*This will be a weekly post with updates after each game based on performance.*
Make no mistake, the Cowboys are one of the best teams in the NFC. The Packers went on the road, down a left tackle, running back, outside corner and managed to topple one of the most potent offenses in the league. But there is a more important story to come out of this.
The Rodgers ‘clutch’ narrative should be put to bed. Not just because of this game (though it helped a lot) but the shear fact that the Packers simply don’t trail teams often enough for it to matter. Based on the number of games where a 4th quarter comeback was a realistic possibility (less than 10 points) based on game flow, the Packers haven’t had that many opportunities to comeback post Super Bowl XLV. The Packers had 2 opportunities to do it in 2016 in the regular season (at Atlanta and at Minnesota week 2). 2015 was an anomaly, since the offense was a wreck, but the Packers had 4 opportunities to comeback (at Carolina, vs Detroit, vs Chicago, and vs Minnesota). 1 opportunity to do it in 2014 (at Buffalo). Twice in 2013 (at San Francisco and at Cincinnati…noticing a theme?). I’m arguing 0 opportunities in 2012 (missed field goal at Indianapolis, Rodgers put them in a position to tie). 1 opportunity in 2011 (at Kansas City). Of the opportunities in the last 6 seasons, the Packers had 10 of a possible 96 games in which they could comeback, and more than half of them were on the road. It is a testament to both how good the offense has been and how dominant the Packers have been that so few opportunities were presented.
Stepping off my soap box, let’s take a look at how the roster shakes out heading into Minnesota next week.
(Parenthesis) denotes last week’s rank.
The “Super Bowl or Bust” Group
1. (1) Aaron Rodgers – Aaron Rodgers is not human. Nothing more needs to be said.
2. (2) Mike Daniels – Daniels was definitely still a bit hobbled from his injuries, but he still had a solid showing. 3 tackles in 51 of 74 snaps, he moved the pocket when he needed to, and made tackles in the run game. All you can ask for with a guy battling injury.
3. (3) David Bakhtiari – Taylor has been able to sub in admirably the last 2 weeks at left tackle, but they need Bakhtiari back next week against the Vikings. Better front 7’s will expose a guard playing left tackle (see Arizona 2015).
4. (4) Jordy Nelson – It’s funny to say that Nelson had a quiet day having scored a touchdown, but alas, Nelson has been linchpin week in and week out. He was out for the final drive, but it didn’t really show. The Packers still operate better with him on the field.
5. (7) Davante Adams – Wow. 10 days before this one, we were concerned if Davante Adams would ever play again, let alone be available the next week. That leap and body control were terrific on the final play. He’s never going to be a consistent deep threat given his nominal play speed, but his cuts are absolutely vicious and will make himself open. Look for him to dominate on third downs and in the red zone. The Packers might start talking about extension after this game, and they should do it quickly. Adams is going to demand a mint if he hits free agency.
6. (6) Nick Perry – The strip sack to end the half was crucial. The Cowboys were moving the ball at will, and needed something to swing momentum. The club is still effecting his play a bit, but he still was able to manage a sack and a QB bit against a top tier offensive line. To do what he did against Tyron Smith is exactly why the Packers paid him this offseason.
7. (5) Clay Matthews – A tackle for loss, a pass defended, and 5 tackles for Matthews against the regining top offensive line is nothing to shake a stick at. He played a lot more coverage in this one and looked right at home. This may be something to look at moving forward if the pass rushers get healthy.
8. (8) Bryan Bulaga – Bulaga was clearly still limited in this one, but his presence was still felt in the passing game. He just throws rushers outside a lot easier than the backups. The Lawrence sack wasn’t on Bulaga, as Rodgers held on to the ball too long. Bulaga just has a better feel and chemistry with Rodgers, and it showed down the stretch.
9. (9) Lane Taylor – Taylor isn’t a left tackle, and was a bit outmatched in this one. He got beat a few times, and was responsible for a sack and a QB hit. He did however set the tone in the running game, and allowed Jones to find gaps and get to the second level a few times. He was never going to be great as a pass blocker, but he did just enough and bolstered running plays. Above all else, he’s a mauler. The Packers game-planned for that, and it worked out very well. Also, whatever they are paying James Campen – triple it.
10. (11) Morgan Burnett – If there was a position for ‘does everything you ask of him and does it extremely well’ in the Pro Bowl, Burnett would be the leading vote getter by a country mile. He played slot corner, he played ILB, he played well. I still think they need to move him to safety now and again to try and force turnovers, and free up Jones a bit more. Given injuries, I’m not sure how that will work. He didn’t play at all in the 4th quarter, and it was apparent. The Cowboys moved the ball methodically down the field, and ate up almost all of the clock.
