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Game Changing Play of the Week: Aaron Rodgers Misses Wide Open Receivers on Back to Back Plays

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Game Changing Play of the Week: Aaron Rodgers Misses Wide Open Receivers on Back to Back Plays

All the speculation and number crunching can come to an end; the 2018 Packers’ minuscule playoff hopes are officially over, and all that remains of a wasted season are two more meaningless games of football against the Jets and Lions.

This week’s game changing play of the week actually looks at two different plays—both misses by Aaron Rodgers of wide open receivers, something that’s become a very concerning habit during the course of the year.

The context

Right at the start of the fourth quarter, the Packers’ defense, which had played some solid football to this point In holding the Bears to 14 points, forced the first turnover of the game, stopping a would-be scoring drive for the Bears and giving the Packers the ball and the momentum with a tie game.

The Packers had an opportunity to drive down the field and take the lead, putting the pressure on the Bears and their young quarterback to make a fourth quarter comeback.

Instead, the offense promptly did what it has done so many times this season—go three and out, with the quarterback missing open guys.

The first play


To get the full effect of the plays this week, I thought I’d embed them in gif form and look at them from there.

Obviously, the effect of the play here is what’s most frustrating—Randall Cobb has plenty of space to make a deep catch that would have placed the Packers right on the edge of field goal range. This is a play Rodgers makes more often than not (or at least, used to). It doesn’t appear to be the result of a miscommunication—Rodgers had the ball in the area, but just flat out missed his man deep.

I’ve watched this play over and over now, trying to figure out of there’s anything strange going on with Rodgers’ throwing mechanics. Many times this year he’s thrown off his back foot, which has led to some accuracy issues. Here, it looks like he’s able to step into the throw, so that doesn’t seem to be the issue.

Rodgers also has good production here. The Bears are only rushing four guys. Khalil Mack is doubled, one of the interior linemen falls down, the other starts to drift back into coverage and the other defensive end gets handled by David Bakhtiari. Rodgers has nothing but time to step up and make this throw.

This is an example of a play where they got in a good call, the receiver found space and the quarterback made the right read. It just wasn’t executed. So the team faced third and 12 as a result.

The second play


This isn’t quite as egregious of a miss, and by itself wouldn’t typically be worthy of inclusion in this article. But it is one more example of Rodgers having an open guy and not being able to connect. It’s a bit higher degree of difficulty here, as the ball is traveling more than 50 yards in the air, but it’s a play Rodgers has made with ease numerous times in the past.

Again, pressure isn’t much of an issue here. Rodgers is able to step into the throw without being hassled and launch the ball down field. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has his man flat out beat here—this is the reason he’s on the team, is to turn on the burners for these deep go routes.

Taken together, these plays are frustrating for a couple reasons.

One, Rodgers just misses the guy on each throw. The first puts the Packers in scoring range. The second is a touchdown. There’s nobody in his face, there’s no hurry to get the ball off, there’s no route miscommunication. It’s just two more plays in the 2018 season where Rodgers doesn’t connect.

Second, the Packers get a HUGE gift from the Bears in the fumble, and squander it with a three-play sequence that featured Rodgers getting sacked and then overthrowing two of his receivers. It was a huge, potentially game changing play that was completely wasted by an offense that’s struggled moving the chains and connecting with big plays all year long.


There’s just a couple more weeks of Packer football, and you’re nuts if you think Rodgers is sitting out. Hopefully something positive comes out of these last couple games, whether it’s young receivers getting more time to work with the quarterback or the team just managing to preserve its dignity for the remainder of the season.

But whoever is the Packers’ new coach (and offensive coordinator) in the coming season is going to have to figure out what has caused Rodgers to be so inaccurate and what can be done to fix the issue. If Rodgers comes into 2019 and puts the same quality play on tape as he did in 2018, the Packers will once again find it difficult to reach the postseason.


