Not standing still: Packers looking to improve

November 20, 2014

           

Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy gets past Philadelphia Eagles' Nolan Carroll and Malcolm Jenkins (27) for a 32-yard touchdown run during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis.

GREEN BAY Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing at a high level for the Green Bay Packers.

Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy are a triple-threat to score.

Coach Mike McCarthy's offense is on a roll. It's hard to get any better than outscoring opponents 108-34 in the past two games.

But it's only mid-November. The playoffs and the Packers aren't even assured yet of a postseason berth are several weeks away.

A gloom-and-doom question looms among all the positive laurels on the sports-talk radio Are the Packers peaking early?

"I don't believe in peaking early. I don't even know what that means, to be honest with you," Rodgers said Wednesday. "We try to carry the feeling and the momentum from previous games, and learn from the mistakes we made, and we take it one game at a time."

Yet it's hard to dissect exactly what Green Bay has done wrong on offense, at least the past two weeks.

            
Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy talks to Aaron Rodgers during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis.

The Packers have jumped out to big leads on the Bears and Eagles, respectively, to turn the fourth quarters of each game into a glorified practice.

Such positive momentum builds confidence. McCarthy has said he does have to guard against overconfidence.

"The message of handling success is something we've talked about since Day 1," McCarthy said Wednesday. "Today we just focused on ourselves and the Vikings and try not to pay a whole lot of attention to the nice things you're going to say about 'em."

Nelson and Cobb are one of the top receiving tandems in the league. But what has helped the Packers become even more potent is the emergence of Lacy out of the backfield as a pass-catching threat.

The 5-foot-11 running back, who won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award last season, is quite capably filling the role of the third option in the passing game following the departure in the offseason of veteran receiver James Jones.

The Packers are also still searching for consistency at tight end following the departure of Jermichael Finley, though the production at that position has picked up in recent weeks.

Lacy has 547 yards on 129 carries. He has 322 yards on 27 receptions though 14 of those catches have come in the past three games. Lacy has turned a short pass into a long touchdown in each of the past two wins.

"When we get the ball out, whether it's a screen pass or dump-off pass and it's you and a corner, or you and a safety, you know I like those odds a lot better than running up the middle at linebackers," Lacy said. "But no matter how I get it, somebody's going to have to hit me."

McCarthy has said those screen plays have been available all season. Only Rodgers doesn't always have to go to that option if he sees Nelson breaking long down the sideline, or Cobb getting free over the middle.

"A-Rod is so smart. He sees a lot of things that I obviously don't know what he's looking at," Lacy said. "His mind is completely elsewhere, and he throws it somewhere else."

For as good as they have been of late, the Packers are still tied with Detroit atop the NFC North at 7-3. The Lions beat the Packers in Week 3, so the Week 17 matchup at Lambeau Field looms large as a game that could decide the division.

All of which makes Sunday's game at Minnesota just as important to Green Bay. Another loss in the division could make all the positive vibes in the locker room disappear.

No overconfidence or complacency evident here.

"So as far as I'm concerned I don't expect any letdowns from any of our guys. We hold them to a high expectation," Rodgers said. "But you have to guard against complacency, slipping into the locker room, slipping into your mind."

Notes: Clay Matthews (groin) was limited, though McCarthy relayed Wednesday that his star linebacker didn't have "high concern" about his injury. ... OLB Nick Perry (shoulder) missed practice, but might get limited work on Thursday.

 












 

Associated Press