The “Better Luck Next year” Group
11.(10) Kenny Clark – He had 5 tackles, dominated at the point of attack, and all against the best offensive line in football from last year. I cannot wait to see Clark and Daniels against the Vikings
12. (16) Jahri Evans – He’s been a rock for this offensive line. He’s not a terrific pass blocker, but he has held up well in this regard. He is a running specialist, and it showed in Dallas. Jones had all day to run through Dallas’ depleted front 7, and the run late in the game went right through Evans. While Lang is playing superbly in Detroit, Evans is the better bang for the buck right now.
13. (14) Corey Linsley – He’s been underrated in the run blocking, but borderline bad in the pass protection. He routinely snapped the ball short in shotgun snaps. Since the Packers run predominately out of shotgun, this needs to be fixed. That being said, since the run game helped win this game, and he’s playing with 2 new guards next to him, he gets a pass. He needs to tighten it up before next weeks game – Linval Joseph will eat his lunch.
14.(20) Martellus Bennett – This. This was EXACTLY why you brought him in. The reception and run after the catch on the last drive was superb. He had the wherewithal to keep his head on a swivel, evade a would be tackler, and knife out of bounds to stop the clock after 14 yards and a first down. That drive doesn’t happen without Bennett’s reception and run after the catch. He was also a monster as a blocker. If he strings together these kind of performances, this offense will be unstoppable.
15. (21) Blake Martinez – I will first say this – the defensive line is freeing up the linebackers to make plays. However, Martinez is flying around the ball in the running game. 12 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and a pass defended. For all that has been made about the Packers ILB’s, he is quelling a lot of those concerns. He might just be their best run defender.
16. (17) Josh Jones – Jones had a quiet day in a limited 38 snaps. Had 3 tackles, but no real impact outside of that. If Burnett can’t go this week, he will get a ton of playing time.
17. (16) Randall Cobb – Cobb looked a little slow in this one. Couldn’t really get anything going in his 4 catches, amounting only 29 yards. The offense still needs a dynamic threat, and he is the best bet. He just needs to find some room to operate.
18. (18) Ahmad Brooks – This is exactly how the Packers envision the rotation operating. Perry and Matthews getting the lions share of the reps, with Brooks and Fackrell subbing in as needed. In 23 snaps, Brooks has 2 tackles and a QB hit. He’s fine depth at this point.
19. (13) HaHa Clinton-Dix – Simply put, Clinton-Dix needs to play better. This doesn’t seem like a 2016 Pro-Bowler. He’s taking terrible angles on tackles and he’s been out of position multiple times. With new players on defense and rookies alike, it makes their jobs more difficult having their free safety be out of position and missing tackles (badly). He needs to clean it up. He has all the talent in the world to crack this top 10 or even top 5. He hasn’t shown it at all this year.
20. (10) Ty Montgomery – I still think Ty is the starter when he comes back. He is a bigger body, offers a true weapon in the passing game, but Jones played extremely well.
The “Average Starter, Important Rotation/Reserves” Group
21. (31) Aaron Jones – He was great. Quick to read the defense, great vision to read his blocks, and has a quick burst to hit the hole. He doesn’t have great breakaway speed, but in this offense, he doesn’t need to. He just needs to be able to get 4 yards or more. He will definitely be in line for more carries going forward, as the Packers best option between the tackles. They have a helluva 1-2 punch between these 2 when Montgomery comes back.
22. (23) Dean Lowry – I’ve said it and I’ll keep saying it. The DL is opening up lanes for the linebackers to make plays. Lowry certainly hasn’t lit up the stat sheet, but taking on blockers, eating double teams, he is doing a lot of dirty work. 1 tackle and 1 QB hit in 29 snaps is not terrible for a DL in this defense.
23. (19) Kevin King – King was knocked out early in the contest, but had a nice tackle for loss early. I was excited to see what he could do against Bryant, but the health of this team can’t be relied on. Hopefully he isn’t out long.
24. (24) Davon House – No easy task being line up against Bryant, kept everything in front of him and allowed only short yardage chunks. With King out and Burnett missing time, that’s about all you can ask.
25 (26). Kentrell Brice – Had a nice defended pass, and a few tackles in the contest. He’s definitely limited in coverage, but he offers solid depth for the position.
26. (27) Josh Hawkins – Ok, it’s time to start playing Josh Hawkins. Last week in Chicago, he showed that he can at least keep up with NFL WR’s (loose term there). This week he played well against one of the leagues best. If you are going to be without Burnett in the slot, why not? This should be a no brainer. He should be playing more than 1/3 of the snaps.