Tim Backes is a lifelong Packer fan and a contributor to CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter @timbackes for his Packer takes, random musings and Untappd beer check-ins.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (48) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

TheVOR's picture

Oh I know, I mentioned these on the Board. Also mention the first drive of the 2nd half I believe it was, had like a 2nd and 6 at midfield. TE, out left as a WR. Safety creeps up then breaks off the TE, and shows blitz. Never moved off it, and actually did blitz. In years past Rodgers throws that ball quickly out there, and the TE honestly didn't have a DB within 8-10 yards of him. How do you miss that stuff? A 3rd string QB makes that read? Instead he rolls right away from the blitz and throws the ball away.. Brutal, Rodgers is playing like a backup right now. I'd sit him quick, before he blows our chances at getting a meaningful coach in here who actually can see he can't play right now..

Point Packer's picture

I've been on the Rodgers end of the MM vs AR debate for a long time, but something is wrong with #12 and it cost GB games this year. Including on Sunday. Either age, the injuries adding up, something mental, confidence, lack of confidence in his WRs. Some combination thereof. Not sure.

He hasn't been as good on the deep balls the last few years as he was on the front end of his career. Constantly throwing too long. This year he was a disaster on deep thrown balls. An utter disaster.

Hope things change, or GB just through away a lot of dough to Mr. Rodgers. Hope he can fix it.

LeotisHarris's picture

Hard to figure out, isn't it? Even though 12 denies it, his mechanics are different from 2010, and then there's the interconnectedness of all things. Consider how a finger blister or tweaked ankle can screw up a major league baseball pitcher, then wonder how the cumulative influences of broken collarbones, knee and groin injuries impact accuracy for a QB.

Even after seeing it time and again, I'm dumbfounded when 12 misses open receivers.

Oppy's picture

I thought Rodgers mechanics looked better this past Sunday than they have all season long. I also thought he was throwing the ball better all around- including his accuracy.

That said, he still wasn't up to his previously normal level of play, and still made his share of poor throws.

I'm trying to process why this is the game where many Packers fans are starting to say, "Yeah, something isn't right with him", when it was so much better of a performance than most of the rest of his 2018 games in terms of his throwing mechanics and accuracy.

Hematite's picture

In my humble opinion, Rodgers is done and Green Bay has that ridiculous millstone of a contract hanging around its neck.

Bearmeat's picture

Rodgers has been mediocre this year, no doubt about it.. He cost us the game yesterday. He cost us the game vs SEA just as much as MM. He missed plenty of throws all year.

bbarryirish's picture

The scary part is the possibility of this level of performance being Rodgers' new baseline going forward.
Coaching is NOT the reason for the missed throws which have dominated this season.

HankScorpio's picture

I don't think 2018 is the new baseline for Rodgers. Brady, Manning and Favre all had down years late in their career before finding themselves again. Rodgers is still making eye-popping throws this year. I do think he needs to make some adjustments to counter Father Time.

He needs to be able to integrate with newcomers much faster. Other great QBs have adjusted changing pass catchers, even less talented ones, far better than Rodgers has. Hand in hand with that is he needs to stop worrying about how others are doing their jobs and focus more on doing his own. For example, it's not "interesting" that Alex Van Pelt is not working in GB without consulting Rodgers. It's normal business. And he doesn't have to agree with every play that is called in, he just has to execute them as best he can. Maybe the play caller is trying to set up something for later that he doesn't see. He's got to accept that possibility.

OTOH, if he's worried about not being consulted by the career choices of his QB coach and others, he's upset that Father Time is claiming some of his teammates and he thinks he gets some kind of veto power on how the offense is run, we'll, that would not be a pawsitive development.

packerbackerjim's picture

I believe he has been injured throughout the year with the knee preventing him from planting his left foot most times. I wouldn’t be surprised if his shoulder contributed to his mechanics being less than ideal. An off-season of rest and rehab should be restorative.

