quarterback was talking in circles, well, that’s sort of the point. The quick-hitters set up the over-the-top stuff, which allows Rodgers to come back to the timing routes. One facet plays off the other, and the big gains can result from extended plays and scrambles. The running game helps all of it.
“We need to harness that feeling we had in the first half, keep doing that kind of stuff,” Rodgers said. “That’s a tough offense to stop that first half.”
Indeed it was as the Packers scored 31 points on five possessions. Rodgers not only snapped his streak of sub-100 passer rating games that dated back to last October, his 129.3 mark will help quiet those wondering if his career had begun to decline.
Not that Rodgers could care any less about the outside opinions. He made that clear this week and again on Sunday, focusing on the feelings inside the locker room first and foremost.
“I don’t think anybody gives a you-know-what if the offense is back or not,” he said. “It’s about winning.
“I care about winning.”
The Packers will have to wait until after their bye week to see if they can put together their first winning streak of 2016, but it will be important that they do.
While a 2-1 record is solid, and as of this posting only two teams remained undefeated in the NFC, one of them is the team the Packers are looking up to in their division, the Vikings.
Minnesota knocked off defending conference champion Carolina on the road on Sunday, shutting out reigning MVP Cam Newton’s offense over the final three quarters. With wins over the Packers and Panthers in three weeks, the Vikings are the early team to beat.
There’s a long way to go, of course, but the most important thing is the Packers took the steps they needed to on Sunday. They got all the complementary parts working in unison – the run with the pass, and the quick with the explosive.
“It’s good to get in a rhythm like that,” Rodgers said. “It feels good when we’re on a roll.”
With three straight home games to come, they need to stay on it.
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