This Week 13 Recap is about breaking records and reaching milestones. The Green Bay Packers put in a strong all-around performance to carry through momentum from last week’s rivalry victory over Chicago. Offensively they were once again powered by the three-headed monster of Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams. Demonstrating that they are arguably the best QB-WR duo in the NFL, Rodgers and Adams connected for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Jones added 130 yards on the ground, including a game-clinching 77-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter.
The defense put in a strong performance as well, with 7 total sacks on the day and an interception. While the Philadelphia Eagles managed to make it somewhat close down the stretch when Jalen Hurts stepped in for a struggling Carson Wentz, the Packers weathered the storm and closed out the game convincingly. What should be the top takeaways from this game as the Packers head into the final stretch jostling for playoff pole position?
Rodgers Making Case for MVP
Rodgers had another MVP-caliber performance, with 3 passing touchdowns and just short of 300 yards while avoiding any turnovers. He also threw his 400th career touchdown on Sunday, and reached that mark faster than anyone else, doing so in only his 193rd career game. Rodgers becomes the 7th QB to have ever reached that mark. He also became the only player ever to throw for 35 touchdowns in 5 seasons. Rodgers has gone for 35+ in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, and now 2020.
With the Seahawks and Russell Wilson coming back down to earth in recent weeks, Rodgers just may be the MVP frontrunner at this point. He leads the league in touchdown passes as well as passer rating, and has thrown only 4 interceptions. These last few weeks will be crucial for not only the Packers as a team as they fight for the #1 seed in the playoffs, but also for Rodgers individually as he makes his case for another MVP award.
Gary Continues Scary Breakout
Rashan Gary notched another 1.5 sacks in the game on Sunday. He seemed almost omnipresent in the Philadelphia backfield, constantly generating pressure and rushing throws. It was one of Gary’s top games of the season, a season in which he has had several impact plays. He is making a strong case to be the regular pass rusher opposite Za’Darius Smith, with 4 total sacks on the year and 2.5 in the last 5 games. Meanwhile, Preston Smith, who has been struggling with effectiveness and penalties, has only 3. If Gary sees more playing time, it may come at Preston’s expense.
Kingsley Keke also deserves mention here, as he had 2 sacks in the game on Sunday and has 4 on the year as well. A couple of selections from past drafts are showing they may be the late bloomers. Will the Packers be able to rely on Gary and Keke more regularly? Will they evolve into players that opposing offenses will fear? Only time will tell. Either way, the Packers need to improve on the defensive performance from the past couple of playoffs.
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Secondary Stalwart Again
Darnell Savage chalked up his third interception in the last two weeks. He clinched the game with an impressive diving pick of Jalen Hurts in the final minutes of the 4th quarter. Jaire Alexander had several pass deflections and passes defended, further solidifying his status as a lockdown corner to be avoided by opposing QBs. Raven Greene played a fantastic game in his hybrid role, notching half a sack and a couple of hits on the QB as an effective blitzer. Adrian Amos was reliable in run support and pass coverage, as he has been for the majority of this year, nearly leading the team in tackles. The secondary continues to be one of the strengths of this defense.
Special Teams Questions
There is a mixed bag to take from Sunday’s game from a special teams perspective. JK Scott was effective, netting just under 50 yards per punt. Mason Crosby made all his field-goal attempts. However, he did miss an extra-point attempt for the second time in two weeks. Worse of all the punt coverage unit allowed Jalen Reagor to take a punt return all the way back for a touchdown at a crucial juncture of the game. Those are mistakes that, against a better team than Philadelphia, could’ve cost the Packers a victory. Mistakes that become the difference between moving on and heading home in the playoffs.
Special teams overall have been solid, if unspectacular, for the Packers during the majority of this season. It’s reasonable to suggest that this last week was just an anomaly, and the coverage units and specialists will return to their reliable form moving forward. However, I expect the coaching staff to focus on kick and punt coverage especially hard in this next week to avoid any mistakes of that kind in more crucial games.
The Packers put forth a very strong performance against a subpar opponent. The Eagles have struggled all year, and Carson Wentz has been a well below-average quarterback all year long. Notably, he holds the ball far too long, leading to inflated sack numbers for many of the Eagles’ opponents. What that means is that, while the 7 sacks are encouraging, we can’t expect that kind of performance on a week-to-week basis from the defense. The coverage was good enough to force Wentz to hold the ball far too long, and the pass rush and blitzes were effective. This is another good building-block game for the defense and offense, as both put in strong performances. The special teams mistakes must be ironed out, but this is a very encouraging sign of momentum with back-to-back weeks of great performances.
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