Nick Perry's picture

Maybe Jim but I will go to my grave thinking this..... Rodgers has spent HOW MUCH TIME making those F###ing stupid commercials for State Farm and now I've noticed commercials he's doing from Bose.

Look I get the ENORMOUS amount of money these guys can make from endorsements, AND the time is limited to where they can make that money. With that said he also OWES the Packers organization to be ready for the season when he reports which INCLUDES working his ass off to be the best thrower of the football he can possibly be which Rodgers hasn't been in 4 seasons now. When you combine that with the arrogant attitude, fronting off of teammates AND blasting the organization and/or coaching staff on national TV for cutting a receiver or not bringing back a QB coach he's become a player who's quickly wearing on me. At $30 million plus a season, he OWES the Packers nothing but 110%!!!!!

Tundraboy's picture

So many factors this year, but I also believe it's a case of a longer time to recover from collar bone and all the downtime. The lack of any camp and the knee just made it harder. He'll be fine, but a better Oline is a must.

Packers0808's picture

Bench Rodgers for rest of year If anything wrong[which I doubt except age and being pretty much washed up]let it heal with no practice and getting whacked around constantly. I would really like to see Boyle out there and see what he offers. Kizer is a complete wash I would guess and/or bet!

Point Packer's picture

I'm with you, I see no reason to play Rodgers one more snap this year.

Joe Jetson's picture

Great video analysis of #12's struggles in 2018. Back in 2010 and 2011, Aaron never missed these exact same throws. In fact, he made them look easy. What happened? $110 million dollar contract may have extinguished his motivation, or is it his new Yoko Ono activist girlfriend?

Oppy's picture

Rodgers doesn't even attempt to make the throws he used to make in 2010 and 2011.

He hasn't for years.

Now, he just considers guys "covered", holds the ball, then throws it away instead of taking those shots.

Lastly, did you just compare Danica Patrick to a Yoko-Ono type activist? Is there something I'm missing? That seems like a really odd comparison.

Jonathan Spader's picture

I don't get the Danica thing either. You think she'd make him a better QB with her experience at catching balls.

I think Ryan Grant put it best when he talked about what was wrong with Rodgers when he watched the game with Nagler. "Aaron doesn't trust anything he sees".

Peter King picked up on this last week in his column for NBC Sports. He wrote, “(Rodgers’) 47 throwaways means he’s dumping it once every 10 throws, which no quarterback has done in the 13 years (Pro Football Focus) has mined the passing numbers. The NFL average is once every 28 passes.”

pacman's picture

Wow - what a stat! Has AR addressed this?

I just listened to AR's after game pc and he admitted to a bad throw to EQ but the one to Cobb 'the wind just took that one'. Maybe there was a wind gust but it wasn't even close.

I agree with all those that think something is off with AR and I don't see any reason to believe that he is just not what he used to be. We can only hope that next year he gets back on track.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I would really appreciate one of the WI Sports Writers asking Rodgers exactly what "detail" MVS was missing on that play. I'd like to know for sure, is there something my non Pro Football mind is missing. Or, is that just BS.

RCPackerFan's picture

If we are completely honest with ourselves. If Rodgers completed 1/2 of the off target throws he has had this year, we are probably sitting with 1-2 more wins at least.

The Cardinals game, if he hits Cobb in stride and allows him to run with the ball he probably gains 5 or so more yards. That would be enough for Crosby to make the kick.

Just this game if he hits MVS in stride he probably has a TD.
There have been a number of other throws that if he hits them the game changes.

What I want to know though is why? Why are the throws off? He has been great with some throws but some are just way off. Is it from an injury? Is it from his shoulder surgery last year? Is it old age?

The interesting thing I saw today is that Manning, Brady, Brees and another QB all had down years in their 14th years. Came back to a great year the following. Will that happen with Rodgers?

