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Game Changing Play of the Week: Aaron Rodgers Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

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Game Changing Play of the Week: Aaron Rodgers Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

Before I begin, a very merry Christmas and happy holiday season to the readers of Cheesehead TV! Thank you for having made this first year as a contributor to the site a whole lot of fun for me. I came aboard in January after the close of the 2017 season, and while this hasn’t been the season we’d hoped for all summer, it’s certainly been a lot of fun to be a part of the season-long journey here at CHTV.


It was a rough start to the football game in Week 16 for Aaron Rodgers, as he missed a wide open Davante Adams twice in two throws on the opening drive. I was certainly among the many frustrated individuals who foresaw yet another frustrating game of Rodgers’ accuracy having inexplicably evaporated, but it turned out that the quarterback (and the team as a whole) got past a rough first quarter and showed a lot of fight in what may be a meaningless game for the Packers’ season prospects, but was the kind of game that displayed a mentality that can hopefully carry over into 2019.

There’s been a lot of debate as to whether the Packers should shut down Rodgers for the season or not, and I understand both perspectives. I typically tend to fall on the side that you treat your players equally and that you pay the man the richest contract in NFL history to play and win football games, but I do see the merits in trying to protect your investment, and this is definitely a unique scenario, given the injuries he's already suffered this year.

[With regard to that debate, I couldn’t really care less about improving draft stock—difference makers are found at all points in the first round every single year in the draft. It’s about drafting well, not about drafting high.]

The debate is surely going to rage on into Week 17, even though Rodgers will undoubtedly play. But display of leadership Rodgers showed in his performance was inspiring. It has not been a good season at all by Rodgers’ standards, and I have been a critic of his over the last several weeks in particular, but the fact that he was willing to come out to the field and fight for his teammates (literally in some cases) was an excellent display of leadership by example. Plus, his words at the end of the game shed some light on his mindset, the kind of philosophy you want out of any leader on your team.

“I love competing in anything. I don’t want to look back in 20 years and wonder, ‘What if I had played that game? Could something special have happened? What would it look like to my teammates if they knew I kind of quit on them?’ I hope my teammates know I’m never going to quit on them.”

Our Game-Changing Play of the Week could have been a number of different plays that occurred late in the fourth quarter and overtime, but I decided to select a play that displayed Rodgers’ mettle and leadership.


The Context

At this point in the game, the Packers were in need of a touchdown for a go-ahead score in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Aaron Rodgers did what he’s done many times throughout his career—drive the offense down the field to get a go-ahead score.

The defense then promptly did what it’s also done many times throughout Rodgers’ career, and give up the lead earned late by Rodgers and the offense, but at least the team had the opportunity to win in overtime.

The end of this drive saw Rodgers take matters into his own hands, jumping over the pile at the goal line and just barely extending the ball to the point needed to score.

But on the way, Rodgers took out a big chunk of yardage with a 23-yard scamper that showcased the desire he had to win this ballgame. Let’s take a look.

The Play

The Packers line up in shotgun with Jamaal Williams in the backfield. Davante Adams is alone down to the right, while Jimmy Graham is playing upright to the left, with Marquez Valdez-Scantling in the slot and Jake Kumerow split out wide left.

Adams and Kumerow are both running deep routes down the sideline to the endzone, while Graham runs an out and up in the middle and MVS runs a hook to find a zone underneath. Williams stays in to block.

You can already see Rodgers looking Kumerow’s way. He never actually looks right here, and you’ll see why momentarily.

Williams does an excellent job at picking up the blitz, giving Rodgers the time he needs to survey the field and determine his best option—pass or run.

Rodgers has time to throw it here, and could try to get the ball off to MVS, who’s found an opening in the defense. But what he also sees is that with the blitzing linebacker vacating the shallow middle of the field and with Graham drawing a defender downfield with him on the out and up, suddenly there’s a whole lot of room on the whole left side of the field to run, and his offensive line and Williams have him covered.

The decision to run is solidified when he sees Jets CB #43 Parry Nickerson (circled) following MVS back to the middle of the field. Rodgers is already running left, meaning if he takes off right now he’s got Nickerson going the opposite way. The time it’ll take Nickerson to stop and turn around won’t give him a shot at getting Rodgers before he gets to the first down marker, and there’s plenty more field to work with after that.

Nickerson sees that Rodgers has taken off and is able to turn back around, but he’s already in a tough spot here, as he’s basically backing up while running. Rodgers motions for MVS to block for him, and MVS has all the leverage here. He’s able to push Nickerson back all the way into the endzone, a good 15 yards. At that point, the only people who have a shot at stopping Rodgers are the DBs down the field covering Kumerow and Graham.

MVS still pushing Nickerson back to the endzone. Makes it easy on the receiver when the QB is able to get the guy off balance.

Rodgers isn’t done yet, and very symbolically, he’s not going down without a fight. He lowers his shoulder to pick up as much yardage as he can, and gets the ball down to just about the two yard line.


This play emphasized the type of gusto and panache the Packers have been lacking much of the year, and it was heartening to see the team come out and battle when they could have easily just thrown in the towel and tanked (as an alarmingly large portion of the fanbase seems to want them to do). It wasn’t always pretty yesterday, but as a fan, it was fun to watch a victory and to see Rodgers come out feeling like he had something to prove even in a “meaningless” football game.

One more game this season, and I hope this mentality spills over into next week and beyond.


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 (27) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

TheBigCheeze's picture

Tim Backes.....and if Rodgers had been seriously injured during this "meaningless" and others would be singin' a different tune.....

Bearmeat's picture

Exactly. A blown ACL ends 2019 before it begins. I said it before and I"ll say it again - losing a meaningless game is no sin. Give me the team health and draft position.

