No place like home for Pack to get back on track

Lambeau Field may have never been more of an oasis to the Green Bay Packers, who at the midpoint of their season have neither lost at home nor won on the road.

As the only one in a 14-player confidence pool to have picked the Pack to beat both the Rams and Patriots – and like Packer fans everywhere – it’s natural to wonder what the deal is with this year’s group.

Are the Packers an unlucky but strong team on the verge of a breakout, waiting to pounce once they learn how to get out of their own way? Or are they a middle-tier club that may have been a touch overrated coming in?

One thing is sure after having squandered a second straight opportunity to upend a powerhouse. The Packers are running out of wiggle room. Wide receiver Davante Adams hinted that Sunday’s home date with the Dolphins is as close to a must-win as it gets in Week 10.

After their mid-afternoon Sunday game, the Packers have three days to prepare for the jet lag special – a four-hour plane ride for a Thursday night game in Seattle. Then it’s on to Minnesota for the showdown that could determine the Packers’ postseason chances.

Adams was right about the urgent need for a victory, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers was also correct in noting the Packers still haven’t learned how to win.

Again their downfall last week was a fourth-quarter fumble. This one, by running back Aaron Jones, completely flipped the momentum back to New England.

Physical errors like fumbles – which neither the Rams nor Patriots committed in their wins over the Packers – are part of the game you have to live with.

But the Pack still haven’t shed the stupid-penalty hobgoblin. Safety Jermaine Whitehead was ejected in the second quarter for slapping Patriots center David Andrews in the helmet. The rules are clear about taking a swing at an opponent, but Whitehead went ahead anyway, and got the boot.

After the Dolphins, the Packers have only two opponents left on the schedule – the Jets and Cardinals – against whom they will be a big favorite. The only thing more disheartening than a losing season without Rodgers is a losing season with him.

In the wake of back-to-back disappointing losses, the cries for the ouster of coach Mike McCarthy have intensified.

True, it’s hard to remember coming away from a game raving about the Packers having out-coached an opponent, and one wracks the brain to recall a genius gadget play.

But McCarthy, who didn’t fumble against the Rams or the Patriots, has overseen 126 victories out of 200 Packer games he has coached, and had the team in position to post a couple of huge wins before turnovers undid them.

The Packers have been to the playoffs in nine of McCarthy’s 12 seasons. Those calling for his hide could help suggest a successor guaranteed to get them to the Super Bowl every year.

In any case, something’s got to get popping soon. In this season of prolific, high-power offense, the Packers have scored 30 points just once in eight games, in the three-point win over 2-6 San Francisco.

For a dramatic kick-start, here’s a suggestion that’s not as silly as it sounds but will almost certainly never come to pass: Go all-in on the guy in whom they’ve invested so much capital in the hope that he could carry the offense. Let Rodgers call the plays.

He has uncanny instincts, he knows how to exploit defensive formations and he’s been dying to play catch with Adams.

NFL quarterbacks haven’t called their own plays since the early 1980s for the same reason that major league pitchers no longer decide what they’re throwing: The guys upstairs with the computer printouts have a better feel for what’s happening on the ground than the ones out there who are merely playing.

A Rodgers-called game couldn’t produce much of a drop-off from a largely disappointing first half of the season.

Veteran sportswriter Gary Seymour’s column appears weekly in the Leader. He can be contacted at sports@newmedia-wi.com.