Community Guy's picture

this is really good journalism.. one cannot deny what the tape is telling. for those that say that injury is the reason: maybe it his new groin injury.. i dunno. regardless, i am interested to see what Kizer might do with the 2 remaining games.

Oppy's picture

I would expect Kizer to do what Kizer does.. move the ball like an average QB between the twenties, maybe even show you a throw or two that gives you the hope we might have something with this kid, then start doing some deer in the headlight type stuff, like inexplicably turning his back the to LOS and sprinting ten yards deep after the snap, turn around, panic, and throw some picks for no good reason at all.

I think Kizer is nothing but heartbreak. History of being a pick machine. What I saw during the preseason was a guy who shows you just enough physical talent to make you think he might be a player.. but then he does some heinous back-up rookie stuff that makes you realize he's nothing but the physical embodiment of a river of green and gold tears.

Hundley flat-out outplayed Kizer in preseason. When the Packers took the trade for Hundley and kept Kizer, they basically rolled the dice, because they knew they didn't have a back-up QB worth fielding going into 2018.

Jonathan Spader's picture

For me the game changing play was the recovered FF. That put the Packers in the game and allowed them to score their only TD. The game killing drive was when the refs handed Chi a TD with 2 poor calls. After seeing the game handed to Chi on a silver platter it left 2018 once more with a terrible taste.

I know as a fan I'm biased towards the Packers but even talking to fans of other teams they commented on how GB got hosed this year.

Rick F's picture

Could you imagine carimicheal calling plays with Adams MVS EQ Moore and throw in Jones and Williams to be the backs plus the tight ends. The speed and ability to get match ups would be a nightmare for defenses to stop on a weekly basis.
Saints have ran 11 12 13 personnel. Then 3 wides and two backs and have run play action and power run game out of all of them. This is a complete offense to work with Brees strength as a passer. I really think Rodgers would love this offensive system.

Oppy's picture

I'm not even really concerned with over throwing guys on deep vertical routes. That is going to happen. It's really the least of my concerns with Rodgers this year. (I'd be more concerned if he were underthrowing the deep vertical routes on a regular basis.. uhh, which he kind of was during a lot of the season.)

What is most concerning to me from 2018 Rodgers was his consistently poor placement of the ball to WRs coming across the field on mid-range routes. Failing to lead his WRs, putting the ball behind them (when there is no strategic reason to do so.) Placing balls far too high or far too low. WRs regularly having to completely break stride, or stop, or fight the defender for the ball, because of where it was placed. throwing to the inside shoulder of the WR down the sideline instead of hitting the outside shoulder when there's a defender trailing.

Those are the types of poor throws that were on display throughout the entirety of 2018 and largely went unnoticed (or at least, went un-reported, because, no one can question AR's throws, ever, and don't you know, he didn't have many Interceptions, so you know he's still just fine.)

Jonathan Spader's picture


Don't forget about all the throws at the feet of his WRs. Definitely a bad year for #12. Here's hoping he's back to form in 2019.

Oppy's picture

It's been bad. Great example of the stat sheet not speaking to the bigger picture.

I hope he turns it around for the good of the franchise.
I have to say, regardless of if he returns to form or not.. I just plain-out dislike the man at this point. I've lost respect for him as an individual.

I still hope he gets it back together and wins games for the Packers, but I'm no longer an AR fan in the least. He seems kinda nutty, calculating, divisive to me at this point.

Johnblood27's picture

^^^ This in spades!

I love to see the Packers win.

dont care who gives the GBP a victory, I will celebrate it.

I am just treading water waiting for the AR era to end. I just do not like this guy.

He comes across as a complete phony in every meaningful statement he makes.

He thinks things through as an intelligent person can and will, then he assembles the words which should be spoken to drive his agenda for the statement, then he delivers a statement like a friggin politician who then laughs about what he just foisted off on the adoring public behind closed doors.

I just want him gone, but that contract has chained us all to him for 3 more years at least.