27. (28) Lance Kendricks – 1 catch 24 yards. He has this ability to run the seem a lot like Cook could. This is how the Packers envisioned using their TE’s at the start of the season. Chunks of yards at a time, keep a solid rotation, help on run downs. It’s proving invaluable.
28.(25) Kyler Fackrell – I saw nothing from Fackrell against a solid offensive line. He was outsnapped by everyone except Odom, and had nothing to show for it. When Biegel returns (which is soon!) I can’t see him getting much playing time with a healthy Perry, Matthews, Brooks combo.
29. (22) Geronimo Allison – 13 snaps, no catches on 2 targets. This corps outside of Nelson and Adams will be a bit hard to predict, especially with their TE depth. I don’t really expect them to need Allison week in and week out, but he’s solid depth.
30. (29) Aaron Ripkowski – 1 rush for 2 yards in 7 snaps. He just isn’t being used much.
The “Reserves and Below Average Starters”
31. (30) Mason Crosby – 1 extra point, sure. 2? Inexcusable. He was 93.6% on extra points last year, and 86.7% on field goals under 40 yards, so I don’t anticipate this being a problem going forward, but the Packers can’t afford these kind of mistakes in games this big.
32. (31). Justin McCray – The Packers rolled with basically 5 guards last week, and McCray has been a mauler. Jones had all day to run, and a lot of it had to do with McCray basically being a people mover. He’s been fine as a RT and has been good as a guard. The Packers should consider trading him. Everyone could use a versatile OL piece, and considering the line looks like it is finally getting healthy, there really isn’t much to lose. Seriously, James Campen, does Aaron Rodgers provide regular dinners for you and your crew? ‘Cause you’re working overtime.
33. (42) Demarious Randall – He…played…fine. Yes, he gave up the touchdown to Bryant, but he should have never been matched up with him in the first place. Blame Dom there. His touchdown was the shift in momentum the Packers needed, and he had another pass defended as well. The Randall roller coaster can be frustrating, I grant you that, but he has talent and offers some value to the team, he just needs to keep his cool.
34. (33) Jake Ryan – Last year, I would have said he was the teams’ best ILB. This year, he’s almost an afterthought. 37 snaps, 7 tackles in that time, but he just hasn’t impressed much in those snaps. At this point, it is the Martinez show, featuring the hybrid safeties at ILB.
35. (34) Quinton Dial – In the run game, Qial is a people eater and mover, opening up linebackers to make plays and doesn’t light up the stat sheet. In pass rushing scenarios, he is entirely a flail-er. Doesn’t push the pocket, doesn’t really have any moves. At this point, that’s fine. The Packers need good run stuffers, but they need to get some push up front.
36. (35) Marwin Evans – Limited usage for Evans, but if Burnett is out long, he will get more playing time. Nothing to show for his 3 snaps though.
37. (36) Justin Vogel – Vogel’s field changing punt and Janis’ tackle in the open field led to a longer field for Dallas (which turned into Randall’s pick 6).
38. (37) Brett Hundley – Didn’t play in this one.
39. (38) Richard Rodgers – 1 catch for 16 yards, and it was a good one. He’s been fairly quiet this season but he’s got arguably the most dependable hands on the team.
40. (44) Quinten Rollins – Rollins got a lot more playing time with the injuries to King and Burnett. He had the most tackles of CBs, but didn’t really do much in the passing game. Still think he is buried in the depth chart.
The “Special Teamers and Cut Candidates”
41. (40) Ricky Jean-Francois – 7 Snaps and nothing to show for it. I’m not really sure if he’s around when Biegel returns soon.
42. (46) Jeff Janis – Boy, that tackle in the open field in the 4th quarter was beautiful. Other than that, crickets.
43. (41) Jamaal Williams – Healthy did not play. Safe to say after Jones’ breakout game, he won’t be used much anymore.
44. (39) Lucas Patrick – Another healthy, did not play. He’s pretty well buried on the depth chart when Bakhtiari returns.
45. (44) Chris Odom – Inactive, did not play.
46. (45) Joe Thomas – Inactive, did not play.
47. (47). Trevor Davis – Cowboys punted once for no return. No work for Davis today.
48. (48) Taybor Pepper – Not great, Bob. He was clearly at fault for the 2nd extra point. Hopefully this is just rust, but not a great look.
49.(49) Ulrick John – Health, did not play. Telling that they continue to go with a guard at tackle how they feel about their depth here.
50. (50). Adam Pankey – Inactive, did not play.
51. (51) Montravius Adams – Inactive, did not play.
52. (52) Davante Mays – Healthy, did not play. Can’t see him playing at all this year.
53. (53) Lenzey Pipkins – Inactive, did not play.
The “Injury & Suspension” Group
Vince Biegel – SOON.