Had it not been for the gold helmets and green jerseys, one could have been confused which offense was which during the Green Bay Packers’ 24-15 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday.
The Packers, hamstrung by injuries to both starting receivers, were reduced to a dink-and-dunk passing offense that more closely resembled the one usually employed by the Jaguars than the unit that averaged 36 points over the last two weeks.
Jacksonville, on the other hand, had receivers running wild in the secondary for most of the afternoon, reminiscent of how the Packers have operated on offense for the better part of the last two years. 12 plays of 15 yards or more were the result.
With no Greg Jennings (groin) or Jordy Nelson (hamstring), and an offensive line that struggled to pass protect or open holes against a defensive line with just five total sacks, the script was flipped on Packers head coach McCarthy Sunday.
In fact, McCarthy mostly called the game as if Blaine Gabbert were his quarterback, not reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.
It was as conservative a gameplan as McCarthy has put together this season.
The Packers completed just two passes over 20 yards, while running back Alex Green caught five passes and Randall Cobb had four of his five receptions come within three yards of the line of scrimmage. Seven Packers caught passes Sunday, but only two (James Jones and Jermichael Finley) had reception averages of 10 yards or more.
The throws were safe. The shots down field were limited.
As a result, Rodgers’ yards per attempt was a paltry 5.3. He finished with just 186 yards, marking the first time since 2010 that Rodgers started and finished a game in which he threw for under 200 yards.
McCarthy also called 24 running plays, five more than the typically run-heavy Jaguars. Production didn’t follow, as Green banged his head against a cement wall for 54 yards on 22 carries (2.5 yards/carry). Of Green’s 22 carries, 14 came on first down.
Early on, McCarthy altogether scraped the no-huddle tempo. The flow of the game favored the Jaguars defense.
Safe, predictable and slow makes production difficult for any offense. The Packers struggled to extend drives, too.
Lacking fullback John Kuhn on short-yardage situations and as a reliable third-down pass blocker, Green Bay converted just 5 of 13 chances on third down. Nine of the 13 third downs came needing five or more yards.
The Jaguars scored just 15 points, which was fortunate for the Packers considering the way Jacksonville marched down the field, especially in the first half.
The high-flying Jaguars offense got 303 passing yards from Gabbert, and probably should have had a lot more had it not been for a few poorly thrown balls and a handful of drops. Still, Gabbert completed 27 of 49 passes for 303 yards and a touchdown. It marked the first time in Gabbert’s 22-game career that he eclipsed the 300-yard plateau.
Second-year receiver Cecil Shorts caught eight passes for 116 yards, running wide open for most of the afternoon. Sunday was the first time Shorts tallied 100 yards receiving in a game in his young NFL career.
No. 5 overall pick Justin Blackmon also had four early catches for 67 yards, a career-high.
In all, Gabbert hit nine different receivers Sunday.
The Jaguars got 14 first downs from the passing game, and also converted five times as many third downs as they had the week prior.
Of course, Jacksonville did all of this without Maurice Jones-Drew, the offense’s best player and the running back responsible for over 40 percent of the Jaguars total yardage production this season.
Jacksonville was simply the better offensive football team Sunday.
McCarthy said in his post-game press conference that the players he had available were well-prepared. The efficiency was just off, and maybe that’s understandable. When a team loses its top two receivers and starting running back, even the best offenses and best quarterbacks can look fantastically average over 60 minutes of football.