After Sunday’s nationally televised spanking of the Tennessee Titans, if the Green Bay Packers wanted to go into the playoffs quietly, flying under the radar, it certainly won’t be happening now. A lot of the narratives from past seasons that have clouded the outside perception of the Packers remained for much of this season and helped their case of continuing to not be taken as seriously of a contender as they now appear to be.
They struggle against physical teams that love to run the ball.
The defense gets carried by the offense and will be the ultimate downfall.
Throw a lot of those thoughts out the window, for now. While those ideas and storylines won’t be gone forever, it’s time to inject some reality into what is really going on with this 2020 Packers squad down the stretch run of the season.
Let’s start with that first note. You can debate where the notion that the Packers struggle against physical teams that can run the ball effectively started at. But what won’t be argued is where it recently reached its tipping point: The NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers last year. A game in which the 49ers ran it 42 times (for 285 yards and four touchdowns) and only attempted 8 total passes. That’s where the reality slapped the Packers across the face. Green Bay finished last season ranked 26th against the run, and 23rd against the run the year before that.
There have been shades of it earlier this year. Dalvin Cook and the Minnesota Vikings ran all over Green Bay in their Nov. 1st win at Lambeau Field. The Packers pushed off the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20 two weeks later and it was Jacksonville’s physicality and the running of James Robinson that kept it that close. Let’s fast forward.
After the defense held one of the league’s best offenses and running games in check for much of the night last Sunday, that side of the ball answered a lot of questions not only against the Titans but in a string of consecutive games now. It was the third time in four games the Packers defense held the opposition under 20 points and while they hadn’t been playing top-tier teams, it didn’t always take the best of the best in the past for the defense to have its fair share of struggles.
Look at what the eye test tells you recently. The Packers’ defense is flying all over the field, getting consistent pressure on the quarterback, and some of the young players like Darnell Savage and Rashan Gary are really starting to emerge. It’s a defense playing with a ton of confidence that is slowly silencing its doubters.
On to point No. 2.
The defense getting “carried” by the offense has been flat out true in the past. And let’s be honest about this, when Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback, it’s difficult for the other side of the ball to outshine what No. 12 does. It’s the same case in Kansas City. The Chiefs could have the best, shutdown defense in the NFL and it won’t ever get the notoriety that Patrick Mahomes and the offense gets. That’s just how it is with certain quarterbacks and teams in the NFL.
Time will tell on whether the defense will be their ultimate downfall, which is the back end of that narrative. The tricky part of this is that it’s so highly unlikely that if the Packers lose in the playoffs that it will be because Rodgers has some awful three-interception type of game. So whenever they lose, if they don’t win the whole thing, it will be easy to point at the defense. So this is a wait and see approach, of course, but the way this defense is playing, it’s hard to envision them giving up a 37-point outing to an NFC team along the way this year like they did last year to San Francisco.
And last but not least, the one that was voiced the loudest after the Packers drafted Jordan Love, a quarterback, in the first round this year: The idea that the Packers don’t have any weapons outside of Davante Adams and Aaron Jones.
Let’s preface by saying, if you’re still complaining about what the Packers didn’t do in the draft this past year, kindly exit stage left and quit watching this team. It’s time to move on from it.
On top of that, if your abusing comment sections with your Cheeto dusted fingers that the Packers don’t have the weapons that Mahomes has in Kansas City, find me an offense that does. It’s not just Rodgers and the Packers.
However, outside of Adams and Jones, the Packers do have contributors this year that have done far more than expected.
Start with Robert Tonyan. The dude has put together a season that should’ve resulted in a Pro Bowl nod but, that’s a different discussion for a different day. While it’s just one season, it’s been a hell of a one for No. 85, and the hope and thought are that this isn’t a one-year flash in the pan situation and that Green Bay has an answer to their tight end question.
Sure, Jamaal Williams doesn’t get starter snaps most weeks but he is very effective when on the field. PFF has him ranked as the No. 26 running back in their grading system. He’s averaging his most yards rushing per game in his four-year career this year along with a high in yards per rush and yards per reception. He’s an intricate part of the offense and the locker room with his play and his personality.
Then there’s the rookie AJ Dillon. I don’t know how or if he will be used much for the rest of this year because of Jones and Williams. Green Bay legitimately has three options at running back and when you’re in those cold-weather playoff games, the more the merrier. Dillon offers a different element with his size and bowling ball mentality that adds another layer to this offense.
While it’s Rodgers having the MVP year and getting the headlines (rightfully so), this offense isn’t as bare as some in the national landscape like to make it seem.
Green Bay is putting to sleep a lot of the narratives that have plagued and been proven true in years past. Now we wait to see how far it can ride in the playoffs.