Packers not panicking over red-zone woes

Plenty of scheme and creativity available to improve efficiency

QB Aaron Rodgers and WR Davante Adams

GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams both gave the same answer.

To the reigning MVP quarterback and top receiver in the league, getting the Packers' offense back to its ultra-efficient ways in the red zone comes down to the approach.

"I think we can be more aggressive," Rodgers said Wednesday in the Lambeau Field media auditorium. "I think that's the biggest thing."

Several minutes later from the same podium, Adams followed: "I feel like we can be more aggressive with the way that we are attacking these teams."

To be sure, the red-zone numbers the Packers put up last year were historic. They converted touchdowns at a league-best 80% clip (48-of-60), just the fifth time since 2000 any NFL team was better than 75%, and the 80 mark was the highest of the bunch.

This year, through five games, the conversion rate is just 55% (11-of-20). The two failures in the red zone each of the last three games, all victories, have hindered Green Bay's ability to put away opponents earlier and perhaps avoid the down-to-the-wire drama in the road wins at San Francisco and Cincinnati.

Head Coach Matt LaFleur downplayed any overarching concern and has put it on himself to "come up with a better plan, and better plays" inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He acknowledged that's a greater challenge this year because teams around the league spent all offseason studying the Packers' impressive success. It's how the league works – when you're the best at something, everybody else figures out how and adjusts accordingly.

LaFleur, Rodgers and Adams, along with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and other coaches, have discussed what it will take to rediscover last year's magic. All seem to agree some changeups are needed.

LaFleur and Rodgers both suggested there's plenty of creative options in the red-zone portion of the playbook, and LaFleur said he just needs to "dial them up."

"More aggressive doesn't mean throw the ball more," Rodgers said. "It just means we have a ton of scheme down there, and let's keep rolling it off the sheet."

The late-game stalls in the last two road games have been especially frustrating.

At San Francisco, the Packers led by three points and had a first down at the 49ers' 26, eventually reaching the 20, but had to settle for a field goal when a touchdown would have made it a two-score game.

At Cincinnati, Aaron Jones' long fourth-quarter run and De'Vondre Campbell's overtime interception both put the ball on the Bengals' 18, and both opportunities turned into Mason Crosby misses with the score tied.

This week at Chicago, improving efficiency won't be easy. The Bears' defense not only ranks in the top 10 in both yards (eighth) and points (tied for seventh) allowed, but it's third in the red zone, permitting just six TDs in 16 opponent possessions (37.5%).

Chicago also has prevented six red-zone possessions from producing any points at all, tied for most in the league with Buffalo.

Last year's standard may be impossible to live up to, as Rodgers himself called 80% "crazy." But the Packers know they can be better, and did have one 2020-like game in scoring situations, going 4-for-4 in the red zone Week 2 vs. Detroit.

The belief is they've done it before, they'll do it again. Given the confidence the plays are there and ready to be called, exactly what LaFleur starts dialing up ought to be fun to watch.

"Part of what we do is try to keep Mase off the field as much as possible, bring him on for those PATs," Adams said. "Our identity is putting points on the board, and that's how you put pressure on teams and really assert your dominance is by scoring touchdowns. That's the main thing."

Related Content