Cory's Corner: This game isn't about Manning and Rodgers

The Packers-Broncos game isn’t about a fading superstar trying to prove himself in an uncomfortable offense.

And it isn’t about the best passer in the game trying to keep his injured team undefeated.

Nope. Sunday night’s primetime showcase is about Clay Matthews and DeMarcus Ware.

Last August I wrote that we have seen the best from Matthews. That was for his inability to stay on the field and how he has had a tendency to get lost in big games. Then he goes out and starts all 16 regular season games for the first time in his career and tallies double-digit sacks for the fourth time.

But now Matthews is getting better before our eyes. The move to inside linebacker, and even sometimes as a down lineman, has not only been excellent for the rejuvenated Packers defense, but has also impressed people for putting the team first and risking personal stats.

Matthews is the heart and soul of the Packers defense, and it’s because he doesn’t just do one thing. He is free to roam, pick balls off, stuff running backs and yes, seek and destroy the quarterback.

Ware was a smart addition by the Broncos. Complement Peyton Manning with one of the game’s most respected sack masters.

And ever since he signed a three-year, $30 million deal last March, Ware has totaled 14½ sacks in 21 games. That’s pretty good for a 33-year-old outside linebacker that is looking to ride into the sunset very soon.

This year, Ware is playing great. He looks fast and trim and is playing like he’s three or four years younger.

Ware knows that he will be matched up with David Bakhtiari, who has had trouble with average pass rushers this year. Bakhtiari doesn’t have the quickness to keep Ware from getting around the corner and isn’t strong enough to contain a bull rush.

So the Packers will either have to make quicker throws or have a running back or tight end stay and help block. Obviously, the Packers don’t want to waste a potential receiver all the time, especially in long yardage situations. But if it means keeping Aaron Rodgers upright, then having someone chip isn’t the worst thing.

But with Eddie Lacy and James Starks that are not 100 percent, more will be expected of Rodgers. He cannot hold on to the ball waiting for the perfect throw. The Broncos lead the league in sacks and even if they don’t register a sack, they will knock him down.

Unlike Rodgers, Manning is about as stationary as the Rocky Mountains. The only time he meanders outside the pocket is to chat with a coach during a timeout. Matthews will turn up the pressure, but he must also realize that Manning can make him overpursue by throwing it underneath.

It’s amazing how Manning is able to negotiate throws without much pop left in his gun. But his laser-guided accuracy is why he’s still successful. Hurried throws by Matthews coming from all different directions can even make a grizzled veteran look humble.

And if Bakhtiari cannot keep up with Ware at all, expect more rollouts to the opposite side or even an assortment of shotgun sets.

It’s Matthews and it’s Ware that win this game.

Not Manning and Rodgers. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (19)

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Hematite's picture

October 31, 2015 at 06:31 am

The thought of Ware running over and around Bakhtiari and crushing Aaron Rodgers into the turf is frightening.
This is a scenario that we will more than likely see a number of times on Sunday.

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Dan Stodola's picture

October 31, 2015 at 05:44 pm

Bahktiari vs Ware is a scary thought. No doubt. The good news is Bahktiari struggles w/ power and Ware mostly uses speed. So there's a chance Bahktiari will be OK, if he isn't challenged w/ power.

Just trying to be optimistic. :)

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Bearmeat's picture

October 31, 2015 at 09:43 am

Manning isn't accurate at all anymore - especially if you can push the interior of the OL back. Denver's OL is below average so GBs DL should be able to manage this.

Further, while Bakh isn't an all pro - he was an average LT last year. Especially pass blocking. It seems his knee just isn't right. Do you remember 2011 when Sitton was supposed to be amazing because he was in the prime of his career? It was only after the season that we found out his knee was messed up all year long. I'd bet we find something similar out about Bakh in February of 2016.

That said, Bakh against either of their pass rushers is concerning.

Hope Raji can play

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NickPerry's picture

October 31, 2015 at 10:05 am

Rodgers has been sacked 11 times this year, that's not that many considering how long he holds the ball. 8 of those have come in the last 3 games which means he was sacked just 3 times against the Bears, Seahawks, and Chiefs, pretty damn decent. The O-Line is as healthy as it's been since week one so that's encouraging and all the injuries to the WR's have played a big role in the number of sacks too.

