GREEN BAY — Everyone knows the stakes. Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy, Joe Philbin, Davante Adams. Everyone.
As the Green Bay Packers — saddled with an unimpressive 3-2-1 record after what seemed to be a soft portion of their schedule — begin what most likely will be a make-or-break five-game stretch with today’s game against the undefeated Los Angeles Rams, they know their offense, long the strength of the team, has to lead the way. And coming off a bye and healthier on that side of the ball than they’ve been all season, they believe that can happen.
“We’re obviously entering a critical stretch of the season, not only the opponents that we’re playing and the quality of the opponents, but it’s getting close to November. You only have 16 games, and they’re all important, (but) they start getting magnified in their significance even more as you’re getting closer to November,” said Philbin, the team’s offensive coordinator from 2007 through 2011 who returned to the position in the offseason.
“Obviously, it’s important that we play in mid-season form, because that’s about where we’re at. We’ve done a lot of really, really good things, but certainly there’s been inconsistency and things that need to be cleaned up. That’s obviously the expectation and the hope.
“We know we’re playing a really, really good football team. We’re going to have to play well, but this is the time of year we should be playing well and getting better. It’s going to be fun to be out there and see how our guys respond.”
The high-flying Rams entered the week leading the NFL in total offense (446.4 yards per game) and ranked second in scoring (33.6 points per game). While the Packers offense has piled up plenty of yards (421 per game, fourth in the NFL), it hasn’t translated to points (24.7, 16th in the league).
“We’re going to have to play better. We’re going to have to play a lot better than we have to win those games,” Rodgers said. “This is an important stretch in our season. I’m not going to say it’s going to define our season, but it’s definitely going to shake things out when we get on the other side of this and get back home in six weeks (and see) where we’re at in the race and what we’re playing for.”
As challenging as the stretch is — games at the Rams (7-0), at New England (4-2), at Seattle (3-3) and at Minnesota (4-2-1), and a Nov. 11 home game against Miami (4-4) — there’s plenty of reason for hope that the offense can get in gear.
“Obviously, you want to have every resource available to you,” Philbin said. And it appears the Packers will.
Rodgers’ knee, which the quarterback injured in the Sept. 9 season opener against Chicago, is improved and feeling better than it has since the injury.
Wide receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison are back from hamstring injuries.
Adams is playing like the elite, top-5 receiver he is.
McCarthy, despite his track record as a pass-first coach, claims he’s going to give the ball to his running backs more to balance out his play-calling.
Running back Aaron Jones is ready and raring to go with however many handoffs the coach will give him.
Tight end Jimmy Graham is coming off his first 100-yard game since November 2016 and seems to be finding his place in the offense.
And young wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown have gotten enough meaningful in-game experience that they can chip in if needed.
“I think we’re definitely on an upward trend,” said Cobb, who hasn’t played since the team’s Week 3 game at Washington, a loss that dropped Green Bay to 1-1-1. “We’ve done some really good things, you see some really good things happening on film, and I look forward to being out there.
“It’s going to be huge for us. And not just having us out there, but having the younger guys be able to go in and have the confidence that they’re going to be able to do and know what’s going on. I think the experience they’ve had over the last few weeks is going to be huge for us moving forward.”
Adams, meanwhile, has caught 47 passes for 557 yards and six touchdowns (tied for second-most in the NFL) in only six games — putting him on pace for 125 receptions for 1,485 yards and 16 TDs.
To Adams, the key to offensive success is getting off to faster starts. In half of the Packers’ games this season, they’ve faced massive deficits — 20-0 vs. Chicago, 28-10 vs. Washington, 24-0 vs. Detroit — which has led to imbalanced play-calling and lots of what turned out to be empty yards.
“Honestly, it’s just week-to-week making sure we take care of the little things with this offense. We’re never far off,” Adams said of the offense as a whole. “It’s just a matter of staying in games and not making it to where we have to come back from down 24-0. You do that against a team like L.A., you’re not going to be as lucky, from what I’ve seen this year.
“There’s no reason why we can’t go out and (put up big numbers). We look around this locker room and there’s a lot of offensive talent in here. There’s definitely some variables that should lead to us making more plays and being more effective on offense. But we’ve still got to make the plays at the end of the day.”
Source: The Associated Press