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Rodgers Must Outduel Brady in NFC Championship

Redemption for Rodgers?

There is little to nitpick with the way Aaron Rodgers has played this season. At age 37, he enjoyed one of the finest years of his career as evidenced by the numbers. Consider he tossed 48 touchdown passes (a career-high) with only five interceptions for 4299 yards and a stunning 70.7 completion percentage (also a career-high) during the regular season.

He is a mortal lock to be named this year’s NFL MVP, which will be the third such award on his resume, and has led his charges to the NFC title game with an eye towards a date with either the Chiefs or the Bills on February 7th. Rodgers looks as good as he ever has and some believe it started last April when the Packers selected Utah State’s Jordan Love, as his heir-apparent, with the 26th overall pick in the draft.

Rodgers was reportedly fuming that the Packers’ brass chose to prepare for his demise rather than invest in a weapon for this year. The irony, of course, is that he was in Love’s position way back in 2005 when he carried a clipboard for another Green Bay legend, Brett Favre, for three years before he got his shot.

But great athletes routinely operate at even higher levels when they have something to prove, and this year, he certainly did. Rodgers doesn’t look like he is going to give up the reins to the offense anytime soon but before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we need to discuss the opponent facing him on Sunday – Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The NFL lines are dealing the Packers as 2 ½ to 3-point favorites on Sunday. And only Aaron Rodgers’ sublime performances in 2020 could mitigate the brutal outing he had when another living legend, Tampa’s Tom Brady, got the best of him in a 38-10 Week 6 demolition.

When the dust settled Rodgers had no touchdowns with two interceptions and only 160 passing yards. Brady, on the other hand, was solid but far from spectacular when he registered just 166 yards through the air with two TD passes and no picks. But if you’re laying blame, then the first finger should be pointed at the abysmal performance of Green Bay’s offensive line. Rodgers was sacked four times and the Bucs’ defense leveled 13 quarterback hits.

 

Aaron Rodgers with Matt LaFleur on the sideline

Sep 20, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) talks with head coach Matt LaFleur during the third quarter of the game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

 

If the offensive line isn’t protecting the quarterback or blowing holes for the tailbacks then the offense will grind to a halt as it did in that game. To make matters worse, five-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari will not be suited up for the third consecutive game after tearing the ACL in his knee during a practice shortly before Green Bay’s regular-season finale with the Bears.

“I think they definitely got to us, got us a little off rhythm,” LaFleur said of the offensive line’s struggles in the first meeting against the Bucs. “That is a damn good defense. They’ve got star-studded players across the board. They play a really fast, aggressive type scheme. They can bring multiple different pressures. … We’re going to have to play our best game to neutralize that.”

The chemistry between Rodgers and second-year head coach LaFleur is palpable. It’s a far cry from the acrimony that manifested late in Mike McCarthy’s tenure which led to the change in coaching. Many pointed to Rodgers as the primary mover and shaker in getting the lovable McCarthy pink-slipped before the season was even over. But whether or not that is true, you can’t argue with the results.

“This was one of those weeks where we were working through it, Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, and I feel like it just got fine-tuned and fine-tuned even more each day,” Rodgers said after the team’s win against the Rams. “Matt is such a grinder.”

But defeating the guy staring across from you who already has six Super Bowl rings on his fingers will be a tall task. This game will be much closer than the 28-point Bucs blowout earlier in the season and Brady discussed his team’s journey entering the NFC Championship.

“We worked hard to get to this point. Two road playoff wins is pretty sweet,” Brady said. “We’ve got to go beat a great football team we know pretty well. Aaron’s playing incredible.”

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Ed Rooney

Just a guy with too much free time trying to help out.

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16 Comments

  1. PF4L January 21, 2021

    I just thank God for Jordan Love, and i thank God for Gute having the knowledge and wisdom knowing….that just the presence of Jordan Love would elevate Rodgers to MVP status and that no more help in the draft was needed on offense, or defense…pure genius.
    .
    After a few months of Rodgers “fuming”. Rodgers watched Love in camp. Rodgers knew watching Love, that his days were numbered. As a matter of fact, Rodgers wasn’t so sure he could beat Love out for the starting job.
    It was reported that after Love was drafted, he knew….he knew…that Jordan would probably beat him out for the starting job.
    .
    So Rodgers was a hot mess, mentally and emotionally. Rumor has it Rodgers asked for a meet with Gute and asked him to be honest with him. Gute then told him that Jordan won the starters job. Rodgers apparently fell to the floor and started weeping uncontrollably. Gute couldn’t stand it and told Rodgers he could start, but that he was on a short, short lease.
    Rodgers told Gute, “i’m so scared of Love taking my job, i will play out of this world, i’ll try harder this season”. Gute then replied….”You better”.
    .
    Brian Gutenkunst….not afraid to piss away and trade up for a 1st round pick to motivate a lazy, old NFL QB…..mad genius.
    .
    The only thing i don’t understand is how undrafted Tim Boyle (with 3 NFL completions) beat out the 1st round pick for the 2nd string QB position. Go figure, maybe he has pictures of Gute…. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
    .

