Week 8 ended in a heartbreaking loss for the 2016 Green Bay Packers, as they were beaten by the Atlanta Falcons 33-32. It was a spectacular offensive game to watch as quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan combined for 7 touchdowns and over 600 total yards. The loss dropped the Packers to a 4-3 record on the year, while advancing the Falcons to 5-3.
Certainly, it was a tough loss to take. But aside from looking at it as “just another loss”, there is a substantial silver lining that came out of Sunday’s game: the Packers offense officially looked back.
Atlanta’s defense was stingy enough to keep the Packers’ overall statistics appear relatively average, but for those that really watched the game, this offense clearly had a spark that we really haven’t seen since the 2014 season. With that being said, here are Week 8’s Thoughts from a Cheesehead.
1) The Passing Attack
Aaron Rodgers threw the ball extremely well against Atlanta on Sunday, completing 73% of his passes en route to 4 touchdown passes and his second-straight game with a rating over 100. He was hot from the get-go, completing a 58-yard pass to Jordy Nelson on just their fourth play of the game.
This particular play set the tone for the rest of the game for the Packers offense, and while Jordy Nelson may still not seem 100% back yet, it was a promising sign for what the rest of the season may hold. Jordy finished the game with 4 receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown.
With Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery being declared late inactives before the game, and fan-favorite Jared Abbrederis being cut earlier in the week, we saw a few young receivers get much more playing than we’ve seen all season.
Last season’s playoff hero – Jeff Janis – got some quality playing time along with rookie speedster Trevor Davis and Geronimo Allison, who was picked up just a few days before the game. Each of these three notched their first career touchdowns on the day as well.
Davante Adams also had another great game recording 12 catches for 74 yards, as he seems to be becoming an even more integral part of this offense.
We’ll see what happens with Cobb and Montgomery this week, though as of November 1st at 3 in the afternoon, there still has not been any word on if either will play this week. Regardless if one or both are able to play though, it seems the Packers have plenty of depth at receiver to still succeed going forward, especially with Aaron Rodgers at the helm.
2) About the Secondary
Coming into this game, I truly believed that if the Packers were only able to shut down Julio Jones, they’d win.
I was wrong.
Julio Jones finished the day with just 3 receptions on 5 targets for a measly 29 yards, even with the Packers top 3 cornerbacks out in Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. This left LaDarius Gunter, Demetri Goodson, and
Now before we give Dom Capers and the secondary full of backups too much credit, Jones was also suffering from what appeared to be a nagging foot injury for much of the game, which could have easily impacted his performance. It is also very likely that he was shut down due to the Falcons’ own schemes based on how often he was double-teamed.
Either way, Julio Jones being frequently double-covered allowed Matt Ryan to spread the Packers beat up secondary out extremely thin, which led to a great deal of mismatches in the secondary. This, in turn, led to Ryan completing 80% of his passes en route to 3 touchdowns and one torn-up Packers secondary by the likes of Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel.
With the Packers not making any moves at the trade deadline (shocker, right?) and seemingly not making any moves in free agency, we can only hope that Quinten Rollins returns very soon with Damarious Randall and Sam Shields returning shortly behind him.
3) Team Efficiency
Another sign that the Packers seem to be turning a new leaf on the season was their offensive efficiency, of which we look at their red zone efficiency and their efficiency on late-down conversions (3rd as well as 4th, if applicable).
On Sunday, the Packers were extremely efficient in the red zone, scoring each of the 5 times they got there with 4 touchdowns and one field goal, though the field goal came as time expired before halftime. In Week 8, a red zone scoring percentage of 80% was good for 2nd overall in the NFL; in other words, a significantly better ranking than Week 7 when they were 17th.
As far as their percentage on late downs go, the Packers were also very efficient in this aspect in Week 8. The Packers were 6 for 10 on 3rd downs against Atlanta, while going 0 for 1 on 4th down, which was ultimately the last play of the game for them.
4th downs are hit-or-miss, especially when only going for it once or twice a game. But as we all know, converting on 3rd downs is extremely important in today’s NFL.
For context, a conversion percentage over 50% is considered to be elite compared to the rest of the NFL. The Packers were at 60% in Week 8 and have an overall percentage of 51.58% on the season – good for the #1 spot in the league.
As I wrote last week, the ultimate success or failure of the 2016 Green Bay Packers will be converting on 3rd and 4th downs and their efficiency at scoring touchdowns in the red zone. This week, they consistently succeeded at both.
4) What About the Running Game?
Yes, what about the running game? When Aaron Rodgers runs for a career-high 60 yards, you know the running game is virtually non-existent at this point.
This is the best way I could describe the Packers Week 8 performance on the ground, as they were not only without James Starks and Eddie Lacy again, but were also without back/receiver hybrid Ty Montgomery this week as well.
This meant that the Packers absolutely had to rely on Aaron Rodgers’ arm, and had to try picking up a few yards on the ground here and there, though even that didn’t prove to be much of a success.
New man Knile Davis had 4 yards on 3 carries, while Don Jackson again didn’t have much, rushing for just 10 yards on 4 carries. McCarthy got so desperate for someone to make an impact on the ground that he even let fullback Aaron Ripkowski carry the ball 6 times for Christ’s sake! (Ripkowski did have 34 yards on those 6 carries though and I can’t argue with a 5.7-yard average.)
On Monday then, the Packers cut Knile Davis after determining that he wasn’t worth the roster spot or the 7th round pick they would have to give to the Chiefs if he stayed another few weeks. While the lack of a solid running game likely won’t translate into too many additional wins or losses, there is no arguing that this Packers offense is significantly better when they have a change-of-pace back in the game. So here’s to hoping that Ripkowski, Jackson or someone else can make an impact while Lacy, Starks and Montgomery are still out.
5) Special Teams
Last but certainly not least, the Packers special teams players and special teams coach Ron Zook certainly deserve a round of applause from Week 8. I know some folks might think that special teams is the most boring aspect in football, and to those people, you have my permission to stop reading now.
Yes, the Packers special teams were fantastic on Sunday. The aforementioned rookie speedster Trevor Davis had a big day returning punts, punter Jacob Schum had his best game of the season while averaging 54.3 yards per punt, and Mason Crosby stayed (mostly) perfect again on the year after knocking down a 29-yard field goal and 3 more extra points.
Crosby performing well was no surprise as he has been one of the most consistent kickers in the league his entire career, but the Packers have not had a great punter or return man in a number of years. In Week 8, Davis and Schum both flashed some potential that they could be successful in those roles. And like it or not, special teams has a much bigger impact on the game than most casual fans realize.
That’s it for this week’s Thoughts from a Cheesehead. If you’re interested in more Packer talk, join the conversation and comment below. Or if you’re more of a reader, take a look at the rest of our Packer blog.
Otherwise it’s adios until next week when the Packers take on Andrew Luck and the Colts back at Lambeau.
Go Pack Go!