On Sunday, at a chilly Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers snapped a five-game losing streak. It was a victory the Packers badly needed. While it keeps them mathematically still alive for the playoffs, the victory was more so for their overall sanity. The victory also spoiled the return of former head coach Mike McCarthy as well. But most importantly, the Green Bay Packers offense played like fans had been expecting it to would play this season.
Green Bay Packers Offense Upsets Mike McCarthy In Return to Lambeau
It took the Packers until overtime to pull out the victory, but they did it. Their 31-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys now takes their record to 4-6.
The expectation leading up to this season is that the inexperienced Green Bay Packers offense would need to lean on the defense to win games. But on Sunday afternoon, it was the offense that led the charge to the Packers fourth victory of the season.
Defensively, the Joe Barry coordinated defense struggled. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott went 27 of 46 with three touchdown passes, although the Packers were able to force two interceptions by Prescott. The leading receiver for the Cowboys was CeeDee Lamb. He ripped the Packers secondary for nine receptions for 150 yards with two touchdown receptions. The Cowboys also had success on the ground. Running back Tony Pollard, starting for an injured Ezekiel Elliott, carried the ball 22 times for 115 yards with one touchdown carry.
With the Cowboys offense having so much success, it was up to the Green Bay Packers offense to step up its game. Expecting the offense to step up seemed like a long shot. Leading up to this game, the Green Bay Packers offense had struggled mightily. But on Sunday, the Matt LaFleur-called offense finally clicked.
Packers Finally Lean on Their Ground Game to Open up the Passing Game
One of the biggest failures of Matt LaFleur this season has been not establishing and sticking with the ground game. But on Sunday, LaFleur finally did what Packers fans have been screaming for, they finally established the run early in the game.
Aaron Jones is the best offensive weapon that the Packers have. Not only is he a home run threat as a runner, but he is also arguably the Packers best pass-catching weapon. That is why it has been so frustrating watching the Green Bay Packers offense this season. LaFleur, until this past Sunday, had failed to give the necessary touches for Jones to get the offense going.
On Sunday, against a very tough Cowboys defense, Jones displayed what he is capable of when he is given the ball. In the ground game, Jones carried the ball 24 times for 138 yards with one touchdown carry. He also chipped in two receptions for 18 yards.
AJ Dillon, the number two Packers running back, also was utilized well on Sunday. The tank of a running back carried the ball 13 times for 65 yards. He finished the game with a five-yards-per-carry average.
By finally establishing, and sticking with the rushing attack, it finally opened up the Packers passing attack. The Packers don’t have the necessary pass-catching weapons to carry the offense alone. But by establishing the run, it opened up the play-action passing game. It is something that was expected all season. But finally, the Packers did it and it helped lead them to offensive success.
Rodgers Buys into the Game Plan
During the Packers five-game losing streak, it appeared that starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers hadn’t bought into what LaFleur wanted out of the Green Bay Packers offense. While many experts, and fans, believed that the Packers should be leaning on Jones and Dillon to move the ball, Rodgers was saying otherwise. Instead, Rodgers wanted to push the ball downfield in the passing game, believing that would bring the offense success.
On Sunday, it was LaFleur’s way of thinking that was put into action. Establishing Jones and Dillon, forced the Cowboys defense to concentrate on stopping the run. That opened up the play-action pass, something that LaFleur’s offense is known for.
The play-action passing attack allowed Rodgers more success against the Cowboys secondary. Rodgers finished the game going 14 of 20 for 220 yards with three touchdown passes. Last week, in the Packers 15-9 loss to the Detroit Lions, Rodgers threw three interceptions. This week, with running LaFleur’s style of offense, Rodgers didn’t throw any interceptions.
The days of the Green Bay Packers offense succeeding by throwing every down are long gone. While Rodgers still is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, at 38 years old, he needs to get some help. Because the Packers roster doesn’t have quality talent at wide receiver or tight end, they can’t do that any longer. The way Rodgers and the Packers offense performed on Sunday is the way they need to play for the Packers to be victorious.
Watson Leads the Way for the Packers Wide Receivers
In most cases, NFL teams don’t expect second-round wide receivers to immediately produce. Especially teams that were so successful the season before. But for the Packers, who traded the NFL’s best wide receiver, Davante Adams, they don’t have that luxury. They need any help they can get.
That is why the Packers have been waiting for 2022 second-round pick Christian Watson to contribute this season. General manager Brian Gutekunst traded up in the second round to select Watson. With being selected so high, and the draft capital spent to select him, it was expected that Watson would be an immediate contributor.
Unfortunately, due to injuries and struggles catching the ball, Watson hadn’t contributed so far this season. But against the Cowboys, Watson showed up and showed up in a big way. He hauled in four catches for 103 yards with three touchdown receptions. He displayed what the Packers passing attack had been missing. His top-end speed made things difficult for the Cowboys secondary. He was able to get behind defenders and make big plays for Rodgers and LaFleur.
Watson still had some issues with drops on Sunday. He still has a long way to go to become Rodgers and the Packers go-to wide receiver. However, from what the Packers saw on Sunday, they have to feel better about that actually becoming reality.
Victory Gives Something for the Packers to Build On
The Packers offensive output on Sunday gives fans hope that the offense can at least step up when needed. Until Sunday, there wasn’t much hope of that actually happening. But if they can continue to run the ball, hit timely passes, and use Watson to take the top off of defenses, the Packers could be able to surprise some teams.
Joe Barry continues to struggle to call a defense that can take advantage of the strengths of the Packers defensive personnel. If that continues, which with Barry’s track record makes you believe that he will, the offense will need to play as they did against the Cowboys.
This season, Matt LaFleur has struggled to call back-to-back successful offensive games. So on Thursday, when the Tennessee Titans come to town, it will be interesting to see how LaFleur does. If he uses the same strategy that he did this past Sunday, it will give the Packers a better chance to win two games in a row.