  2. Mick January 21, 2021

    Quite the imagination PF4L! If I have anything to say; well, I enjoyed reading It. (Sorry, I just lack in the wit department)

    1. PF4L January 21, 2021

      Seriously…i don’t understand how Boyle beat out a 1st round pick.
      .
      I’m not saying the rest was factual, as i wrote “rumor has it” and “it was reported” and “apparently”.
      .
      I mean, i don’t just make things up…smh :)

  3. Cheese January 21, 2021

    “Many pointed to Rodgers as the primary mover and shaker in getting the lovable McCarthy pink-slipped”
    .
    LOL, the lovable McCarthy? Maybe if you’re a fan of any team in the NFC west, or the Falcons. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of Packer nation was ready to see McCarthy go for several years by the time he finally got pink slipped.

    1. PF4L January 21, 2021

      Loveable…lol..that is funny.
      .
      I didn’t see that before i posted….reading…i made it down to the word “fumng” and then i started story telling :)

      1. PF4L January 21, 2021

        He’s a coach killer!!….lol
        .
        That’s one coach in 13 years….you’ve been warned Matty, tread lightly :)

    2. Mick January 22, 2021

      Good point Cheese! The championship game in Seattle following the 2014 season, should have been the red flag on McCarthys’ coaching acumen. They were beating the Hawks handily, and let the “play not to lose” theatre wreck their season. Many believe that if the Pack won that game, they would have beaten the Patriots in the SB. I’m not talking about the Bostick fumble, I was referring to the play calling during 4th quarter in that game. Lovable? NOT!

  4. PF4L January 22, 2021

    Before Brady outduels Rodgers, or Rodgers outduels Brady….
    .
    The battle up front has to be won or lost, that will determine who outduels who.

    1. Mick January 23, 2021

      Yup, a Belichick quote; “the game is won at the line of scrimmage”

  5. PF4L January 22, 2021

    “But if you’re laying blame, then the first finger should be pointed at the abysmal performance of Green Bay’s offensive line. Rodgers was sacked four times and the Bucs’ defense leveled 13 quarterback hits.” – Mr. Rooney
    .
    Where Brady was sacked 0 times and had 4 QB hits.
    .
    Now…not to be a smart ass, but what has changed since then? Are the Packers going to try harder? Take it more seriously this time around? Pettine going to blitz more? Run more stunts?
    Is Turner a better left tackle than Bakhtiari? Is Lucas a better pass blocker than Turner at RG?
    Will LeFleur keep in more max protection?
    .
    I know Aaron Jones not getting stuffed on half his runs may help this time around.
    .
    I’m not sure of many of those questions but i know one thing…it will be damn entertaining and i may wear out my rewind on my DVR. Hell…i might even take notes which i’m usually too lazy to do during the game.

    Weather update: 80% chance of snow (1″-3″) Sat. night..
    Sunday: 60% chance of snow (less than an inch) winds 5-10 mph, high of 30 around kickoff, then slowly getting colder through the game.

  6. Howard January 22, 2021

    No Antonio Brown is going to help. You could see in the Saints game Brown was having problems with his knee several plays before he finally left the game. Godwin to me was still ahead of Brown, but Brady goes to Brown a lot when important yards were needed.

  7. Howard January 22, 2021

    No doubt the offensive line had problems in the TB game. I’m certain that Williams, and Jones allowed several pressures and a couple of those sacks. Usually the Packer RBs and TEs are better in blitz pickup. In the TB game both did very poorly with Jones being the worst offender.
    .
    The other problem is the Packers went away from the run and with it any run motion. Big mistake. Before the first two Rodgers INTs. 7 runs for 41 yards, and 13 passes. After the first two GB drives (10 points) , excluding the last two meaningless 4th quarter so called drives. 7 runs for 24 yards, and 26 passes. LaFleur went away from the run and run motion for no good reason.
    .
    Was it hard to get yards in the run game. It sure was but you don’t go away from the run game and the run motion. It makes your QB a sitting duck. As I said before when the Packers went away from run motion the wide receivers were running intermediate to deep routes and appeared to have no options to break off those routes in blitz situations. Very seldom was there a receiver or back to dump off a pass.
    .
    The bottom line was almost every player and coach on both sides of the ball in the week 6 game looked unprepared and in slow motion, and that was after a bye week.

    1. Kato January 22, 2021

      Good post. I think the way the attacked the TB front when running the ball wasn’t the best either. I think this front is best attacked by running straight at them rather than outside zone plays the packers love to run. The TB linebackers are too fast and athletic and the defensive line does a good job of occupying blockers and keeping them from reaching the next level. Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillon had success attacking the middle of the defense and they will be key in this game as they are better at that style of running than Jones is. If I remember right Dillon ripped off a 20 yard run and Williams averaged like 7-8 yards a carry.

    2. Dean January 22, 2021

      Lazard missed that game and the receivers (3 & 4) were Shepard and Taylor. Glad that the TB game occurred so GB knows what not to do.

  8. Mick January 23, 2021

    Against the Rams and Bears, GB proved they are effective running up the middle against a strong front. They will need to do that against the Bucs, maybe even fake runs laterally to suck in the backers; which will open up the short, to medium area of the defense. I do think the running backs will be better prepared to block against the Bucs pass rush this time around. On defense, it’s time to take the training wheels off of Gary, and let him loose. The kid has been a terror in the last month, plus. The Packers must have been concerned about the injured back that King has; thus the signing of T. Williams.

    1. Kato January 23, 2021

      Yeah, and they need to remain committed to the run, even if they aren’t having a lot of success. Getting one dimensional in play calling is a death sentence against this defense.
      …..
      I hope the Packers staff watched the tape of the Bucs/Rams game, as that game provides a good blueprint for how the packers can attack the bucs defense. Goff put up nearly 400 yards passing in the win.