Rodgers needs to be elite, since McCarthy keeps relying on him

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Bob McGinn

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By BOB McGINN

Aaron Jones’ fumble was the obvious cause of the Green Bay Packers’ demise Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.

In truth, it has been Aaron Rodgers’ continuing mediocrity this season, at least by his standards, that should be easiest to correct but also has been problematic for the team to overcome.

The Packers didn’t guarantee Rodgers $98.2 million in late August expecting career-low 60.6% passing (28th best) at mid-season, six fumbles (three lost), four delay-of-game penalties, three intentional grounding fouls and a string of wasted timeouts.

Rodgers is canonized on a weekly basis by the national media and the Packers’ opponents when it should be fairly obvious that he’s slipping back to the doldrums of his career that extended from Game 7 of 2015 until mid-October 2016.
“I’m upset that I haven’t been as consistent and we haven’t been clicking the way we expect to click,” Rodgers said after the 31-17 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots. “We’ve all got to play together, myself included.”

With a 3-4-1 record, the Packers stand merely 10th among the 16 teams in the NFC. Their tradition of playing better in the second half of the season than the first half augurs well, but if the player around whom coach Mike McCarthy has built his entire team doesn’t elevate his game to his old elite level soon the Packers’ post-season hopes won’t materialize.
This is Green Bay’s poorest mid-year record since 2006, which was
Rodgers’ second season and McCarthy’s first. The Packers are 0-4 on the road and Jones’ critical fumble gave them another losing turnover differential (minus-1), leaving them an uncharacteristic minus-1 for the season.
“The reality is we have four losses,” said McCarthy. “Our room for error is definitely decreasing. We need to get rid of the lapses of discipline and the plays that go against us.”

Ultimately, the game was decided by the clever but risky play-calling of Josh McDaniels, the Patriots’ offensive coordinator. With New England missing tight end Rob Gronkowski (ankle-back) and down to its fourth and fifth running backs, McDaniels dug deep on his play sheet to gain the necessary yards in the spirit of teams coached by Bill Belichick.
A 33-yard flea-flicker to Julian Edelman in the second quarter set up a field goal. A throwback for 37 to running back James White set up the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter. A 55-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon off bubble-screen action caught rookies Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson with their pants down and, when Tramon Williams fanned on the tackle, proved to be the clincher. A pair of reverses for 28 yards by Edelman were vital down the stretch as well.

“That’s New England,” defensive tackle Mike Daniels said. “We just have to be where we’re supposed to be. We saw that stuff on film. They lull (you) to sleep just playing regular football.”
Of course, McCarthy has never dabbled much in the creative world of trick plays. His offense has evolved into a static spread that is reducing the role of the running game while at the same time increasing the reliance on Rodgers. Slump or no slump.

As for the 153 yards worth of successful gadget plays dialed up by Belichick and McDaniels, without which the Patriots wouldn’t have had the firepower to win, McCarthy said, “They hit their deceptives. That’s how that goes. They pulled them at the right time.”

McCarthy told his players all week that the Patriots wouldn’t beat themselves. McCarthy was well aware that New England is the only team with a superior turnover differential than Green Bay’s since he replaced Mike Sherman 12 ½ years ago.
He was dead right. Tom Brady wasn’t great by any stretch but he didn’t turn the ball over.
Neither did running back Cordarrelle Patterson, who was resourcefully moved from wide receiver in Game 8 only because Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead, the 1-3 punch at running back to open the season, were on injured reserve and No. 3 Sony Michel (knee) was inactive.

Unconventional plays, ball security, tremendous hustle in pursuit by defensive end Lawrence Guy, a Packer draftee in 2011, to jar the ball loose from Jones on the first play of the fourth quarter and the edge in special team enabled New England (7-2) to win its sixth straight game.

The Packers, however, had their chances. You can’t win in Foxborough, where the Patriots own the NFL’s best home record (130-24, .844) since 2002, without taking advantage of almost every opportunity, playing smart football and making some extraordinary plays.

With hero worship, wealth and privilege come responsibility.

Rodgers did have an outstanding third quarter, completing passes of 51, 24 and 26 yards to improving Marquez Valdes-Scantling plus an end-zone dart to Jimmy Graham for a 15-yard touchdown. He also had four other plays with ordinary degree of difficulty that went the other way.

The Packers won the toss, gave the ball to the Patriots and fell into a fast 7-0 hole. On their first possession, they advanced 62 yards in 14 plays before having to settle for a field goal due in large part to a delay penalty on second and goal from the 9.
Rodgers was under center with 10 seconds left on the play clock. He motioned Graham a little late, didn’t call for the ball on time and referee Brad Allen rang him up.
“I thought we had time,” said Rodgers. “There was a lot of communication after the motion on who we were going to (block) up front. It was a run play and they were trying to sort things out and we were trying to speed that up and get it in, and we didn’t get it in.”

