The Green Bay Packers lost their fourth straight game in Week 8, but Aaron Rodgers was able to make plays fans haven’t seen him make all season.
A national audience watched the Packers fall 27-17 to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday Night Football. While the score indicates a closer game, the Bills were in control of from the start, scaling back their aggressive defense in the second half, allowing the Packers to move the ball a bit more offensively.
The running game was the primary focus for Green Bay. The Packers ran the ball 31 times for 208 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Aaron Jones had one of his best games of the year, putting up 143 yards on 20 carries.
With Christian Watson going down early in the game, the Packers were almost forced to establish the run. Only four healthy receivers finished out the game between Sammy Watkins, Romeo Doubs, Amari Rodgers, and Samori Toure.
Despite the lack of weapons, the film showed a different Aaron Rodgers than we’ve seen this season, making some impressive plays and being more willing to escape the pocket to make off-script plays. Pro Football Focus (not Tom Clements) gave Rodgers an 89.2 overall grade, his highest grade of the season.
Rodgers got the scoring going for the Packers with one of his better throws of the season. With the Packers just inside the red zone, Rodgers decided to take a shot with rookie Romeo Doubs in one-on-one coverage. After looking off the safety, Rodgers put some touch on his deep ball, giving the fourth-round pick an opportunity to go up and make a play.
Aaron Rodgers looked a lot more like himself yesterday.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 31, 2022
Nice job holding the safety with his eyes for a split second, then finding Doubs on a nice throw.
Fantastic catch by the rookie as well. pic.twitter.com/HTkc5NF76y
It was a great catch by the rookie, who had the worst game of his career last week against the Washington Commanders. He was able to prove himself as a receiver who can make contested catches, hauling in the touchdown and another tough play on the sideline.
With all of the injuries at WR, Rodgers is going to have to start to giving Doubs more chances.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 31, 2022
He showed twice on Sunday night that he can go up and grab it if given the chance on contested catches. pic.twitter.com/jmIEWRNmzA
Given all of the injuries at the position, Doubs has been forced to take on a larger role in the offense than expected. He’s certainly experienced some growing pains, but overall the rookie receiver has made enough flashes to suggest that he could be a long-term contributor going forward, and that has likely helped him earn the trust of Rodgers.
The biggest difference in Rodgers’ performance against the Bills was his ability to escape the pocket and make plays off-script. His ability to navigate the pocket and finds ways to either extend the play or take off downfield has been one of his strongest traits as an NFL quarterback, and it finally returned in Buffalo.
Some of the plays were easy throws, including this one to Robert Tonyan. Still, it was these kinds of plays that the Packers had been missing on offense to help keep the chains moving.
Rodgers talked about making more off-script plays last week.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 31, 2022
Good job of Rodgers escaping the pocket and holding a defender to give Tonyan a window to pick up some yards after the catch. pic.twitter.com/jApc9UJipR
The back-to-back MVP even showed off his wheels at one point, escaping the pocket and taking off downfield to pick up the first down. Coming into Buffalo, Rodgers had only managed three rushing attempts that weren’t kneel downs or aborted snaps, leading to many questions about whether or not his legs were giving out.
If Rodgers can start moving like this outside of the pocket again, the offense is going to be so much more productive going forward. pic.twitter.com/LXNHxvZ5de— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 31, 2022
That kind of play speed is not something Packers fans would have expected from Rodgers on Sunday given how little he has run the ball this year.
Easily the biggest offensive play of Sunday came from an unlikely face in seventh-round pick Samori Toure. Originally running a deep crosser, Toure read the leverage given to him by the defensive back, breaking back towards Rodgers, who had been running to the right on a designed rollout. The result was a 37-yard touchdown, the longest score of the season for Rodgers and the Packers.
If the Packers want to start making more off-script plays, then WRs need to start thinking like Samori Toure.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) October 31, 2022
Toure runs the deep crosser, realizes Rodgers is still holding onto the ball, uses the DB's outside leverage against him and cuts back inside.
Touchdown. Great play. pic.twitter.com/82w2Xnbw9T
While Matt LaFleur said afterward that the play wasn’t off-script, it was still an impressive effort from the rookie and something that could help him see additional playing time going forward.
As bad as the team has been playing lately, Rodgers looked a bit more like himself on Sunday, and if that keeps happening then the offense should be able to start moving the ball a bit more down the field.