An Offensive Masterpiece.Posted:Jan 17th, 2021 5:24 pm
You know what they always say, "offense wins championships." At least, that's what they say in the new age NFL, where dynamic offenses led by elite quarterbacks can take down even the best defenses.
But never has an offense taken down the league's best defense in more dominant fashion than the Pack did against the Rams at Lambeau. They're the first team to post 475 yards of offense, with more than 175 yards rushing and give up zero sacks and not turn the ball over against a #1 defense in the playoffs. That is offensive perfection.
Yes, I know Aaron Donald was not completely healthy. You don't tear rib cartilage and not feel it one week later. Yet he was out there and entered the game with no injury designation and Elgton Jenkins handled him with no issues. The whole offensive line did, wherever he lined up. That line allowed pressure on only 9 of 37 dropbacks, while Jared Goff faced pressure on nearly half of his.
Rick Wagner continues to handle his business. He rendered Leonard Floyd a non-factor. As I said on "Packer Review," the only time I noticed Floyd was when Rodgers broke his ankles on his way to his rushing touchdown in the second quarter. And perhaps most importantly, the line dominated the Rams' #3 rush defense from the opening snap, allowing the Pack's three-headed rushing attack to pile up 191 yards on six yards per carry.
A line playing that level would be any QB's best friend, but when that QB is Rodgers, you're not going to lose too often. It was the 13th time the Pack has put up at least 30 points. And I thought the biggest play of the game may have been the third and three catch that MVS made midway through the fourth quarter when it was a one score game. When he caught it, it looked like MVS had no chance to get the first down, but his deft footwork along the sidelines and tough effort moved the chains. Two plays later, Rodgers used play action, where he is deadly, and found Allen Lazard for the 58 yard touchdown that delivered the dagger to the Rams.
There were other huge moments: Jones' 60 yard gallop that opened the third quarter and put the Pack in the red zone where he punched it in five plays later; the 29-second scoring drive at the end of the half that pushed the lead to nine; the AJ Dillon fumble that Rodgers pounced on and advanced a few yards to keep a drive going late. Each of those were moments that stood out on a night where the Pack were otherwise solid play in and play out.
We know the defense will be tested a lot more next weekend against the Saints or Bucs, but they handled the limited Rams offense as we hoped they would. There were three scoring drives, but there were also five drives where the Rams averaged four plays per drive. When Cooper Kupp was ruled out, it took Goff's best receiver and security blanket out of the picture. I thought Goff looked much better than he did last week in Seattle, but he was never able to make a play over the top. Robert Woods' longest reception was ten yards. Once again Jaire Alexander led a talented secondary and dominated a receiver group that they should dominate. It will get tougher next Sunday.
Rashan Gary was the Pack's highest graded defender and is developing so quickly that he will allow the team to move on from Preston Smith and use those dollars to lock up one or two of their other free agents after this playoff run ends. Smith has been solid, but Gary is ready for the full time job--he was all over the field on Saturday.
Special teams continues to be a problem. The muffed snap on the first PAT caused the Pack a point and maybe a healthy Mason Crosby, who suffered either an arm or neck injury as he tried to pounce on the ball after the bad snap. He finished the game, but looked a little compromised, so we'll keep our eyes on that. JK Scott didn't have much of a chance to make a mistake since the Pack scored on its first five drives.
But the return game is still a concern and I find myself holding my breath every time a team kicks off or punts to Green Bay. Tavon Austin doesn't seem real comfortable, since fumbling in Chicago and made a bad decision not to field a punt on Saturday. And Malik Taylor has no business being a kick returner. If all the pass catchers raced, I think he'd finish just ahead of Marcedes Lewis, who's as old as Rodgers. At least he's been dependable catching it. I'd just as soon he fair catch every time he fields a kick.
So now we await the opponent: Brady or Brees. An epic matchup between first ballot Hall of Famers. Rodgers finally gets a championship game at Lambeau. And there will be fans on hand. The small crowd made a difference. We could hear it on TV and the players all talked about it after the game. Rodgers got emotional talking about what it meant to hear the fans as he ran out of the tunnel, and then the M-V-P chants late. And he got emotional talking about how special this team is and how close-knit they are.
It feels like something Super is brewing with this group. And now they get one extra day to heal and prepare for Brees or Brady next Sunday afternoon. Whichever legend gets there, he knows he'll have to be at the top of his game to outduel Rodgers in his house.
He's been waiting a long time for this.