QB – Aaron Rodgers
Week 10 Statistics:
31/51, 371 passing yards, 2 passing TDs, 2 INTs, 27 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD; 29.54 fantasy points
With Green Bay struggling, we have a ton of areas that can be pointed to for blame. Rodgers is undoubtedly one of them.
Still, as the narrative is wont to do, too much of the finger-pointing from the outside is piling onto just a single guy, and the problems go much deeper than the person throwing the ball.
Rodgers didn’t have his best game against the Titans (something I’ve said far too often this season), but look at the other factors surrounding him and you could see it really should not be placed upon his shoulders.
Look at the way his defense performed, letting Tennessee score touchdowns on each of their first four drives, putting Green Bay down 28-10 well before the half. Also look at the special teams, which fumbled the ball right back to Tennessee after the defense’s first stop of the game, giving the Titans yet another quick and early score; make that 35-10 before half.
Granted, the Packers did have their shot to start out strong (great field position after a failed surprise onside kick from the Titans to open the game), but even had they scored there, the defense and special teams still gifted Tennessee 35 points in their first 6 drives with little resistance; had a game-opening TD occurred, that deficit would still likely have been 35-17.
With how bad his other units were playing, Rodgers legitimately would have needed to lead TD scores on every single early drive just to have a chance at a tie going into the half. That’s an asinine expectation even for the best-functioning offenses, much less the discombobulated group the Packers have trotted out in 2016. Even at their pre-2015 highs, this wasn’t something happening every week despite their usual dominance of the opposition.
Look at those different early drives as well. On the second drive for Green Bay, T.J. Lang got injured early; this brought the infamously awful Don Barclay into action (he received 74 snaps on the afternoon). Then, both David Bakhtiari and Lane Taylor committed penalties (though Taylor’s was declined) to help set the team back.
Rodgers got sacked on third down from there to force the Packers into a punt. The third drive ended on a sack-punt combo as well. On the fourth, Green Bay was inside Tennessee’s 10 yard line when Taylor was called for another penalty; that drive went from an expected TD to petering out into a mere FG despite being down 28-7 at that point already. He didn’t even get the ball following the muffed punt on special teams; the offense faced a 35-10 deficit from there.
Rodgers did throw two INTs in the comeback effort, but you must again look beyond the box score to get an accurate picture. His first was on a Hail Mary before the half; the only option was tossing it up and hoping for a fortuitous outcome in a low-percentage play, and the opposition came down with it in a crowded mess of bodies. The second was a throw where he ended up with two receivers who somehow ran to the same spot 10+ yards short of his targeted area; obviously, one of them was supposed to go deeper and did not, gifting the Titans with a practice-level INT chance.
Rodgers surely has areas in need of improvement — he’s missed on multiple routine passes (likely due to mechanical issues) all season — but he should not be who receives the vitriol for what happened on Sunday. If this team needs him to be at his MVP form just to have a chance to be competitive (much less win or win big), that should tell you something about the players around him and the coaches “leading” them.
Regardless of who the blame should be levelled on however, this game is a turning point contest, and the Packers will need their quarterback to play well to win. Washington has a middle-of-the-road pass defense (#14 in Pass Defense DVOA) and multiple beatable players in the Washington secondary, so there are places where Rodgers should be able to attack.
His time to find his receivers may be somewhat hampered (due to the infamous Don Barclay playing in place of the injured T.J. Lang), and another big deficit is possible (due to Green Bay’s defense falling off the metaphorical cliff the past few weeks), but his numbers should come out looking pretty decent regardless of if it is enough for a Packers’ victory.