Hail Rodgers: Why the Green Bay Packers beat the New York Giants

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /
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Offensive blockade

On the surface, it seems weird to say an offensive line, which saw its quarterback sacked five times, was a huge reason why that team won, but that’s where we are now.

Here’s the thing with those sacks: The majority cannot really be pinned on the line. Two of them saw Rodgers run out of bounds with the ball rather than throwing it away (strange decision-making on those, to be sure), and the others were influenced heavily by the use of specialized and delayed blitzes.

These also were plays where Rodgers held onto the ball for an extended period of time; those sort of plays can become huge plays (especially under Rodgers), but it puts a huge burden on those linemen to hold up for so long.

This all mostly happened early on, as the offense struggled to find any rhythm. When the offense was in rhythm, however, the offensive line was at its sterling best.

There were a ton of different instances throughout this game where Rodgers was given forever to step back, survey the field, and find his man.

Among that group are Jordy Nelson‘s early 13-yard catch, Adams’ five-yard TD catch to kick off Green Bay’s scoring, Cobb’s Hail Mary, Adams’ 23-yard catch (on Green Bay’s Field goal drive), Montgomery’s 34-yard reception (on Green Bay’s fourth touchdown drive), and Cobb’s 16-yard touchdown.

The Giants’ usual wrecking crew (albeit missing Jason Pierre-Paul) wasn’t able to get anything done without blitzing, and even that didn’t help much as the game got into the second half.

Their four-man pass rushes got exactly nowhere, and their defensive ends didn’t make much of an impact at all.

Olivier Vernon found himself stonewalled by David Bakhtiari; across 71 snaps (46 pass rushing plays), he picked up just a single tackle. Roman Okwara did end up with a cleanup sack in his 57 snaps (37 pass rush opportunities), but did nothing outside of that in his matchup with Bryan Bulaga.

To really get a feel of how important the influence of the offensive line was, just take another look at the Adams TD again. The way Bulaga holds up Okwara on his own with ease, or how T.J. Lang constantly shifts and readjusts with his matchup as Rodgers danced around in the pocket behind and beside him, is a feat to behold.

That sort of incredible play has been going on all year from this line (they were far and away the top-graded pass blocking line in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus’ grading metrics), and in the most important game of their year so far, that strength showed through yet again.