We didn’t learn anything new on Sunday when the Bills shocked the NFL world and sent the Packers home in defeat.
The template on how to beat this Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team was written by the 2011 Giants and carried out by the 2012 49ers, 2013 49ers and Seahawks, Lions and Bills from this season.
The main component among all those teams is that they all have had a dominating defensive line that only needed to bring four defensive linemen to attack Rodgers. And in doing so, that allowed seven bodies to roam free in the defensive backfield, making the passing windows even tighter for Rodgers.
The Bills didn’t open up Pandora’s Box and expose something that might make the Packers an early exit in the playoffs. It’s simple math. With so many dropping back into coverage, Rodgers’ job became inherently tougher.
One of the main reasons the Packers lost was because the tight end position never showed up. Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers were targeted six times, but they combined to make 1 catch for 7 yards. Better production over the middle eases pressure on the outside and gives Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb more space to work.
Another problem was the lack of confidence in the running game. Mike McCarthy has always been a pass-first coach, especially with a future Hall of Fame quarterback. At halftime, Eddie Lacy had 10 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown. For a lot of running backs around the league, those are decent numbers for an entire game. Yet, he would only get 5 carries for 24 yards in the second half.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had that kind of balance,” McCarthy told USA Today before this season.
Well, the Packers didn’t have any balance against Buffalo where the pass-run ratio was 61-39. The true mark of a great coach is being able to recognize problem areas and make adjustments midstream. The Packers played to a 10-10 tie at half and McCarthy flipped everything he did from the first half the rest of the game.
Obviously, seven drops by a receiving corps that wasn’t playing up to its capabilities didn’t help. But if Nelson holds on to that perfectly-placed ball on a slant-and-go route for a would-be 94-yard touchdown, it’s a completely different conversation right now.
And even though Rodgers had his worst game of his career with a 34.3 quarterback rating, he is still the MVP by a whisper over Tom Brady. In the previous five games, Rodgers has thrown 16 touchdowns and no interceptions with an average of 312 yards a game. On Sunday, he had no touchdowns, two picks and only 185 yards. Rodgers will not have another performance like that this season.
So don’t sweat it. The Packers are still the second-best team in the NFC right now. The records may not say that but the only team that should scare the Packers is Seattle.
The blueprint has been made readily available on how to beat this team. It’s not the easiest to execute because not every team has the personnel to complete it. But even though the Bills’ defense did play well, the Packers could have easily gotten out of upstate New York with a win — because of how well its defense tightened up and forced field goals instead of touchdowns.
Cory Jennerjohn is from Wisconsin and has been in sports media for over 10 years. To contact Cory e-mail him at jeobs -at- yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter: Cory Jennerjohn