GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers can’t do it alone, but he’s perfectly aware of his part in getting the Packers where they want to go.
Discussing after Wednesday’s practice where the Packers sit, at 8-3 with five games left and fighting for the NFC North title with the Vikings, Rodgers pointed to himself to show Green Bay the way over the regular season’s final month.
“Offensively, I’ve got to take the lead and get hot in December here,” Rodgers said, though he didn’t absolve others of their responsibility as well.
“Then the defense has to do their part and special teams has to play well. If we do those things, I like the talent of our football team, I like the spirit and chemistry, and I think we’ve got a chance to be in the mix.”
As the Packers look to shake off a lopsided loss in San Francisco and regroup for the stretch run, the talk on offense has centered on keeping Aaron Jones involved at all times, particularly in the passing game.
Since his breakout receiving performance at Kansas City, when he had seven catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns, Jones has caught just one pass (for a loss of a yard) over the last three games.
That has coincided with receiver Davante Adams’ return to the lineup from a four-game absence due to a toe injury, but Rodgers said the struggles are definitely not on Adams. He also denied that he’s focused on trying to feed his top target the ball, though there are certain plays designed for Adams if he gets a specific matchup.
Regarding Jones, Rodgers said teams have defended him differently since KC, using a defensive back more often than a linebacker, and the abysmal showings on third down in the two West Coast games (a combined 3-for-25 in LA and San Francisco) prevented the offense from getting to a lot of the plans they had for Jones in those losses.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur also noted he wants to keep the 1-2 punch at running back with Jones and Jamaal Williams intact and not get over-reliant on one back.
Still, both Rodgers and LaFleur said they can’t let circumstances dictate decisions to the point the offense loses sight of the offense’s most productive weapon through the first three months.
“There are certain situations where definitely we want ‘33’ in the game,” LaFleur said. Rodgers added, “We’ve just got to keep finding ways to get him the ball. He’s been a big part of the plan.”
But the offense’s regression, statistically and rhythm-wise, since Adams’ return remains baffling.
To get back on track, Adams acknowledged trying to force things is not the way to go – the offensive rhythm has to be a “natural thing” and the players have to “let it come” to them. Spreading the ball around, which was working when he was out, should still work when he’s in.
“It’s simple. It’s not easy but it’s definitely simple,” said Adams, who has caught seven passes in each of the three games since his return, but the yardage production in the West Coast games (41 and 43) paled in comparison to the Carolina contest sandwiched in between (118).
“The job description for me is go get open, catch the ball, and the coaches’ is to come up with a game plan for Aaron. He has to throw it. Once everybody starts hitting on their job, that’s when we have success.”
That’s really what it comes down to for Rodgers – job descriptions – no matter how the offensive line might have to compensate for right tackle Bryan Bulaga’s potential absence or how much pressure Rodgers puts on himself.
A 29-point defeat in a battle of contenders has produced an outside narrative that the Packers don’t have what it takes to compete with the best teams. Rodgers believes the team can prove otherwise, but it must put itself in position to get that chance.
“I think the gap is execution. It’s not ability. It’s not talent. It’s execution,” Rodgers said. “I think on paper and lining up we feel really good about our squad against anybody, but execution is the main divider between teams that put that performance on the board like they did and the way we played.”
The Packers were back inside the Don Hutson Center Wednesday preparing for the Week 13 matchup with the New York Giants.