Tim Backes's picture

I get being frustrated with Rodgers' play, but wanting him gone? My goodness.

Oppy's picture


I personally don't see the Packers winning another superbowl during what remains of Rodgers' contract with Rodgers under center.

With that perspective in mind (this is crucial).. at this point in his career, every year without a Lombardi isn't a waste of Rodgers' career anymore, it's a waste of valuable years where the Packers could be moving on and building the team of the next decade or two.

I'd rather we start concentrating on setting up a championship defense and stellar OL and ground game for the next few years instead of wasting time and effort focusing on placing weapons around an Aaron Rodgers whose time is fleeting. Get the franchise set so the next QB who comes in doesn't have to win every game with his arm.

Again, I know it seems crazy- but if you don't believe there's a SB in then next 4-5 years.. Building around Rodgers is not helping the team in the long run.

Skip greenBayless's picture

Amen Oppy. Building a young team around one of the oldest qb's in the NFL is a recipe for disaster. For as much as you hated me thru the years we sure do think alike regarding the future of this team. We see the same disaster on the horizon if Gutey builds the team with Rodgers being the focal point.

Jonathan Spader's picture

I bought a Rodgers Jersey when I moved to WI back in 2008. I thought he came across as poorly as he played in 2018. I'm willing to give a guy that's had q good run for as long as he had the benefit of the doubt to turn it around. I still don't like Farve even though all of my friends forgave him and still like the guy. I thought he was a good football player and a crappy person.

John blood is this in spades a Spader joke? Lol

Rodger's next big purchase should be a scotch private label. Call it All Hail Rodgers. Drink it all before the ice cube melts. And/Or take a shot for every Rodgers sack.

WisconsInExile's picture

I find a whole in my heart where CHTV circa 2009 used to be, and the comments here circa 2015+ only serve to remind me of that void (or whichever year it was when “Cow” first showed up guns-a-blazin’).

I’m baffled by the Rodgers hate. Look, the 2018 Packers are a big knot that’s still getting untied. It took more than one season to get tangled up, and it will take more than one season to set it straight.

Good quarterbacks, and especially even diminished great ones, are hard to come by. Maybe growing up with the hapless ‘80s Packers taught me to count my blessings. Maybe just looking around the league in 2018 does the same (*cough* Kirk Cousins *cough*).

Rodgers has had bad stretches before, but consider the noise. His beef with McCarthy early this year was that McCarthy was not coaching the offense during practices, and then calling games without incorporating the lessons learned at those practices.

He’s expressed in years past the importance of his QB coach in pushing him and keeping him accountable. That was just before Van Pelt was hired to replace MacAdoo, IIRC. He loved Van Pelt for his good coaching, and has spent all 2018 trying to replace that with a new QB coach (they did hire a replacement, right?). He’s a guy who thrives on good coaching, and hasn’t gotten much of it this year.

Veteran receivers? 1 and a half. I love Cobb as much as anyone, but when he isn’t injured he’s usually not open. Maybe Rodgers worries about Cobb taking big hits over the middle. He said on his old show with Wilde that it’s his job to protect his receivers especially over the middle. Sure enough, he finally forces the ball and Cobb ends up in the concussion protocol.

Devante can’t carry all the water for the receiving corps. Two rookies stepped up early, and one activated late in the season off IR, but even future All-Pros start with pedestrian numbers. Lots of promise for 2020, but not much help in 2018. Same for the TE group, though Graham is well past peak. Tonyan shows potential, and Lewis was criminally underutilized. As for running backs, well, there’s at least one that wasn’t on someone else’s practice squad when the season started or spent 1/4 of the season suspended (or injured) or was shipped off to a far away division.

