The Talents Around Rodgers
For most of the struggles by this offense, people have looked one of two areas to throw blame; to a certain degree, both have some of the truth to the issues we’ve seen.
On one hand we see Aaron Rodgers get the blame, the thought process being that he is a two-time MVP quarterback and should in turn be able to lift his team beyond the issues holding them down no matter who they have lining up with him; this is the narrative pushed majorly by hot-take media people and fans who don’t look beyond a box score — simply, those who like to rest all the credit and/or blame for outcomes on the shoulder of one person.
On the other we have the players surrounding him, the thoughts here being more rested on the fact that a team’s success does not solely rely on a single player, no matter his position on the field or how great he may be; this has tended to be more of the angle taken not only by those who look into more advanced stats and in-depth review of games, but also people that will staunchly defend a player no matter the circumstance.
As I said before, both hold some weight in the conversation.
Rodgers definitely hasn’t had his best season by any means — among other things, his decision-making and accuracy have faltered more often than in any other year he’s been a starter.
However, it is entirely foolhardy and unjust to put all of that on him; he’s seen a revolving door of blockers in front of him (all usual starters except Josh Sitton have missed significant time at different points), an inconsistent-at-best running game, and his receiving corps have been abysmally depleted due to injuries (Jordy Nelson, Ty Montgomery) and ineffectiveness (Davante Adams — and also Randall Cobb to some extent).
In either case, to win in Washington, Rodgers AND those left standing around him would have to do something better than what we had been seeing for most of 2015.
They did, especially so for the latter.
Rodgers did have a better game, but while it looked better due to the circumstances and some key throws, he still wasn’t the quarterback we expect him to be overall.
That shows up most blatantly through post-game analysis by Pro Football Focus; through their grading system Rodgers ended up with a meager -1.9 grade, owing mainly to inaccuracy issues (PFF labeled 9 of his 36 passes off-target, which is a high percentage).
While he does deserve praise for the good he still added to the game, it was really his offensive teammates that really stepped up.
The much-maligned offensive line did something we hadn’t seen for most of the season: they kept pressure off of him.
After allowing multiple sacks in the past 13 games and in 14 of the 16 regular season games, the offensive line only let up a single sack.
After giving up pressure at an insane rate (including 49 percent over the past two games), the offensive line allowed only 6 pressures (4 by PFF’s numbers) on 37 dropbacks — something PFF goes out of their way to mention is one of the more dominant pass blocking showings they’ve witnessed all year.
This was including yet another move at left tackle. With David Bakhtiari still out with an injury, J.C. Tretter took over the spot after failed attempts by Don Barclay and Josh Sitton; after allowing the early safety (which, after rewatching the play, was not as much his fault as it a strong play by Preston Smith) Tretter was able to not allow any other pressures all game.
The running game managed to give a respectable effort down the stretch — especially once the Packers got going offensively.
Green Bay racked up 141 yards on 32 carries (4.4 yard-per-carry average). That came from a combination of three players: Eddie Lacy, James Starks, and (somewhat surprisingly) Randall Cobb; Lacy and Starks each got 12 carries, with 5 going to Cobb.
On those carries, they garnered 63 yards (Lacy), 53 yards (Starks) and 28 yards (Cobb). Outside of a late fumble by Lacy when things were basically settled (Green Bay was up 17 with under 2 minutes remaining by then), the running game was pretty strong.
The biggest story on this side may be the wide receivers.
Of Rodgers’ 21 completions and 210 passing yards, 16 of the completions and 181 of those yards were to wideouts.
For the first time since Week 9, the three main players at the position (James Jones, Cobb, and Adams) all were graded positively for their contributions by Pro Football Focus (+3.1, +1.8, +1.0, respectively).
Jones was the main target (11 targets, 7 catches, 81 yards), with Cobb (3 catches, 38 yards, 1 TD) and Adams (4 catches, 48 yards, 1 TD) being the recipients of the scoring tosses from Rodgers.
Jared Abbrederis also managed to get involved, providing 2 catches and 14 yards (plus a 2-point conversion catch).
This is the exact type of full-team performance the Packers have been sorely lacking all season.
Regardless of Rodgers playing at the level we all expect him to, without the help of those around him the Packers would never be able to have the type of performance needed to win in pivotal games.
To beat Arizona, Rodgers likely has to play a stronger game himself; having his guys step up with him and for him again will make that a monumentally more achievable goal.
Next: Ferocious Rush