Depleted receiving corps
While far too many people tend to give all the credit or blame for the success of an offense to the quarterback (especially when it comes to a player like Aaron Rodgers), you have to take into account that the person throwing the ball is just one part of the equation; the guys running routes and catching passes matter just as much.
By early in this game, Green Bay had somehow ended up down what could be considered their top four receiving options from the offseason.
We have talked endlessly about the effects of not having Jordy Nelson has had on this team in 2015; he’s a top-10 (and to some, top-5) wide receiver in the league, so of course not having him lining up would detract from an offense. His absence had far-reaching consequences and allowed defenses to eventually play exceedingly risky press coverage due to the lack of any fear or deep speed from the remaining receiving options.
Ty Montgomery was a rookie, but had helped to somewhat mask the issues caused by Jordy’s absence due to his own speedy abilities. Unfortunately, he ended up going down back in Week 6 and never recovering properly from an ankle injury.
Davante Adams had one of his better games last week at Washington; despite a pretty awful season, he looked to be a possible dynamic option — much-needed with teams double-covering Randall Cobb and all the other health/ineffectiveness/inexperience left standing around him at wide receiver. Bad news from that refreshing Washington win though was that Adams hurt his knee; that injury kept him out of last weekend’s contest.
Cobb had a down season, with teams able to handily cover him up since they didn’t have to worry about anything deep sans Jordy. He also had issues with drops at times as well; still, he’s usually a really good player, especially in the slot. But on a play that technically didn’t happen (coinciding penalties by both teams meant a redo of the down) Cobb ended up making an insane catch…and sustaining a chest injury in the process (unfortunately, the chest injury couldn’t be called back).
Jones went on to do absolutely nothing (mostly due to blanket coverage by the excellent Patrick Peterson), only being seen on a failed 4th down throw that didn’t even reach him. Abbrederis caught a few balls underneath, but he’s a derelict man’s Cobb at best. Janis was the most dynamic option, providing size and speed nobody else at wideout had (besides maybe Nelson, when healthy), but he’s still a raw player; you could see a lack of rhythm with Rodgers early, costing Green Bay a touchdown.
Though Janis came up huge in the second half of this game (with two touchdown catches in the game and of course the two different Hail Mary catches on that final Green Bay drive), having him be the best option left for your team has is not all that great.
The lacking options definitely affected this game, especially at the end; Mike McCarthy specifically discussed how this affected the idea of going for two after the Hail Mary (due to being so depleted in his receiving options, McCarthy’s playcalls for possible two-point conversion plays were hamstrung; had they not been, he may have given that call more consideration).
The fact that Green Bay was able to put up the effort they did — and especially come up with that final drive in regulation — with what they had remaining of their receiving corps is nothing short of astonishing.
Next: Letting It Slip Through Their Fingers