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Three Solutions (But Only Two Good Ones) for Packers to Find Gold

How can the Green Bay Packers return to last year's dominant form in the red zone? Here are some ideas.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – There are a few potential solutions to the Green Bay Packers’ problems in the so-called gold zone.

Some are more practical than others.

“If anybody can get ahold of Mike Myers, I would really love anybody’s help. We might need him to come in and help us out,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said of the inspiration behind the gold zone, the Austin Powers character Goldmember.

OK, onto more helpful solutions for an offense that has plunged from a top-ranked 80.0 percent touchdown rate last year to a 27th-ranked 55.0 percent this year.

All-Pro receiver Davante Adams is coming off a sensational season in which he led the NFL in receptions per game, receiving yards per game and touchdowns. He’s back at it this season. Boosted by the new 17-game season, he’s on pace to set the NFL record for most receiving yards in a season.

However, after recording 18 touchdown catches last season – tied for third-most in NFL history – he’s got only two this season. Adams dominated in every situation last year but was particularly powerful in the red zone with league-leading totals of 23 receptions and 14 touchdowns in 14 games. This year, he’s got four receptions and two touchdowns in five games. One came at San Francisco, when he slowly motioned one way, changed direction at the snap and sprinted the other way for an easy score. The other came last week, a jump ball at Cincinnati.

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What’s been missing are the Aaron Rodgers-to-Adams ad-libs, like their 12-yard touchdown connection vs. the Bears at Lambeau Field on Nov. 29.

“A lot of that stuff that happens, it’s Aaron extending the play and Davante having that relationship with him, being in the right place,” quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy. “Thinking about the Bears game last year, making that crazy catch late in the progression, so I think those things happen organically later in the red zone. We haven’t been able to extend as many plays down there like we normally have.”

Another solution would be a more effective running game. It’s not as if the Packers haven’t tried to run the ball. Their 24 rushing attempts are slightly more than the league average of 22.8. It’s that they haven’t run the ball well. They’re 24th in the league with 2.3 yards per carry in the red zone. Only four teams have rushed for fewer first downs than Green Bay’s four. On a first-and-goal from the 6 last week, A.J. Dillon ran the ball on back-to-back plays for gains of just 1 yard. Rodgers’ third-down pass to Randall Cobb was broken up and the Packers had to settle for a chip-shot field goal.

“We’ve got to be more effective running the ball, which since we got here in ’19, that’s been kind of our ace in the hole, for sure,” Getsy said.

On Wednesday, coach Matt LaFleur said he wasn’t going to panic about the red-zone woes. On Thursday, LaFleur said he and his staff were taking a “deep dive” to determine whether it was game-planning, play-calling, play design or execution.

Getting on track won’t be easy, with Chicago boasting the NFL’s third-ranked red-zone defense.

“Coaches, we’re our biggest critic,” Hackett said. “The players are also that way, too, so we look at everything, from doing more creative things to being more aggressive to who’s out there when they’re out there. There are so many things that go into it, and we just have to continue to grind, continue to adapt and find new ways, because we know that we set the standard last year and a lot of people looked at us. A lot of people looked at the things that we did, and we have to find even more counters and more fun things to do to be able to go get that gold.”


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