GREEN BAY, Wis. — Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers teased everyone again.
The Green Bay Packers coach opened Sunday night’s game against the New York Giants by giving his quarterback a different personnel package on just about every play. From three receivers to two tight ends to multiple players in the backfield, the result was a 16-play drive that saw every skill position player except Jared Abbrederis take at least a snap and ended with a spectacular diving touchdown catch by Jordy Nelson.
The predictable offense that McCarthy had used for most of this season’s first three games was gone in a single, thrilling series.
Then it wasn’t.
For reasons unknown, McCarthy went back to using mostly the same personnel group — three receivers (Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams), plus a tight end (usually Richard Rodgers) and a running back (Eddie Lacy until he injured his left ankle, then James Starks). Then, predictably, the offense stalled and looked much like the unit that came into the game ranked 29th in total yards and 29th in passing yards per game.
You could argue that Aaron Rodgers and the offense did what needed to be done for a 23-16 victory over the Giants. But for a team coming off its bye week against a squad coming off a short week from a Monday night game in Minneapolis, it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect a more impressive showing, especially on offense.
The only points the Packers (3-1) managed in the second half came on three field goals. That might not cut it the next time out, when the upstart Dallas Cowboys come to town on Sunday.
Rodgers threw two interceptions in a game for the first time in nearly a year. Both picks came in the first half. Both ended up in the hands of Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
What’s more, Rodgers completed barely more than half of his passes. He was 23-of-45 for 259 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Some of the offensive flexibility was compromised when Lacy hurt his left ankle in the third quarter. It ruined what could have been a big day for the Packers running back. He had 81 yards on 11 carries when he hobbled off.
McCarthy showed flashes of offensive variety in the second half; fullback Aaron Ripkowski even had a 13-yard gain in the fourth quarter on a play with an extra offensive lineman (Jason Spriggs) on the field.
But it is only more puzzling that the coach doesn’t use more variety on a regular basis.
Perhaps the best thing you could say about the Packers’ offense is it was able to run out the clock and secure a victory, thanks in large part to Cobb’s ninth catch (he finished with 108 yards) just before the two-minute warning.