Aaron Rodgers discusses 'deciding factor' for Packers down the stretch

Consistency has remained elusive as NFC North gauntlet arrives

WR Davante Adams and QB Aaron Rodgers
WR Davante Adams and QB Aaron Rodgers

GREEN BAY – It's a concept easy to understand but difficult to deliver.

Consistency.

That was the buzzword from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' weekly media session at his locker after Wednesday's practice. It's what the Packers are still searching for and need to find.

While Rodgers acknowledged how well it's worked for the 10-3 Packers to have a variety of players rise to the occasion in certain games, and for the team as a whole to find different ways to win, the overall unevenness of the team's play remains an issue in mid-December.

If there's one thing Rodgers would like to see change over these final three regular-season games against NFC North foes, that's it.

"The only difference between where we're at now at 10-3 and being a dangerous force that can make a run deep into the playoffs and to the Super Bowl is that consistency," Rodgers said. "If anything that will be the deciding factor on our fate here these next seven or eight weeks."

Rodgers was speaking specifically about the offense, but his words apply to the other two phases as well.

Defensively, the Packers haven't rediscovered their September form, though holding Washington last week under 200 total yards until the game's final drive was a step forward in that effort.

The special teams finally may have found a return game, but one outing doesn't declare a problem fixed.

In Rodgers' realm, he's had two games with more than 400 passing yards and five with less than 200. The Packers have rushed for 117 yards or more in seven of 12 games but compiled 79 or less on the ground in the other five – nothing in between. It's not quite feast or famine, but many of the lulls have been more than just blips.

There's far more to it than statistics, but regardless, Rodgers described consistency as a mental challenge. For all the specific roles players have, and how much the offense changes personnel from series to series or even play to play, getting fully prepared mentally for each game takes a lot of work. Beyond that, the preparation also has to carry over to the live action, when thinking and reacting must be "in sync," Rodgers said.

Nothing's been easy with everyone, Rodgers included, learning a new offense under Head Coach Matt LaFleur, and that certainly has played into the ups and downs remaining prevalent three-quarters of the way through the regular season.

But the Packers have seen the segments click at certain times – a season-high 174 yards rushing vs. Washington last week, or 421 passing yards vs. Oakland two months ago – so they know what it's supposed to look like.

"It comes down to a clear and concise understanding of the plan, and then the execution I think follows," Rodgers said. "(It's) for all of us, myself included, to understand the play clearly, to make the correct read, to deal the ball at the proper time.

"We all, if we can just be a fraction more consistent, I think you're going to see the type of performances we expect from ourselves."

Top receiver Davante Adams admitted his own as well as the locker room's collective standard of play hasn't been met often enough, but the confidence to find a steadier level exists because of the success everyone's tasted.

Ten different players have a touchdown reception from Rodgers this season, with two – tight ends Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan – getting their firsts of 2019 in the last two weeks.

"You have one chance on each play to make the right play, to make the right read, catch the ball, do what you've got to do," said Adams, whose 56 catches for 685 yards leads the team. "As long as you're playing full speed, with the talent we have … there's really no excuse not to come out doing more great than bad in a game. That's just my mentality."

As the Packers prepare to run the NFC North gauntlet over Weeks 15-17 – hosting the Bears before traveling to play the Vikings and Lions – they're in great position at 10-3, but nothing is clinched or assured.

Meanwhile Chicago comes to Lambeau Field having won three straight and four of five after many outside Halas Hall wrote off the defending division champ's season as a disappointment.

At 7-6 and fighting to stay alive in the playoff chase, the Bears are going to force the Packers to find their better levels, and stay there.

"We've shown what we're capable of in spurts," Adams said. "But (it's important) just to hone in and lock in on some of the details, to make sure we're being consistent, because this is the time. I mean, we're almost playing playoff games, and for the Bears, these are playoff games."

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