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Bearmeat's picture

October 31, 2015 at 09:46 am

double post sorry.

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NickPerry's picture

October 31, 2015 at 09:46 am

I don't know Cory, I remember a game in 2013 with Matt Flynn at QB against the Cowboys. Wares stat line was 0 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, and ZERO sacks, and he was lined up against Bakhtieri the whole game. In the 4th quarter I remember Aikman telling the viewing audience that it was time for DeMarcus Ware to step up as the Packers drove up and down the field. Ware didn't, the Packers kept rolling and we know the rest. Just saying....

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Since'61's picture

October 31, 2015 at 10:37 am

The Packers can move the pocket away from Ware in addition to chipping and supporting Bakh with an RB.
One way to slow down Ware will be to run at him and throw some screens as well. I'm confident the Packers have planned to handle Denver's rush, it's a matter of execution. If we get the run game going and play with a lead Denver's pass rush will be mitigated significantly. On defense the key will be pressure up the middle and good coverage on the WRs. Unless the Packers beat themselves they should be able to beat the Broncos. Thanks, Since '61

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TarynsEyes's picture

October 31, 2015 at 10:53 am

"It’s Matthews and it’s Ware that win this game."

This is a game perhaps for these two to have their fan bases boast more than the other but placing the games winner and loser on their individual play is bs.

If the Packers lose this game...5 seconds after the failing, every player on defense who erred will be called out and not leaving Matthews to stand alone as is suggested here in the article.

The individual match ups that can be used like in this article must be an offensive vs defensive player because that wins games.Your match up is more about defensive glory mongering and will look appealing on a stat sheet for the fan of such but a much smaller over all point of value to the games outcome.

However,according to a recent article posted here,suggests that the Broncos have played a much lesser schedule of opponents(13-27) record over all vs the Packers opponents(14-26) over all should dictate an easy win regardless of what the two players of focus in this article achieve or not.

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Tundraboy's picture

October 31, 2015 at 07:56 pm

Yes good to have you back. Things are getting back to normal around here.

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porupack's picture

October 31, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Yeah, I liked the article for getting off of the Manning v Rodgers matchup (which of course they aren't playing against each other on the field at all).

But, the article would have been better to add other key match ups or key players that can have unusually high impact on the outcome.

I'd say Emanuel Sanders vs Sam Shields
Demaryus Thomas vs Casey Haywood?
Mike Daniels ?
BJ Raji

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Julie Jurkovich's picture

October 31, 2015 at 02:30 pm

The Broncos very nearly (& should have!) lost to the Browns. Nuff said. The Pack should find a way to beat them.

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croatpackfan's picture

October 31, 2015 at 03:33 pm

People, do not call for sadness. What if Bakhtiari will not be available any more... Who will replace him. Tell me, who was LT against De Ware through that 6 games. I bet with you that Bakh is better then any of them!

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Dan Stodola's picture

October 31, 2015 at 05:04 pm

I'll take that bet!!

Bahktiari is a bottom 1/3 NFL LT. So chances are he's worse than most.

WK 1 Ravens, Eugene Monroe. Probably better than Bahktiari, but call it a wash.
WK 2 Chiefs, Stephenson. Don't know much about him. Wash at best.
WK 3 Lions, I'll take Riley Reiff over Bahktiari
WK 4 Vikes, Kalil probably worse, but was excellent as a rookie, not sure how he's playing this year, was terrible last.
WK 5 Raiders, Donald Penn. Better than Bahktiari.
WK 6 Browns, Going to go out on a limb and say Joe Thomas is a significantly better LT.

This idea that Bahktiari is anywhere close to a franchise LT is out of hand. He's passable at best and the Packers should use a 1st rd pick on LT if they get the chance. An upgrade is needed.

You lose. Pay the piper.

