Green Bay Packers script a blueprint for beating them


The Green Bay Packers lost in every facet of their Sunday Night Football matchup against the Denver Broncos. Their defense was caught standing still and watching, but it was the club’s performance on offense that future opponents will be playing on loop in their film room.

For Aaron Rodgers, 77 yards is an average quarter, but that’s the passing total Denver’s elite secondary held him to for the game on Sunday. Even the best footwork in football could not help Rodgers to elude the formidable pass rush, leaving the Green Bay Packers stuck in a series of dump-off passes and failed runs.

Next: Where do Rodgers and Favre rank among best QBs ever?

Now naturally, the recency bias of NFL coverage will paint this loss as something much worse than it is. The exhausted narrative of Green Bay being a soft team will resurface with vigor, but this loss had nothing to do with team toughness or playing on the road. It had a lot to do with getting punched in the mouth by a better football team from top to bottom with a far superior game plan, and in the long run, coach Mike McCarthy will hope there’s some value in that.

More from NFL Spin Zone

In any weekly defensive strategy, a unit must sacrifice in certain areas to address ones they expect to be more problematic. We saw this with the Packers defense gluing their eyes to Peyton Manning while both C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman blurred past them. In Denver’s case, they chose to trust their cornerbacks in solo coverage, telling the Packers that if any of their units were going to beat them, it would need to be the wide receivers. Checkmate.

The loss of Jordy Nelson becomes more apparent by the week in Green Bay. His ability to stretch coverage while still producing with a diverse route tree made every receiver below him substantially better, and without that, the wide receiving corps is underwhelming.

Randall Cobb caught six balls on the day, but his targets barely crossed the line of scrimmage and resulted in a meager 27 yards. Richard Rodgers is a fine complimentary target, but it’s becoming evident that he’s a catch-and-fall tight end. Davante Adams still doesn’t look like himself, evidenced by one catch for just eight yards, and the limited physical skill set of James Jones has been overachieving through the first half of the season.

Aaron Rodgers has covered for this with near-perfect quarterback play. Much of his work to James Jones highlights this, as balls are fit into the tightest windows possible to produce impact plays. When Denver blew their way into Green Bay’s backfield, those inches began to tilt in the other direction. The small windows were no longer there, and Rodgers could no longer cover for the insufficiencies around him with a flick of his magic wand.

This blueprint of trusting a secondary with the receiving corps is especially worrying given the state of Green Bay’s pass blocking. Denver’s rush is an extreme case, of course, but David Bakhtiari was a turnstile at points on Sunday night. Again, this is something that Rodgers has covered up with excellent play. That couldn’t last forever, and now, the book’s out.

So it’s adjustment time for the Packers. Establishing a run in week nine at Carolina is a downright necessity, because the play action game is the strongest bullet this offense still has in the chamber. If given an even playing field, Rodgers will win the play nine times out of ten.

The Packers remain 6-1 with an improving, although battered, defensive unit. This is the point in the season where we damn the just-recently-defeated, and while all is not well in Green Bay, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Rodgers, for a change, will need some help in righting the ship. What kind of shape is Donald Driver in these days?