Green Bay Packers

Packers Show A Pulse, But Is It Worth Anything?

Photo Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

They showed some fight. They showed some attitude. They didn’t back down. These were all positive developments for a Green Bay Packers team that had often looked soft, disinterested, and a team unwilling to punch back over the past few weeks.

But that will only take you so far against a team like the Buffalo Bills. The Packers would need a perfect game to compete with Buffalo for 60 minutes, and they didn’t come close to accomplishing that. They outgained the Bills, won the turnover battle, ran for over 200 yards, and won the time of possession. Yet they were never really in the game.

It’s surreal to watch an Aaron Rodgers offense struggle so mightily to move the ball downfield. With a thin receiving corps already without Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb, and losing rookie Christian Watson to a concussion after six snaps, the passing attack always seemed to be playing uphill. The constantly reconfigured offensive line isn’t helping matters — especially against a pass rush as stout as Buffalo’s.

Yes, the running game finally got untracked — against the league’s top rushing defense — and that needs to be the identity of this offense going forward. But in the second half, you almost got the feeling the Bills were happy to let the Pack pick up five or six yards a crack, knowing they had a comfortable lead. They also had to know that Green Bay would eventually commit a penalty or make a mistake that would force the ball into Rodgers’ hands.

I still believe the offense will improve as the young receivers get more comfortable (Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure provide hope) and the offensive line gains a little more stability in terms of health. Maybe they add a receiver before the trade deadline, maybe they don’t. But with that running back duo leading the way, the offense will not be what holds this team back over the last half of the schedule.

The Packers’ defense is another story altogether. Yes, they showed some feistiness, though some of the secondary’s trash-talking and gesturing is a little over the top, especially when you’re down multiple scores. What they can’t have is the immaturity Quay Walker showed on the Bills’ sideline that got him ejected. They still can’t stop the run, even against Buffalo’s challenged rushing attack, and Joe Barry’s scheme is a head-scratcher. Seems like it would have made sense to have Jaire Alexander shadow Stefon Diggs, but Barry had other ideas.

The bottom line is this defense has regressed and looks nothing like the top-ten unit we envisioned. De’Vondre Campbell and Rasul Douglas are not playing like the free agent steals they were in 2021. The interior of the defensive line is not consistently disruptive. The decision to exercise the fifth-year option on Darnell Savage looks ridiculous. Eric Stokes looks nothing like a promising second-year cornerback, and neither first-round pick has looked anything like a difference-maker.

If I were in charge, I’d show Barry the door and hand the keys to the defense to defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. The window is closing quickly on this team, and that locker room needs a shakeup. There’s no way Matt LaFleur admits to the mistake of hiring Barry, but this team needs a jolt if they can salvage the season.

We’ll see whether Campbell and Preston Smith escaped serious injuries — the depth behind those two guys is extremely questionable. And we’ll see how this team responds to its first four-game skid in six years. If they are to salvage the season, they absolutely must win their next three games: at the Detroit Lions and home against the Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans.

Despite being overmatched from the opening kickoff, this performance against the Bills provides a little hope: that they do care, that they can compete against the best when their backs are against the wall.

And at 3-5, that’s exactly where they find themselves.

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