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Dan Stodola's picture

October 31, 2015 at 04:20 pm

I'm just soo glad that Cory wrote this article. The same one that's been written, at every single news outlet, and talked bout ad nauseum in countless NFL TV shows and talk radio outlets. Just wouldn't have been right not to have it written here, albeit a week after its already been covered everywhere else.

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TarynsEyes's picture

October 31, 2015 at 04:49 pm

The never ending contest of 'Who Spins IT Best'

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Paul Ott Carruth's picture

November 01, 2015 at 10:04 am

The game is about all facets....O,D and ST. All must play well but the game within the game is how Rodgers, Clements, and the offensive staff play and scheme against the Denver defense. Strength vs. strength. It's no secret that a 4 man rush with coverage is the formula to slow down Rodgers and the offense. Early in the season, the offense used the short passing attack to move the ball through the air. Checkdowns, coupled with the run, led to longer scoring drives and controlling TOP. In the last two games Rodgers has eschewed the checkdowns, opting to hold the ball and wait for deeper routes to develop. This has led to poor D&D and 3rd down inefficiency, most notably against the Chargers.
This will be the most complete defense the Packers have faced since Seattle. While a Phillips defense is not known for passive coverage, don't be surprised to see a mix of 4 man rush to go with his man and fire-zone pressures. If Rodgers forgoes the checkdowns and short horizontal stretch concepts are put on ice, the Packers lose the game. McCarthy was quoted as saying the offense needs more swings at the plate. True enough. You accomplish that through ball control passing and taking 4-5 shots in the game. Hopefully the offensive staff put in the Seattle and K.C. games. They need to get back to those approaches.

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Dan Stodola's picture

November 01, 2015 at 11:15 am

Except that the Packers are facing tight coverage and 8 in the box. So the short/intermediate passing routes and lanes are covered tightly. The routes that are open are the ones downfield and up the perimeter. McCarthy and Rodgers have both said as much.

This is the opposite problem of '12 when team played heavily 2 deep coverages and the passing game was slowed. Now w/o Jordy especially and to a lesser extent Adams, they have no one that scares teams downfield, so the Packers have generally faced all 8 in the box and tight coverage short.

How do you beat that? I don't think throwing into the teeth of the coverage is a great idea either. Rodgers might be able to pull it off, but its very difficult. They need to create plays downfield to open up the coverages and stretch it vertically again.

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Paul Ott Carruth's picture

November 01, 2015 at 05:11 pm

8 man fronts don't equate to tight coverage Dan. Coverage type dictates tight or loose. Seattle's primary coverage is Cover 3. Yes it is an 8 man front but it is a zone coverage predicated on keeping routes in front. The corners are usually in bail technique. Rodgers had success on intermediate and short routes as well as utilizing checkdowns. His progression reads were much quicker. Contrast that with the Rams and Chargers. The Rams played 2 high shell enough and the Chargers played a fair amount of Man Free with the FS 20 yards from the LOS. Rodgers tried pushing the ball deep in to those coverages and subsequently, drives stalled and there were far too many 3 and outs. This isn't about missing Nelson. It's about using horizontal and oblique stretch concepts to take shots deep. Nelson's loss is seen on the perimeter one on one match-ups, not in schematics.

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Dan Stodola's picture

November 01, 2015 at 11:06 pm

CB weren't in bail tonite. Nor recent games. They are covering everything tight and short. Packers aren't stretching the field deep and teams are playing all the short/intermediate routes, all nite long. Denver is one team that can do it. Carolina might be another. We'll see.

Packer have absolutely NO ONE playing that is going to scare teams and force them to push a Safety deep. Janis MIGHT, but until he gains the coaching and Rodgers trust, it might be immaterial. At this point, they almost have to start playing Janis, even for the HOPE of a deep play. Until they strike deep, you can expect to see a lot of tight coverage in the short intermediate areas.

Tried to tell everyone that Adams isn't a deep threat and R. Rodgers isn't a TE to threaten the seam. I would say its entirely obvious at this point neither can stretch the field. Best chance for a big play was double moves, but I can't say I saw one all nite.

Less that 100 yds passing, even w/ a pretty healthy WR group, should drive that point home as good as anything. All nite long, Denver had 9 or 10 right on the LOS.

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