Rodgers had chances on the next two plays to make amends. If he had put less air on a second-down throw in the corner to Davante Adams his shadow, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, couldn’t have broken it up. Then Randall Cobb might have had a chance on a third-down bubble screen with a convoy of blockers ahead but Rodgers’ pass was low and behind him, messing up the rhythm of the play.

On the second possession, Rodgers had Valdes-Scantling running deep from the slot in a speed mismatch against cornerback Jason McCourty. He had all day, too, but the pass was underthrown and McCourty caught up to tip it away.
That play was from the Patriot 48, and two snaps later the Packers had to punt.

Late in the first half, the Packers called their first timeout before third and 1 from their 45. One minute remained.
McCarthy says two-minute is what his offense does best. The chances for at least a field goal were high.

Rodgers saw the Patriots aligned in the A gaps in a blitz look. From shotgun, he rode Jamaal Williams before pulling it on a keeper around left end. The original play was well-blocked, and it’s likely Williams would have gained several yards.
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn, an eight-year veteran, at least partially stayed home and Rodgers was unable to outrun him to the corner. As Rodgers was lunging the ball forward he fumbled on the hit.

The ball went out of bounds, but because the fumble went forward it was returned to the spot of the fumble. Rodgers slammed his hand down in disgust. The Packers punted, and another scoring opportunity was wasted.
“That was an adjustment that I made based on the other end (Trey Flowers) was crashing pretty hard a bunch,” Rodgers said. “Clayborn kind of stayed home on that one so that was a poor decision by myself.”

Twice during his briefing with reporters Rodgers brought up a second-and-7 play from the Green Bay 28 that he found particularly distressing. The Patriots had just taken the lead, 24-17.

Rodgers took a deep drop on the type of play-action pass that he used to hit Jordy Nelson deep. This time, it was Adams streaking into the deep middle of the field.

With ample time, Rodgers instead went to Equanimeous St. Brown on a deep sideline and Jordan McCourty broke it up.
“I threw it to Eq because he’s coming open right now a little quicker than I thought he would,” said Rodgers. “Maybe hold onto that and try to hit Davante down the field. He’s a tough cover, and I’ve got to find ways to get him the football.”
Despite the skittishness of the passing game, McCarthy declined to change gears and try to win the night with Jones. Together with Williams, the two backs averaged 5.2 yards per carry (21-110).

In the first half, when Rodgers’ longest completion was just 19 yards, the Packers executed 28 pass plays compared to 13 runs.

Mike Pettine, the first-year defensive coordinator, had every preferred starter and situational sub at his disposal other than Muhammad Wilkerson to start the game. Then he lost cornerback Kevin King (hamstring) early in the second quarter, inside linebacker Jermaine Whitehead (ejection) late in the second quarter and safety Kentrell Brice (knee) early in the third quarter. Also, linebacker Blake Martinez (ankle) missed 1 ½ series in the second half before returning.
Undaunted, the Packers played with even greater intensity in the third quarter. It showed when they stopped the Patriots on four plays from the 1. Shortly thereafter, New England went three and out, got the ball back when Robert Tonyan was penalized for roughing punter Ryan Allen and promptly went three and out again.

“They had us on the run a little bit,” said Belichick. “Lawrence Guy’s fumble was a big play for us. The recovery was a big scrum but we were able to come out with the ball and then make a couple plays offensively.”

Adams had first crack at falling on Jones’ bouncing football inside the New England 30 but whiffed. Gilmore, who with frequent double-team help limited Adams to just 40 yards in six receptions, made the recovery.

In the end, the adjustments made by Belichick and McDaniels for an offense missing their Hall of Fame tight end, possibly their best offensive lineman (guard Shaq Mason) and a cluster of running backs earned the decision. They’re not above chicanery.

McCarthy rode with his offensive concepts and his quarterback, as always, and not his running backs. And when Rodgers wasn’t on top of his game on yet another Sunday the Packers came up empty again




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TW

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If the Packers believe Rodgers will win every game for them despite poor play, and poor coaching, they're sadly mistaken. A QB in the NFL, just like a pitcher in MLB, will lose some games because they can't always be at the top of their game. Tell me when the last QB came along who had a perfect record over the course of two complete years of play?

If they expect Rodgers to duck into a phone booth and come out Superman, they're sadly mistaken. He's 34 years old, and according to Packer coaches and front office, anyone but a QB should be sent to the glue factory. Ask Jordy Nelson.

No! Rodgers is good. Rodgers can win some games for you! But, above all give him some help! Don't put him in a position where he feels like a one-legged man in an ass kicking competition.
 

Budman

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NFL live ripping on how MM is doing AR a disservice because MM is not being creative in his playcalling or gameplanning. I agree with what TW has stated above.
 

