It got to the point in Sunday’s 30-16 loss to Dallas at Lambeau Field that Aaron Rodgers was being booed. Or maybe it was the Packers’ offense in general. But two years after telling those same fans to “R-E-L-A-X” after a 1-2 start, days before he made them in a 38-17 surgical procedure on the Bears at Soldier Field, the two-time MVP doesn’t sound very comfortable, either.
After starting 6-0 a year ago, the Packers are 7-8 in the regular season. The NFL’s all-time leader in passer rating at 103.5 (“K-HITS!!!!”) stands 20th in the league in that category this year (88.4) on the heels of a 92.7 rating in 2015, Rodgers’ worst since his first year as the starter.
His accuracy has been off (60.2 percent, ranking 25th), and while he still has a 10-to-4 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio, he has six picks in his last seven games and has gone a career-high 12 games without throwing for 300 yards. I know, I know. It’s the last thing Bears fans want to hear heading north for yet another prime time game there. But sandwiched around the 55-14 embarrassment two years ago have been a pair of wins: when Shea McClellin broke his collarbone in 2013, and the pedestrian (for Rodgers) 22-of-43 Thanksgiving night win last November, in which he threw for only 202 yards, a Tracy Porter pick and one touchdown.
The postgame thought that night involved being thankful Jordy Nelson and his torn ACL weren’t around to burn The Beloved like he usually does. But Nelson is back now, and while he has five scoring receptions in as many games, he’s caught only 26 passes, with a 12-yard average. And Vic Fangio’s defense could well be without Tracy Porter (knee), who had the interception last year and had four other pass breakups, something no one else had ever done in a game to Rodgers.
Randall Cobb leads the club with 28 catches, but with a 10.5 average. Davante Adams, who struggled to fill Nelson’s shoes a year ago, has three TD’s among his 15 grabs, but enters the week under concussion protocol. GM Ted Thompson took a rare dip into free agency to address the lack of a threat at tight end, but Jared Cook’s been sidelined after spraining an ankle three weeks ago.
The other urgent issue facing Rodgers and company is at running back. Eddie Lacy worked out with P90X guru Tony Horton to get in his best shape since his rookie season (after reportedly spinning the sacle around 250 last season). But Lacy sprained his ankle two games ago, tried to battle his way through it Sunday, and while averaging five yards a carry, is also averaging just 72 yards a game. The added twist is backup James Starks’ Sunday morning knee surgery. Promoting undrafted rookie Don Jackson from the practice squad could be an option after Mike McCarthy tried to get by sprinkling Cobb and fellow wideout Ty Montgomery into Sunday’s backfield. Aaron Ripkowski has replaced John Kuhn for an occasional handoff at fullback.
Then there’s the Josh Sitton-less offensive line. Lane Taylor has slid it at left guard, between David Bakhtiari and center JC Tretter, while T.J. Lang and Marian Central High School product Bryan Bulaga. The latter left Sunday’s game early with a back injury but in the past has found a way to grind through. While Sitton may have been the financial sacrifice with Lang and Tretter heading towards free agency, Bakhtiari was re-upped before the season before hitting the market.
McCarthy took back the play-calling this season, but is being criticized up north for remaining too conservative. After kicking field goals on fourth-and-short in Sunday’s loss, the Pack went the next five possessions before scoring their lone touchdown of the day with just seven minutes left versus a defense that’s not exactly the 1985 Bears. Green Bay enters this game 25th in passing yards, 26th in total yards, 17th in points per game, but first in third-down percentage. An odd mix, sort of what the Bears are going through. But we know the weapons, and that quarterback, are present. Now the Bears hope they don’t figure things out for four more days.