DETROIT – Two weeks ago, the primary thread in this space focused on how the most important issue the Packers must fix is their penchant for starting games slowly.
After a 31-23 loss at Detroit on Sunday, the narrative hasn’t changed.
Getting down three (or more) scores out of the gate is no way to live in the NFL, yet the Packers have now done it three times in five weeks, and both times they’ve taken to the road in 2018.
If not for Rodgers’ miraculous one-legged comeback in Week 1 against Chicago, the Packers would be in last place in the NFC North one game away from their bye week.
They aren’t, and at 2-2-1, they’re not in desperate straits, but the familiar script needs to flip or this season is in danger of getting away from them.
The Green Bay Packers traveled to Ford Field to take on the Detroit Lions in a Week 5 NFC North matchup
“It’s frustrating,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said about staring at a 24-0 halftime deficit to the Lions. “We’ve been kind of a one-half team – one good half, one not-so-good half.
“It was definitely a disjointed game, not punting and putting up a bunch of offense and not winning the game.”
Head Coach Mike McCarthy said he can’t find a common thread to the slow starts. Rodgers didn’t offer one, either.
In the opener against the Bears, it was mostly the offense and Rodgers’ initial absence due to his knee injury, that was the culprit. Two weeks ago at Washington, it was primarily the defense. This time, problems on special teams hurt the most.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter which unit is most at fault, it’s that the Packers can’t afford for one to be so mistake-prone it creates a pressure-packed comeback situation. Expecting to win more than one of every three rallies from 20 points down or so isn’t realistic.
So what’s the fix? Rodgers is fine starting with him.
“I’m aware of where we’re at and we have to play better, myself included,” he said. “I have to start faster like we’ve done over the years. Start faster, play a little better early on and get us some momentum.
“I expect to and I will. We have to give our defense some more help. Short fields and special-teams gaffes, … we’re not playing great in any of the three phases for an entire game.”
If there’s reason to be positive in that vein, it’s that Rodgers played Sunday with a lighter knee brace, and he’s got an extra day before taxing the knee again in next week’s Monday night home game against San Francisco.
He also found some production with the rookie wide receivers who had to step up in the absence of Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, and Davante Adams showed a mid-week calf injury wasn’t about to slow him down.
But it can’t all fall on Rodgers, and the Packers know that.
Too many times already this season the talk has been about this player or that player bouncing back. To see that scenario now following veteran kicker Mason Crosby after the worst game of a decorated career shows no one is immune. Every player on the roster needs to find some level of consistency and reliability in his game for the Packers to get things back on the right track.
On their bye week, the Bears stayed atop the NFC North at 3-1 while the Lions got back in the thick of things at 2-3. The 2-2-1 Packers could be in better shape, could be in worse, but what matters is where they go from here.
“I still like our chances even though we’re 1-1-1 in the division now,” Rodgers said as the Packers completed their first run through the division opponents.
“Maybe this is the kind of year everyone knocks each other off for a while, and if we can hang in there through the middle stretch of our season, we can be right there.”
Sounds like as good a plan as any, but the Packers’ current pattern isn’t the way to accomplish it.
“We have to put together a full game,” Rodgers said, “one of these days.”