While the off-field Aaron Rodgers drama has been a major story amongst both football and non-football media, the rest of the NFC-leading Packers played two quality teams in the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks. While the Packers split the games with a frustrating loss and decisive win, there were many positives and negatives for the Green and Gold in both contests.
Feeling The Pressure
In Jordan Love’s first career start, the Chiefs’ game plan was clear: blitz the hell out of him. This is a common strategy for young quarterbacks, as it takes away their decision-making time and ability to make accurate throws. In the few instances that Love had a clean pocket, he showed an ability to make smart and accurate throws down the field. Love, like his mentor Rodgers, recognized that he should target the best wide receiver in the league, Davante Adams. While the thought process was good, the execution was not always there. With the game on the line, Love forced a few throws to Adams, one that was intercepted to end a promising drive. Overall, the probable future QB of the Packers had a mixed bag in his first start. Love was backed up, pressured, and made a few mistakes. On the positive side, he improved as the game progressed, made mostly smart decisions, and threw his first touchdown on a fourth down to give the Pack a chance at the end.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) November 8, 2021
Against the Seahawks, Rodgers made his return to a friendly Lambeau Field, and felt a different type of pressure: a pressure to win. Coming into the season, Rodgers had a massive spotlight on him. Between winning MVP, becoming a face of State Farm Insurance, dating Shailene Woodley and stating his desire to leave Green Bay on draft night, Rodgers was rightfully one of the most discussed athletes in the world. Now with Rodgers vaccine fiasco, the quarterback is a larger part of the national discourse than ever. Facing all of that, Rodgers maintained that his focus was the Packers and doing what he can to help them win.
Coach Matt LaFleur and Rodgers once again understood the talent of their run game in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon, utilizing both as runners and receivers. Dillon scored two bull-dozer inspired touchdowns and helped seal the contest with a gorgeous 60 yards after catch reception. While the dynamic duo had a great showing, Jones unfortunately suffered an MCL sprain, which will sideline him for the next few weeks. Jones is expected to return after some time off, a positive sign for the Packers as they look to make a serious playoff push.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) November 15, 2021
Special Teams Loses Games
To beat a quality team on the road that boasts a generational talent quarterback while your generational talent at quarterback is on the bench, it’s going to take strong performances from every other unit. Against the Chiefs, the Packers defense was excellent, the offense was middling, and the special teams was an unmitigated garbage-fire disaster on the level usually reserved for NFL referees during prime time games.
The most egregious special teams error was Amari Rodgers decision to not field a punt that eventually bounced off Malik Taylor and recovered by the Chiefs inside the red zone. The excellent Packers’ defense (more on that squad soon) was able to hold Kansas City to a field goal, but the mistake was inexcusable. The Packers kicking operation also offered a sub-par performance, with a missed kick and blocked kick. Mason Crosby has had his struggles this year, and will look to refind his consistency as the year progresses.
Barry Dominant Defense
After the Packers’ 38-3 loss to the Saints in week one, many people were discouraged about the future of the Packers defense under new coordinator Joe Barry. Since then, and especially in recent weeks, Berry and his crew have essentially carried the Packers to victories with impressive stands against top-tier quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson. They were also able to slow down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs holding them to just 16 points.
The Packers defensive backfield has been incredible, no matter who has lined up back there. Eric Stokes, Rasual Douglas, Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan have made impact plays, while Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos have been one of the most consistently strong safety duos in the league.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) November 15, 2021
Amos and his young and hungry secondary were able to shut down Seahawks star wideout DK Metcalf, much to the speedsters frustration. Metcalf grabbed two Packer players face mask late in the game and was ejected. The Packers were able to shutout the Seahawks, a rare feat in modern NFL, for the first time in Wilson’s illustrious NFL career. The Packers have been able to preform as a top ten defense without the aid of arguably their two best defensive players as Z’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander have missed significant playing time. It was clear that the Packers were proud of their shut-out, refusing to allow Wilson to throw a garbage-time score as the game winded down. The skill and passion of this defense has made the Packers an extremely dangerous team.
While the Packers mortal rival will always be with the Bears, the Minnesota Vikings have given the Packers more competitive games in recent years. Minnesota gave the Packers one of their only three losses last season, and were able to do so with a dominant running attack from Dalvin Cook. Cook scored four total touchdowns against a struggling Packers run defense. This year, the Packers have a much-improved defense, but have been stronger in pass defense than run. This will be a test for a the entire squad, especially if linebacker Rashan Gary is unable to play.
On the offensive side, the Packers’ run offense will be led by the Quadzilla himself, AJ Dillon. Dillon has become a breakout piece for the Packers offense, alleviating the pressure from Rodgers and his depleted pass-catching unit. Against the Vikings, Rodgers will be without trusted wide-out Allen Lazard, which is also a dent to the run game due to Lazards blocking ability.
Prediction: The Rodgers-Adams connection has a big day connecting for two touchdowns while the Packers defense intercepts Kirk Cousins twice. Packers win 24-17.