The O-line you say? Glad you brought it up. Nothing builds pocket presence like going up against elite pass rushers week after week with 2nd and 3rd string walk-ons with a coach who doesn’t believe in giving lineman help (seriously, Mercedes Lewis played at most like 5-10 plays a game—at best: WTH?). It’s a miracle Rodgers has only lost his knee thus far. I’m not even kidding. It took firing McCarthy before we saw classic blitz-beaters like slants come back (which I thought after game 1 would surely be the identity of this offense this year, go figure).

Never mind the worst officiating we’ve seen from non-replacement refs, or the complete pistol whipping the NFL scheduling department gave the Packers. They’ve played nearly every 2018 playoff team during the regular season, on the road no less, so really, we can just pretend we choked somewhere in the Divisional round or NFC Championship and call it a day.

When it comes to Rodgers, the only legitimate concern is whether he suffered permanent nerve damage in this throwing shoulder after his hit in the Vikings game last year. But Rodgers has been overthrowing deep receivers since 2008 (*cough* Finley over the middle in OT in Arizona in 2009 *cough*). Rodgers is human, not a god, not an Avenger, not even a product of a secret government program to create super-QBs. It doesn’t even require nerve damage to explain the year he’s had. The 100th Packers season was just a good old-fashioned S.N. A.F. U.

* If you’re not familiar with the acronym:

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

"He loved Van Pelt for his good coaching,"

Tundraboy's picture

Love this.

LeotisHarris's picture

Paging Jersey Al. Please reach out to WisconsinExile and offer him a writing gig.

Well done, WisconsinExile. Please contribute here often, thanks.

WisconsInExile's picture

Thanks for the encouragement, LeotisHarris!

mamasboy's picture

"Rogers is human, not a God" He's making God money, so he needed to come up with a few miracles, and couldn't. He has A LOT to prove next year!

WisconsInExile's picture

So is Matt Ryan, so is Kirk Cousins, and until fairly recently, so was Joe Flacco. Let’s not forget Drew Bree’s missed the playoffs 3 years in a row while drawing a big salary.

Rodgers doesn’t have anything to prove based on his salary. Rodgers definitely has something to prove regarding his place in NFL history, and winning championships. It’s all about legacy now, and he’s said as much.

WisconsInExile's picture

So is Matt Ryan, so is Kirk Cousins, and until fairly recently, so was Joe Flacco. Let’s not forget Drew Bree’s missed the playoffs 3 years in a row while drawing a big salary.

Rodgers doesn’t have anything to prove based on his salary. Rodgers definitely has something to prove regarding his place in NFL history, and winning championships. It’s all about legacy now, and he’s said as much.

mamasboy's picture

"Rogers is human, not a God" He's making God money, so he needed to come up with a few miracles, and couldn't. He has A LOT to prove next year!

mamasboy's picture

whoops double send

WisconsInExile's picture

There’s a bug in here somewhere… o_O

hotmail login's picture

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LeotisHarris's picture

Says who? Pro Football Focus? I'm sick and tired of you stats geeks trying to say the Packers have a quality O Line. Screw you, hotmail login man! Screw you right in the face for bringing that weak argument in here!

Jonathan Spader's picture

Hotmail login was was your 1st job out of school?

bodei1newbie1's picture

it figures rodgers isn't playing right look at him in 2010 when they won the superbowl i remember a pass he threw to jennings it was just over the out reach hands of the d-back for a touchdown and now throwing over receivers heads something is very wrong with him

gflore34's picture

Receivers were certainly open, Khalil Mack was also being held.

Imafan's picture

My take is simple, Aaron Rodgers is hurrying his throwing motion. He's not reeelaxed. Why, because he has become flinchy from hits. Mack got a sack because Aaron panicked that Spriggs wasn't able to hold him off when he actually did. Mack had is back to Rodgers and Aaron panicked and went down. Aaron has his head down more this year on the pass rush than I can ever remember! He needs to feel protected again and that starts with a competent line and a quick rhythm system whether he likes it or not! We need that coach to right the offense, which will in turn right our Hall of Fame QB!

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