Recap: Packers Passing Offense Is Great, Rushing Offense Is Not

It's easy to blame the Green Bay Packers offensive line for failing to run block, as a few short yardage conversion attempts were stuffed when defenders slashed their way into the backfield and stood up the Packer lineman. But QB Aaron Rodgers couldn't have put together his monster game through the air, and on his scrambles too, if they weren't doing their job in pass protection. All the receivers played great as they caught everything catchable that came their way, and ran for a bunch of yards after the catch. The biggest thing that held the offense back was bad field position as the special teams had an awful game. Seven of their nine drives started inside the 20 yard line.

Four Quarters

One of the few mistakes Rodgers made was when he didn't run quite far enough on his 3rd down scramble to cross the marker. On their next possession, they went 81 yards in 9 plays only to settle for a field goal. The drive ends on the first of many stuffed 3rd and short conversion attempts (RB Dimitri Nance at the 4 yard line). The offensive line did a great job in pass protection as they only allowed 1 sack, 1 QB hit, and gave Rodgers plenty of time to throw. The offensive line did a terrible job on running plays as they constantly allowed defenders into the backfield.

The Packers opened up the second quarter with a five receiver set and a big play to WR Brett Swain, as the Falcons gambled on the blitz and Rodgers threw to the area the blitzing defender vacated. This was, unfortunately, the second 80+ yard drive of the game that did not get into the end zone as Rodgers fumbled on the goal line. I hated the play call, a quarterback sneak when the offensive line isn't keeping defenders out of the backfield, and it's a good way to get Rodgers hurt. Mike McCarthy said "he hit his funny bone" which caused the fumble. Over 160 yards of offense and only 3 points to show for it: a big reason for the 3 point loss. 

The first drive of the third quarter started with 14 yards passing and no first down, due to the 6 yard loss by RB Brandon Jackson. While he's not a very good runner, it was the offensive line that let him down. They were doubling up on defensive lineman, while other defenders flew into gaps unblocked. When they got the ball back, Rodgers hit WR Greg Jennings and WR Jordy Nelson for a couple of long pass plays that set up his 1 yard TD run. 

As the fourth quarter started, they started at their 7 yard line, after a bad return and penalty, and even though they ran the ball a little (Jackson got 16 of his 26 yards this drive), they still had to throw twice for one yard and failed to convert as the last pass was just beyond WR Donald Driver's reach. Then another long drive (the last one for 90 yards) as Rodgers zipped a touchdown pass to Nelson when the offensive line (great pass blocking version) gave him all sorts of time to throw. There was a final stat padding 35 yard pass to Jennings with only 2 seconds left.

Individual Analysis

QB Aaron Rodgers. He had a critical fumble (on a stupid play call), but that was the only blemish on a fantastic game (344 yards passing on only 35 attempts, along with 51 yards rushing). 

Offensive line. Fantastic in pass protection, dreadful at run blocking. They weren't going to winning the game on the ground, but it was their worst showing in run blocking this season. Yet, they were nearly perfect in pass protection (the lone sack by DE John Abraham was a coverage sack). 

WR Jordy Nelson. I had written him off since the return of Driver, but instead Mike McCarthy has opened up his playbook with more multiple receiver sets and he had his best game of the season. He had an amazing catch for a first down that he grabbed off his shoe tops, and then had a fantastic touchdown catch to tie the game. 

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