After taking down the Dallas Cowboys behind a dominating ground-and-pound performance, Aaron Rodgers admitted, “I’ve accomplished a lot statistically in this league. I just want to win now.” It was a statement evincing a type of acceptance that he’d moved into another phase of his career, one where the Green Bay Packers’ defense and run game could get the job done. Yet the Rodgers we saw against the Raiders on Sunday looked a lot more like the guy he’s been most of his career, one who can slice apart defenses by sheer force of will.
Rodgers surgically dissected a helpless Oakland defense en route to six total touchdowns, five through the air, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating to go with his 429 yards passing. If he wasn’t in the MVP discussion before, he’s squarely there now as he lifted the Packers to a 42-24 win and a 6-1 start.
The intensity of Packers-Raiders ratcheted up even before Charles Woodson came to town, before the inactive list showed good news for the Packers receiving corps, before considering the urgency of the bye week for the Raiders or the looming trip to Kansas City for Green Bay. Patrick Mahomes dislocating his knee on Thursday night opened the door the surprising Raiders, fresh off an impressive win over the Bears in London, to announce their candidacy for AFC West leader. With the reigning MVP out at least three weeks and tough matchups with the Packers and Vikings the next two weeks, a win at Lambeau could position Jon Gruden’s team to steal their division.
Oakland came out running the ball down the Packers’ throat hoping to pry open the door to the division. A bulldozing 42-yard run from the rookie rushing leader Josh Jacobs set up a field goal, presaging a long day in the trenches for Green Bay’s defense.
But Aaron Rodgers, even without his No. 1 target Davante Adams, made sure to slam the door. The two-time MVP tossed three touchdown passes in the first half, leading the Packers to scores on three of their four first-half possessions en route to a 21-10 halftime lead.
Rodgers didn’t complete a pass to a wide receiver until midway through the second quarter, relying on backs and tight ends to move the ball down the field. Once he did, the passing game caught fire and Green Bay sliced up this suspect Raiders passing defense to the tune of 201 yards passing and a 150.3 passer rating in the first half alone.
Getting the aerial attack on track came at just the right time for the Packers with Derek Carr gashing the Green Bay defense with a masterful game plan from Gruden coming off the extra week of preparation. Darren Waller in particular got free a number of times and the Raiders looked to be in position to re-take the lead down 14-10 and less than two minutes left in the first half. But on 2nd-and-goal, Carr tried to stretch the ball across the goal line and lost it in the process. The ball caromed out of bounds and after review, the officials ruled it a fumble and Packers ball.
Rodgers engineered a seven-play 80 yard drive, culminating in a 37-yard touchdown to Jake Kumerow down the right sideline complete with a tip-toe act and booth review. A sure touchdown and the lead for the Raiders turned into a score the other way and an 11-point halftime lead for Green Bay.
Door closed with the chain locked.
Things just got silly in the second half, with the Rodgers offense rolling. On the first play of the second half, Matt LaFleur dialed up a play-action shot play to Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 59 yards to setup an eventual Rodgers scramble for the score. At that point, the Packers were inside the house laughing at the Raiders trying to get in with a 28-10 lead.
After the Raiders answered with a score, Rodgers fired right back with one of his own and it became increasingly clear that Oakland simply had no answers for a quarterback on an all-time heater. Rodgers became the fifth quarterback in NFL history to have a perfect passer rating with 400+ yards on 30+ attempts and the first ever to do it with six total touchdowns.
The fifth passing touchdown came on a third-down throw to Valdes-Scantling on an out route that would have picked up a first down, but MVS caught a block from Aaron Jones on the perimeter. From there the 4.3 speed turned an out into a 74-yard score and ended any last vestiges of doubt at 42-17.
A late Mike Glennon toss helped the aesthetics with a 42-24 final, but the game was never in doubt in the second half.
That said, Mike Pettine came into the game with an odd defensive plan, opting to play zone coverage against a Raiders offense without any legitimate threats at receiver and never put together something coherent to stop Darren Waller. Perhaps the loss of Darnell Savage looms large here and on one of the few plays Pettine played Waller with a defensive back, Kevin King picked a throw in the end zone.
Green Bay’s defense, though gashed at times by Carr and this offense, accomplished something it did most of the season: play excellent situational football. The Carr fumble shouldn’t count on their ledger, but the King interception and a fourth-and-goal stop absolutely should. The Raiders had no answers for Rodgers, so it didn’t much matter the defense blew coverages and missed tackles, but against a team like the Chiefs next week, that could come back to bite them.
On the other hand, with Rodgers dealing like a two-time MVP, and Kansas City’s MVP out, perhaps it won’t matter. The Packers find new ways to win each week, a credit to the work LaFleur and this coaching staff have done adapting to each situation. One week it’s Aaron Jones, another it’s Aaron Rodgers, and the next it’s the defense. That’s how championship teams play and after a 6-1 start complete with a demolition of the Raiders, that’s how the Packers look as October comes to a close.
Rodgers says he just wants to win. He proved on Sunday once again, he can still have as big a hand in winning as he’s ever had, no matter what the analytics say about his decline. It’s like coach who told The Athletic’s Mike Sando, “All the guys who think Rodgers dropped off don’t play him.”
Take that for data.