Ross will provide a few observations every Monday afternoon following a Packers game based on a few viewings of the condensed version of the game on NFL GamePass. While this might not be the All-22 camera deep dive that might be more "educational", it should provide a conversation point for the rest of the week.
I have run out of things to say about Aaron Rodgers. It's strange. If you look back in the archives of the things I've written here at Cheesehead TV, and even the hundreds of posts I made at PackersTalk.com, so little of it is written about Aaron Rodgers. It makes at least a degree of sense. For years, there hasn't been much to say. There are only so many ways to say a player is good, only so many ways to break it down or describe it.
The second half of 2015 and early 2016 provided a little bit of drama for Rodgers loyalists, but here we stand, at the end of 2016, and Rodgers was so brilliant over the second half of the season that his end of the year numbers match up with anyone else. Rodgers was not as statistically great as Matt Ryan, but his value to his team is greater. The MVP is a dumb award (I'd replace it with POY or MOP), but this year the MVP should be taken home by Rodgers.
As far as this game goes specifically, Rodgers didn't play quite as well as he did against the Vikings, but was still exquisite. As Rodgers gets healthier his desire to extend plays and pay attention to the rush increases. He did a little more of both, but made up for that with his ridiculous play to Geronimo Allison and the game clinching dime to Davante Adams.
Speaking of Geronimo Allison... how about that?! I maintained during and after the draft that I thought Allison was a draftable player. I'd have been fine with him as a 5th round pick or later but a 40 time in the high 4.5s and 4.6s limited his draft ceiling. His 6'3" frame and 34+" vertical brings a body type to the receiving group that they don't already have. Green Bay has also been able to use Allison as a route runner, not just some kind of red zone weapon.
I keep talking about the need to move Nelson to the slot long-term (he's a monster from there), and that the Packers need a big outside receiver to pair with Davante Adams so they can do that with 87. Maybe Allison is that player.
LaDarius Gunter is a starting caliber corner in this league. I know a lot of people want the cornerbacks replaced next season but I'm not convinced they're going to get their wish. Gunter, who has admittedly had an up and down season, was up in this game. He was hardly targeted. Green Bay is getting to the point now where they might need to start giving other corners help and leaving Gunter alone.
If the Packers, as I do, believe Gunter is a starter, I wouldn't anticipate a corner as a high draft pick in April. Randall and Rollins have pretty obviously been playing injured (because they've had to) a la Davante Adams in his sophomore campaign. Thompson and Whitt are far more likely to see what their two top 60 picks that aren't Gunter have in store in their 3rd year than they are to hit the reset button on the entire position group. With that said I'd still move Quinten Rollins to free safety.
This game was officiated.....poorly.
Datone Jones gets a lot of crap, especially on account of his draft position, but he's been a pretty good player all season long. Pro Football Focus ranked 113 edge defenders, Jones clocked in at 57th. Dead average. Not terrible for a player who came into the league as a 5-tech. Jones had a costly offsides penalty, but he was excellent in run defense all night long on a night the Packers didn't play very well in run defense. He also created rare pressure on Stafford. Stafford likes to get it out quick and Green Bay was not impressive in their effort to create pressure and relieve their secondary.
Green Bay still needs to get some things cleaned up in blitz pick-up. The offensive line is tremendous at pass blocking. I'd be surprised if they weren't the best pass blocking line in all of football. With that said, the make-shift crew the Packers are using at running back are struggling against the more exotic interior pressures. Minnesota exploited it and Detroit got an early sack out of it as well. Fortunately for the Packers, they're not going to see a ton of that in the NFC playoffs until they have to mess with Atlanta or Seattle. Dallas and the Giants are far more likely to use a 4 man front and keep their linebackers and defensive backs off the line of scrimmage.
I would be working on an extension for Jared Cook as we speak. The offense works better with him on the field, whether the ball is going his way or not. His presence as a matchup problem doesn't allow the defense to take away other Packers weapons.
Don't worry about Jordy Nelson. He was beating Slay plenty. Rodgers has always and will always attack the weakest link. His #1 might be better than your #1, but if his #3 is leaps and bounds better than your #3, the #3 is in for a long day. I'll never forget what Rodgers did to William Gay in Super Bowl XLV. It's not like Slay bottled Nelson up.
The left side of the offensive line played well, specifically Lane Taylor. I used to get very angry when the Packers would run left in short yardage situations. Bakhtiari was a liability and Sitton wasn't a good enough road grader to make up for it. The Packers did it more than once on Sunday night and it was effective. Taylor is a bit of a mauler, and Bakhtiari is no longer weak in the run block game. It'll be interesting to see if the Packers are able to use JC Tretter at all during the playoffs.
Micah Hyde gets so disrespected by Packers fans. No, he's not the fastest. He's not an elite cover corner. But he does whatever the Packers need and he provides at least an average starter's production at that position. safety, nickel, dime, outside corner, punt returner it doesn't matter, Hyde does it. His INT last night may have looked like PI, but Tate was initating contact, too, and it wasn't called. Hyde makes big plays in big games.
What an outstanding drive at the end of the game. The Packers, specifically McCarthy take a lot of heat for getting conservative protecting leads at the end of games. Green Bay, because of a missed Mason Crosby extra point, needed to end that last meaningful drive with points, and they did. Credit Rodgers specifically with the courage to throw the fade to Adams when at first glance it appeared that a field goal would do it. Detroit loaded the box and allowed Adams to be covered by Nevin Lawson with no help. That's not a one on one that a lot of cornerbacks are going to win.
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