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Rodgers Channels His Magic To Keep Packers Season Alive

Rodgers - NFL Keith Allison via Flickr


Rodgers, Packers Create New Life With Prime-time Win

If people didn’t take Aaron Rodgers seriously when he claimed this week that he thought his team could “run the table” the rest of the year, they’ve officially been served a second warning in the form of a vintage late season performance from the two-time MVP.

In Green Bay’s  27-13 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, Rodgers completed 30 of 39 passes (76.9%) for 313 yards and two touchdowns, including one of the prettiest passes you’ll ever see to Davante Adams for his second score.

On the second quarter play, Adams was streaking down the sideline toward the endzone as Rodgers stepped into a beauty of a throw that somehow avoided the coverage and outstretched arm of corner Nolan Carroll and fell into the lap of Adams.

For most it would’ve been the throw of a life-time, but Packers fans have been watching Rodgers throw darts just like this one for years, it’s just been awhile.

However, after almost a year of some of the worst play of his career, he seems to have finally turned the corner. Despite being 2-4 during the stretch, since Green Bay’s week 7 win in Chicago he’s been nothing short of MVP worthy:

Aaron Rodgers Since Week 7

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His increased production has come partly because of the emergence of the aforementioned Adams. Adams caught both touchdowns against the Eagles, and has caught eight in 11 games this season. Five of those coming since Rodgers turnaround in week seven.

Also during this time Adams has caught 43 passes in just six games, over seven per game, after catching only 15 the first five weeks.

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He has always been someone surrounded by expectations, and finally with his potential raging toward it’s peak, the debate between pro-Adams and pro-Jeff Janis supporters seems to be over.

Of course Rodgers wasn’t without his oldest friend and most reliable receiver against Philadelphia, Jordy Nelson, who was also very active catching eight of the 12 balls thrown his way for 91 yards.  This includes multiple third down conversions in which Nelson created a target in the open field after plays broke down.

The Packers offense as a whole proved to be in control all game, going 10 for 14 on third downs, 1 for 1 on fourth, and dominating the time of possession by an impressive 11-minute margin. The games longest, and most important drive came in the fourth quarter.

It was a 17-play, 78 yard drive that lasted eight-minutes and 21-seconds ending in a Mason Crosby field goal that put the dagger in the Eagles chances of winning. The drives most notable play was a 4th and 5 conversion in which Rodgers connected with Nelson near the sideline on a perfect back shoulder pitch-and-catch from one of the league’s most in-sync duos.

Although most of the credit for the performance, rightfully so, goes to the trio of Rodgers, Adams, and Nelson, part should be given to the dominance of the offensive line.

Coming into Monday night the Eagles defense had been suffocating at home. They were allowing under 10 points per outing and averaging four sacks per contest, while also ranking in as the third best pass rushing team in the NFL.

Due to the efforts of the Green Bay line, Philadelphia was unable to record a single sack and only managed one quarterback hit on their way to allowing their first 300 yard passer this year. Leading the way for the guys up front was again left tackle David Bakhtiari.

According to PFF, Bakhtiari graded out a 86.5 and finished 1st among all tackles for the second straight week. It was also the seventh game in which he has given up zero sacks and one hurry or less, and continues to be one of only 10 tackles that has yet to give up a quarterback hit in 2016. Every game he plays in seems to validate the contract extension he received before the season began, so I guess you can’t say Ted Thompson hasn’t done anything right recently.

Center Corey Linsley, who has filled in the past four games since starter J.C. Tretter was injured, has also been excellent. He currently ranks as the 5th overall center in the entire league, and has given up just two quarterback hurries and no quarterback hits in his temporary role.

Against the Eagles he had the tough task of stopping the interior powerhouse that is Fletcher Cox, a duty in which he succeeded in. Cox only hit Rodgers once, and it resulted in a roughing the passer penalty he earned for performing a “Clothesline from Hell” that John Bradshaw Layfield would’ve even been proud of.

Overall, the Packers scored on five of their six possessions (not including kneel-downs) and finally seemed to find an ideal rhythm in their offense. Thankfully, the defense finally decided to follow their lead.

After a first drive in which Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz went 6 of 6 for 70 yards with a drive finishing touchdown run, it looked for a moment like it was going to be the same old story for Green Bay. Then Philadelphia’s lack of depth and play-making brought in a dose of reality.

In their next six drives they only managed six points, and were ultimately held at bay. Wentz, with little help around him, never quite found the same groove as they had in drive number one.

The wheels seemed to fall off for the Philadelphia offense with a third quarter interception by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, his third of the year. Wentz airmailed a throw on the second half’s opening drive about 10 feet above his intended target and into the waiting arms of Clinton-Dix. With the Packers barely holding on to a 14-10 lead, the forced turnover the big play the Packers’ defense has been searching for all week.

Late in the fourth with the Eagles down 14,  Dom Capers began to bring the heat at the quarterback. This led to numerous big plays from Darren Sproles out of the backfield on dump-offs, but even more big plays from the Packers’ pass rush.

In Lane Johnson’s absence, the Philadelphia offensive line wore down and it was open season on Wentz. Linebackers Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, and Julius Peppers all recorded sacks in the fourth. The two latter getting them on consecutive plays.

Perry extended his team lead in sacks to eight, while Peppers reached 5.5 on the season and 141.5 for his career, tying Michael Strahan for 5th all-time.

Monday’s win sets up an interesting finish to the season for the NFC North. The Packers end 2016 with games against Houston and Seattle the next two weeks, with the final three games coming against their division rivals, two of three at home and three of five overall.

If Rodgers and company live up to his promise and win out, they could very well be looking at a playoff birth. Is it likely? No, but in The Avengers when Tony Stark is faced with a remark from Loki that he has an army capable of wiping out all of his super-friends, Stark simply states, “We have a Hulk.” Packers fans must approach the rest of the season in much of the same manner, because at the end of the day we have someone no one else does, Aaron Rodgers.