Packinatl

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NFL live ripping on how MM is doing AR a disservice because MM is not being creative in his playcalling or gameplanning. I agree with what TW has stated above.
While i get what TW and agree with you don’t back up a brinks truck and expect this kind of play. It’s a two edge sword and why I was on the not extend him bandwagon. You can never gauge when guys take a big regression and while injuries are a factor he is just not the same guy. Sure he shows flashes but is he worth not so much the money but how his cap number handicaps the organization
 

Budman

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While i get what TW and agree with you don’t back up a brinks truck and expect this kind of play. It’s a two edge sword and why I was on the not extend him bandwagon. You can never gauge when guys take a big regression and while injuries are a factor he is just not the same guy. Sure he shows flashes but is he worth not so much the money but how his cap number handicaps the organization
That's interesting Pack. I'm sure AR doesn't have his old skill set but he's still playing at a high level. Is he worth the money? I'm not sure but Gutey was in an tough postion trying to gauge the extend or not to extend end game.
 

Packinatl

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That's interesting Pack. I'm sure AR doesn't have his old skill set but he's still playing at a high level. Is he worth the money? I'm not sure but Gutey was in an tough postion trying to gauge the extend or not to extend end game.
Bud they had option to play out the deal or even let one more year play out. I think they misjudged the roster / talent and yes issues on the staff
 

rpiotr01

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Bud they had option to play out the deal or even let one more year play out. I think they misjudged the roster / talent and yes issues on the staff
Pack you often talk about fan expectations, so here are some relevant questions:

  1. Is it realistic to expect Rodgers to return to form the season after suffering a major shoulder injury?
  2. Is it realistic to expect Rodgers to return to form at all after a major shoulder injury?
  3. Is it realistic to expect Rodgers to return to form the season after a major shoulder injury, and also while playing through a moderate knee injury?
For me the answers are No, Yes, No. That considered maybe the team should've let it play out before giving him that money, but regardless the team needed to start re-building itself away from Rodgers and more towards running game/quick passing and defense. Now that they did commit to him, IMO they need to accelerate that process with even more urgency.
 

Packinatl

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Pack you often talk about fan expectations, so here are some relevant questions:

  1. Is it realistic to expect Rodgers to return to form the season after suffering a major shoulder injury?
  2. Is it realistic to expect Rodgers to return to form at all after a major shoulder injury?
  3. Is it realistic to expect Rodgers to return to form the season after a major shoulder injury, and also while playing through a moderate knee injury?
For me the answers are No, Yes, No. That considered maybe the team should've let it play out before giving him that money, but regardless the team needed to start re-building itself away from Rodgers and more towards running game/quick passing and defense. Now that they did commit to him, IMO they need to accelerate that process with even more urgency.
I would agree with your answers for the most part, I hedge a bit on #1. Is the loss of form due to injury or just losing skills or both? As to rebuilding away from Rodgers no. He still is your best player on offense, the best playmaker and he needs the ball in his hands. I would love to see us move towards a defense identity but other than Clark you don't have a lot of pieces . Do they need to accelerate the process yes. How? Million dollar question. Add a legit #2 WR with Adams (Tate?) TE upgrade (Tyler E.?). New system, get him some weapons and let him earn his haul
 
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I agree to a certain extent with you Pack. But let's look at this:

AR has 15 TD's and 1 INT. He has thrown for over 2,500 yards. What other QB in the league has those numbers with a knee injury and also just came off shoulder surgery. Also, he has a shamble of an O-line, young WR's, and a HC that makes him throw 40 plus times a game even though we average 5.2 yards per carry. I understand he has missed some throws but he is having one of his best statistical seasons ever, except for completion percentage. I do not think the completion percentage is a coincidence seeing that the o-line is crap, he has a knee problem, and his WR's rarely get wide open. Lastly, the Packers WR's are 7th in the league in drops. 7th! Graham has dropped at least two TD's this year. AR has also had to throw the ball away due to receivers not being open. He has the most throw aways of any QB this year. Even getting half of those for completions or half less throw aways would probably give him a 66% completion rate. Would anyone say anything if he had that completion % and 15 TDs and 1 INT. Not likely.

Now I know we are paying him a crap load but no other QB would have these stats and be able to play how AR has played with these issues currently. Just something to think about it. JMHO.
 
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Terranimal

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I would agree with your answers for the most part, I hedge a bit on #1. Is the loss of form due to injury or just losing skills or both? As to rebuilding away from Rodgers no. He still is your best player on offense, the best playmaker and he needs the ball in his hands. I would love to see us move towards a defense identity but other than Clark you don't have a lot of pieces . Do they need to accelerate the process yes. How? Million dollar question. Add a legit #2 WR with Adams (Tate?) TE upgrade (Tyler E.?). New system, get him some weapons and let him earn his haul
I agree with u Pack. Like to see more Defensive, better O Line and weapons.

The thing is we both know too many holes to fill in one off season and likely at least 3 years
 
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