Coldworld's picture

Thought as you do coming into the game. After the game I realize that I was wrong. The display did a lot for the team and confidence of individuals heading into the off season.

That said, point made: next week should be Adams for the record and then all key vets (not just Rogers) to the bench where possible. In addition to injury risk, there is more to gain from blooding new players in an actual game.

Old School's picture

If Aaron Rodgers took a career ending injury, the organization would draft or trade or use FA and get a competent QB to play the 2019 season. In 2011, Rodgers was irreplaceable. 2019....not as much. Statistically, over the last 4 years he’s been an above average QB who is very, very good at protecting the ball. But not like a top 5 guy in ratings or completion% or yards per attempt. His TD/int ratio is insane, no doubt

HankScorpio's picture

Rodgers played and he is fine. Football is a rough sport. it's not a game for the risk adverse. That's why both Philbin and Rodgers said that risk aversion never really entered into their minds at all.

There is no particular controversy on the team about him playing. That's all message board/water cooler/bar room talk.

Bert's picture

Given the coaching situation I can understand why we will not see backups playing out the season.
1. Philbin is a lame duck HC and has nothing to gain by losing games. His best bet for his resume is to win as many games as he can while turning AR and the offense around. A 3-1 record with an upswing in the offense will look much better than 1-3.
2. Gute and Murphy need to hire a new HC. No decent HC will want to work for a FO that meddles with the Sunday roster. They will stay out of Philbin's way and just let the season play out.

JimR_in_SoCal's picture

You’re probably right, Bert.

Bearmeat's picture

Best argument I've seen on the subject. changed my mind. thanks!

pacman's picture

Maybe it is the best argument but it is still wrong. Maybe right on Philbin but why would you let a lame duck HC make the call that risks your big $ qb?

I think it reinforces the fact that AR is calling the shots. And that is not good for any incoming HC to see.

HankScorpio's picture

That's a fine theory. But it doesn't explain why other teams are not sitting their stars to protect them.

There was a lot of cap space that suited up for teams that are mathematically eliminated for week 16. Derek Carr, Von Miller, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell, AJ Bouye and Malik Jackson were not on the inactive list. Some of their teams won and cost themselves spot in the draft order.

Coldworld's picture

Everybody wants to win. Now we need to look at how do we gain the most from the next game. If Philbin is a true candidate, one would hope that his evaluators could take the team philosophy in any given game into account. If not, the playing time choices will be pretty self explanatory for external candidates.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

"It’s about drafting well, not about drafting high."

Percipience sounds great. Show me the GM who has beaten the "draft market" over a reasonable length of time.

Houndog's picture

Thegreatreynoldo says:
"Percipience sounds great. Show me the GM who has beaten the "draft market" over a reasonable length of time."

Not exactly certain who they (maybe figuratively?) list as their "GM", but the Patriots seem to be doing quite well ..

Old School's picture

Are the Pats drafting that well, or does the Belichick/Brady combo make the difference?

dobber's picture

The Pats make very shrewd use of free agency. Maybe it's because their HC runs the roster, but he seems to know exactly who he wants.

I think the low drafting is finally starting to wear down that roster, though.

HankScorpio's picture

It seems to me that the Patriots don't overwhelm their opponents with great talent. They play the game better. That's not to say they have poor talent. They don't. But their calling card is superior coaching.

Bearmeat's picture

Not in their 1st round picks. The Pats have been the best FO in trading and Free Agency in 30 years.

Holecrap's picture

Rick Spielman. He stole three drafts in a row. 1. Getting rid of the Mathews types before they aren't worth much, using the picks to move up and get quality. Smith, Rhodes, diggs, Bridgewater, others. 2. Getting and always having a list of talent available in an emergency. 3. Being willing to move fast, unloading guys not performing for new guys.

DD's picture

Play to WIN!! The lion game will be the last for many current players.

Lare's picture

Good point. Probably around half the current roster is fighting for either a new contract or a new job next year with the Packers or other teams. I'm sure the players are playing well to help themselves and their fellow teammates out.

Holecrap's picture

Rodgers best game of the season. The problem, you got a 36 year old running because the O line can protect, you got a 36 year old running because our backs cants, you got a 36 year old running because our receivers, and for me I flat out think they are stupid. Too stupid to come back to the ball when Rodgers is running for his life. By now if they dont get it, they should be gone.
St Brown and JMS should be gone. They just didnt light it up this year and had a lot of opps.
Good game Rodgers, thanks for taking over and doing it all.

dobber's picture

"St Brown and JMS should be gone. They just didnt light it up this year and had a lot of opps."

Wow. Tough crowd.

Who's JMS?

fastmoving's picture

…….did AR had a single catch? But of course I got it Erni, you are kidding, like always.

And who is 36 years?

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Wow is right!

andretoure's picture

Aaron played very well! Yep, I also think this is the best game from him.

Old School's picture

I'd rather see Rodgers running than taking sacks, or turning it over by fumbles or picks. I don't think some of us here remember back when our starting QB turned it over a lot, even in overtime, and how nice it is now where we don't turn it over much anymore (3 turnovers in our last six games!).

He's slower because of age and injury, and he's not going to get quicker. He should probably just get rid of the ball quicker. I don't think that having a 35 year old QB running around and throwing 50 times is a real good stategy.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Here are some interesting facts I just came across about Rodgers. I am sure more than ever he would love to play the whole Lions game and break some of his own records, as it would certainly allow Rodgers to say he had a good year.

First of all....assuming Rodgers ends up with his only 2 interceptions for the year. Then he needs 228 yards and he will beat his best 4,643 yards he set in 2011 (MVP year). He needs 33 completions and he will break his record of 401 completions he set in 2016. Rodgers will definitely want to play (definitely will need to throw a lot of his short passes to Adams for completions)....what says you?

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