GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Four shots from the 8-yard line. Fifty-one seconds to play. Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
What percent of the time do the Green Bay Packers find the end zone in that situation?
“A hundred,” veteran guard T.J. Lang said.
Not this year.
When Rodgers can’t win a game with four plays from the Chicago Bears' 8-yard line against a team he’s owned over the years, there’s little reason to think his club is going anywhere this season. Those four plays, the Packers’ final snaps in Thursday’s stunning 17-13 loss at Lambeau Field, encapsulated all that has gone wrong with the Packers offense in 2015.
On first and second down, Rodgers couldn’t find anyone open and threw it away. On third down, James Jones broke free near the right corner of the end zone but couldn’t handle the pass.
“I dropped it. Period,” said Jones, who has been held without a catch in two of the last three games. “It sucks, man. You let your team down. We had an opportunity to win the game, and I dropped the ball.”
With one more chance on fourth down, Rodgers tried to throw to Randall Cobb running across the back of the end zone, and Davante Adams thought it was for him. And of course, it bounced off his hands -- again.
In the first quarter, Adams dropped what likely would’ve been a 47-yard touchdown. Instead, the Packers, who dropped to 7-4 and out of first place in the NFC North, punted.
“It’s just the same things that have been hindering us all year,” Lang said. “We’re not going to go anywhere where we want to be if we keep making the same mistakes. We got to get it corrected.”
At least the Packers can run the ball now. Eddie Lacy, with 105 yards on 17 carries, posted his second straight 100-yard game.
In fact, maybe they should have run the ball more -- even in the last-minute, goal-to-go situation without any timeouts.
“Possibly," Rodgers said when asked whether a run was an option in that situation. “We had a couple good calls. The first two plays, they covered them pretty well. Third down and fourth down were scramble opportunities. Frustrating. I like the calls there; all four of them. We probably could have ran it there on one of them, but I like the calls.”
If not at that time, then perhaps earlier. Rodgers dropped back to throw 49 times (43 throws, four scrambles, two sacks), and the Packers ran with Lacy and James Starks on just 24 plays.
“I don’t know the final numbers, but we would’ve probably liked to have a few more [rushing] attempts,” Lang said.
Considering all the problems they’ve had in the passing game, maybe that would’ve been a better option, either earlier in the game or at the end.
“They played coverage,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of the final four plays. “We didn’t win on the perimeter, and we didn’t have anywhere to go with the football is what I saw.”
At this point, it’s worth wondering whether this offense is simply mistake-prone, as Lang put it, on just incurably inept. They have the NFL’s 23rd-ranked passing game, and they’ve been in that neighborhood all season. They were 20th after Weeks 1, 5 and 6, and that’s the high-water mark for the year.
Everyone knew the loss of Jordy Nelson would hinder what had been a top-10 offense eight of the last nine years under McCarthy, but who knew it would be this bad?
“It’s a different year, different personnel,” Rodgers said. “You know, it’s frustrating because we shouldn’t have some of those issues 11 games in. But we’re having those.”
Rodgers put the onus on himself to try to fix it.
“I’m obviously going to have to make sure that my preparation is as high as it’s ever been because we’ve got to get on the same page in the passing game,” Rodgers said. The run game has been better the last couple of weeks. Obviously, Eddie being healthy has helped. We’re just on different pages.
“When you miss throws, when I’m throwing at a certain depth and the receiver’s running a certain depth, obviously we’re on different pages, so we need to have some better communication and make sure there’s not those discrepancies in the depths and the adjustments.”
It's an admirable stance on the part of the two-time NFL MVP, but it may not matter.