Going into Saturday’s game, almost everyone agreed: the Packers just needed to keep doing what they’ve been doing all season.
Well, that they did: time of possession dominance (36.12 to 23.48); high third down conversion rate (8 of 12); three of five scores when reaching the red zone; few penalties (3 for 22 yards); rotation of running backs, who averaged over five yards per carry; no sacks allowed; and no turnovers. Rodgers quickly released the ball all game long. The defense played in its customary bend-but don’t break fashion.
Individually, it was our key guys acting like they have been for most of the year: Adams gathers in nine of ten targets; Mr. Reliable, Robert Tonyan grabs four of four – giving him an incredible catch rate of 88.9% on the season; Aaron Jones once again reels off a game-changing big gainer; and, Rodgers was Rodgers.
Rashan Gary continues his rise to stardom. His Pro Football Focus grades over the last three games has been 90.7, 90.1, and 81.2 against the Rams – these numbers are All Pro caliber. And he’s making a big difference even though Mike Pettine is still limiting his snaps: he got but 32 of the 50 defensive snaps against the Rams.
The O-line, Turner, Jenkins, Linsley, Patrick, and Wagner, should be singled out. Despite the loss of David Bakhtiari, and Lane Taylor before him, they were invincible. They Pack has possessed one of the league’s best pass-protection units for a number of years; they showed on Saturday that they might also be the NFL’s best run-blocking crew.
I had worried that Lucas Patrick would prove to be the group’s weak link against the Rams fearsome pass rush, but I’m now going to add him to my list of Green Bay players who have appreciably stepped up their game this season – which now numbers 19. Pro Football Focus at season’s end, ranks Patrick as #24 out of 80 guards in the league.
The Packers also did some things that didn’t follow the regular script.
Green Bay and L.A. each tucked away a special play that would almost guarantee that they’d get across the goal line should a short-yardage situation arise. Sean McVay used his – a so-called hook-and-ladder play (pass and lateral) to convert a two-point extra point try.
Matt LaFleur had Adams go in motion to the left, then reverse directions and beat Jaylen Ramsey to the mark in the right flat for the Pack’s first touchdown – it was the exclamation point to a surgical 14-play, 8-minute drive. I’d guess that it took Rodgers under 1.5 seconds to send this ball on the way to Adams.
As TP’s Paul Edwards described the play, it caused All Pro cornerback to “lose his mind” and cease to be much of a factor the rest of the game.
Rodgers later carried out another brilliant play call to perfection. Again from one yard short of the end zone, he rolled to the right on a run-or-pass option. He then faked the pass, which not only caused Leonard Floyd to leave his feet but also caused talented safety John Johnson to race toward the intended receiver, clearing Aaron’s path to the end zone.
This might have been Coach LaFleur’s best play calling game ever – he seems to get better each game. Rodgers even pointed out, in his post-game on-field interview, that there were a few missed throws and a few drops, or the game would have been even more one-sided.
He was undoubtedly referring in part to his own bad throw to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, that would have been a 90+ yard TD. The other major missed opportunity was a pass dropped by Allen Lazard that probably would have been a 60-yard score. Rodgers has that special quality of greatness: he’s always in pursuit of perfection.
Krys Barnes, the undrafted rookie inside linebacker sensation, added a new item to his growing resume. Early in the game, he went out with what was quickly determined to be a fractured thumb. Instead of waiting until halftime for medical treatment, within minutes Krys was back on the field with a club-type cast over his left hand – missing only five defensive plays! I don’t recall ever before seeing a player have a cast applied, and returned to action, so quickly. Barnes then proceeded to made six of his team-leading ten tackles after suffering the injury. That’s toughness, fans.
Green Bay’s Biggest Advance?
Zach Kruze of Packers Wire delved into Pro Football Focus’s statistics and found the Packers were charged with only two missed tackles against the Rams – one by Darnell Savage and one by Za’Darius Smith. It was the fewest misses by the Packers all season. Until the last few games, Green Bay was acknowledged to be a very deficient tackling team, but that suddenly no longer be the case.
Ten Packers defenders had a tackling grade of 70 or higher, and LB Krys Barnes, CB Kevin King, and CB Chandon Sullivan as a group made 26 tackles. By adding Sullivan to my growing list of guys on the team who’ve stepped up their performance this season (see here), that makes 20 – and that’s why this team is playing for the NFC championship next weekend.
Twice during the regular season, I urged that the Packers allow 10,000 or so fans to attend the home games. I even detailed the way this could be done safely – allow in fans who have certifiably caught the virus and recovered. They are now immune: can no longer get it, can’t spread it.
I was shouted down, as though I was advocating murder. I dropped the subject, as there’s no reasoning with people who won’t listen. So now, I’m just wondering: should Mark Murphy be fired, and should a massive lawsuit be filed against our team? Where are the calls for boycotting this reckless and heartless organization?
My, how things change over time. To a man, virtually every Packers player said that the 8,500 or so fans in attendance on Saturday gave the team a huge boost, and even in those modest numbers, it was a loud, spirited, and inspiring assemblage.
Have I missed something? I’ve yet to see one person – not one – render any criticism to having fans at the game last weekend. I guess I was just a little out in front of this issue. Oh well, some people lead and some people follow.