5 Adjustments Green Bay Packers Must Make During Bye Week
For 16 weeks, the Green Bay Packers proved themselves as one of the best teams in the league—and their hard work paid off with a No. 2 seed and first-round bye.
But to reach the Super bowl for the first time since the 2010 season, the Packers will need to be better than very good; excellence must be achieved.
In this article, I’ll take a look at five key adjustments the Packers must make in order to have a successful postseason run.
Regain Confidence in Davante Adams
It’s been somewhat of a boom-or-bust season for the rookie wide receiver from Fresno State.
Adams has four games of at least five catches but no more than two in the other 10 he’s played. Mike McCarthy’s game plan in the Week 13 showdown vs. the New England Patriots featured Adams, and he responded with a season-high 121 receiving yards on six receptions.
But since that game—really, since the fourth-quarter touchdown drop vs. the Patriots—Adams has hit the rookie wall, and he’s hit it hard.
Bleacher Report’s Zach Kruse tweeted this opinion during the Week 16 win at Tampa Bay, when Adams was targeted four times and dropped two passes:
Davante Adams looks like a player lacking confidence right now.— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) December 21, 2014
In his last four games, Adams has just four catches on 12 targets. Against Detroit in Week 17, he was not targeted.
This is not to say that Adams is not having a fine rookie season—38 catches for 446 yards and three touchdowns is good production. But it’s the recent drop in production and in the rookie’s confidence that has to have this team worried just even in the slightest entering the most pivotal time of the year.
Better Execution and Play-Calling at the Goal Line
With Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and the complementary weapons on the Packers, there’s no way this team should run seven plays in a goal-to-go situation and come away with zero points.
That was the case on Green Bay’s first offensive possession in the Week 17 showdown for the NFC North vs. Detroit. The Packers had 1st-and-goal at Detroit’s 7-yard line but were unsuccessful in gaining the final seven yards, even when a pass interference penalty gave the Pack a first down at the 1-yard line.
McCarthy, inexplicably, went away from Lacy until fourth down. Instead, he implemented short-yardage guru John Kuhn and passes to Nelson and Andrew Quarless.
Thankfully for Green Bay, Detroit stalled on the ensuing possession, and Micah Hyde returned Sam Martin’s punt 55 yards for a touchdown.
Green Bay also lost the ball on downs at the opponent’s 1-yard line a week prior at Tampa Bay, a drive lowlighted by an odd-looking sweep across the formation run by Kuhn on 2nd-and-goal that unsurprisingly went nowhere.
Think the Packers need to modify that goalline sweep w/ Kuhn to have a pass option— Phil (@pshackto) December 27, 2014
Points come at a premium in the playoffs, and the Packers can’t afford to march their way to the opponent’s goal line only to come up empty handed.
No More Blocked Kicks
I haven’t seen this many blocks since Dikembe Mutombo was wearing a Houston Rockets uniform and wagging his finger at diminutive opponents.
"It's disappointing,” Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum told Ty Dunne of the Journal Sentinel. “We’ve spent a lot of time, because we've had some problems this season in our placement protection. We've devoted the necessary time in practice. We were very good in the previous game; we were good inside in that ball game.”
Whatever the reasons may be—Slocum insinuated that left wing Andrew Quarless was the guilty party on the blocked 52-yard attempt against Detroit—they need to get cleaned up—and fast. The Packers have been playing winning football on offense and defense (mostly), but big plays in the opponent’s favor on special teams can turn the tide like no other.
Force More Turnovers
For the first 12 weeks of the season, the Packers were continuing a trend that’s been a mainstay under defensive coordinator Dom Capers: forcing turnovers.
But, against the Patriots in Week 13, the defense failed to produce a turnover for the first time this season, breaking a streak that ranked No. 1 among all NFL teams. And it has forced just one turnover in each of the last four games, despite playing against the turnover-prone Falcons, Bills, Buccaneers and Lions.
The 27 turnovers forced by the 2014 Packers are good for ninth best in the league, but they’re coming too infrequently at the end of the season. The 2010 postseason showed us just how impactful turnovers can be: Tramon Williams’ game-sealing interception at Philadelphia, his pick-six at the end of the first half at Atlanta, B.J. Raji’s pick-six and Sam Shield’s clinching pick at Chicago, and—who could forget—Nick Collins’ pick-six and Clay Matthews forced fumble in Green Bay’s 31-25 victory over Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
Give the offense more opportunities to score by forcing more turnovers, and this team has a great chance to win the Super Bowl.
Eliminate Stupid Penalties
Brad Jones has played better in the latter half of the season as the defense’s dime linebacker. He has tremendous speed (4.54 40-yard dash) for a man of his size (6'3", 232), and his coverage abilities are decent enough.
But had the Packers lost their Week 17 contest against Detroit and ultimately lost the NFC North, much of the blame would be rightfully placed on Jones’ shoulders.
With less than a minute to play in the first half, the Lions faced a 3rd-and-13 at the Packers’ 35-yard line. Detroit’s offense had done nothing up to that point, and Green Bay held a 14-0 lead. But, Aaron Rodgers had just been carted to the locker room with an injury that looked like it would sideline the MVP candidate for the rest of the game, if not the season.
Stafford dropped back to pass and fired over the middle to Reggie Bush, but the attempt came up short. It looked as if the Lions would be forced to punt or kick a 52-yard field goal, neither desirable options. But then the penalty icon populated just below the box score on the Fox broadcast, and replays showed that Jones had whacked Stafford in the face on his way past the quarterback.
Was it a ticky-tack call? Yes. But by the letter of the law, it was the right call.
That's Brad Jones' worst play of his career. And that's saying a lot.— Adam Czech (@adamczech) December 28, 2014
On the next play, Stafford found Calvin Johnson for a 20-yard touchdown, and the Lions were right back in it.
The call ultimately didn’t come back to bite Green Bay, but it gave the Lions a much better chance to win, and it can’t happen again if the Packers want a shot for their fifth Lombardi Trophy.
Peter Sowards covers the Green Bay Packers for Bleacher Report.
Follow @PeterSowards on Twitter.