Green Bay rolling at quarter point of season

Off week could help several stars return
Morgan Rode
Sports Editor

The Green Bay Packers explosive offense has helped the team out to a 4-0 record through a quarter of their 2020 regular-season schedule.

The green and gold’s offense ranks near the top of the league in a number of statistics, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers putting together MVP-caliber play in year two of coach Matt LaFleur’s system and a number of offensive players stepping up when called upon.

The strong play has the offense feeling good heading into its off week.

“I like where we’re at; I really do. I like kind of the diversity in our approach,” said Rodgers after Monday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons.

“We’re doing some really good things on offense.”

The team’s early bye week has some fans and experts wondering if the off week will stop the momentum the team has built up so far, but the Packers are thankful to have their bye now, as the team has been hit hard by the injury bug.

Green Bay has been without star defensive lineman Kenny Clark since opening week and standout receiver Davante Adams the past two games. Linebacker Christian Kirksey, tight end Marcedes Lewis, receiver Allen Lazard and outside linebacker Rashan Gary all missed Monday’s game against the Falcons with injuries.

Cornerbacks Chandon Sullivan and Kevin King and tight end Josiah Deguara were among several Packers who were injured during Monday’s game.

While players on both sides of the ball have filled the voids with some starters out, the return of some of those injured players will determine how successful the team can be in the long run and how deep a playoff run it can make.

Despite the perfect start to the season, LaFleur isn’t close to satisfied.

The second-year coach has drawn praise all season from Rodgers for his playcalling, but LaFleur typically spends his postgame press conferences talking about the few missed opportunities the offense has had.

“Our whole goal is to score as many points as we possibly can,” said LaFleur. “I know that, although we’ve been doing some really good things, there’s a lot of room for improvement. It’s collectively as a whole unit, just making sure that we’re all on the same page. I think one thing that has really afforded us the ability to go out there and play consistent football is we haven’t had many mistakes, and that needs to continue in order for us to get to where we want to go.”

While the bye week usually affords team a mental break from the game, LaFleur already had started thinking about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whom the Packers face after their bye week.

“We know that we’ve got to hit the reset button because we know we’ve got a really, really tough opponent after the bye,” said LaFleur. “The Tampa Bay Bucs were one of the teams in the preseason that everybody was picking as a team that could potentially be there at the end. I think they have a lot of great players, and we’ve got our work cut out in front of us.”

The road game in Tampa starts a more difficult stretch of play for Green Bay, as the offense will take on some stout defenses (Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Indianapolis and Chicago among them) before the end of November.

Despite missing Clark, the Packers defense had one of its better showings against a dangerous Atlanta offense.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith had a three-sack game to lead the way, but he was also very critical of the unit’s play so far.

“That we’re not doing too well in tackling and in the run game,” said Smith when asked about the play of the defense through four weeks. “We got to get back to work. We can’t harp on saying that that was a good defensive run for us, because the past couple of weeks we haven’t been doing good in the run game. So we’re going to continue to work on that. I know we got a bye week, and that’s something that we’re going to continue to harp on.”

With coronavirus concerns around the NFL, Packer players will stay in the area during the bye week instead of traveling and enjoying a little break.

As the team rests and heals up, it can do so as the leaders of the NFC North and one of six undefeated teams in the NFL. When the team returns to the field in a couple weeks, it will try and build upon its strong start and try to make this unique season a special one.