Green Bay Packers 31 – 24 Detroit Lions

Behind yet another not only MVP level, but otherworldly god-like level, performance from Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers traveled to Detroit and laid waste to the Detroit Lions challenge in the de facto NFC North Championship game in a 31-24 victory to seal their fifth division title in six seasons. After this game, Aaron Rodgers leads the league in touchdown passes in a year where he was ‘struggling’. Haters aside, the Packers made it, 8 straight years in the playoffs.

Also, at the very top of the column, I’ll announce I’m willing to eat some crow on my earlier comments about McCarthy in the season being on his way out. Not simply for the fact he’s made the playoffs, but the manner in which he has done so. The past few weeks have involved some masterful game planning, play calling, and motivation of the team. It doesn’t excuse how bad it was earlier in the year, but man if he hasn’t pulled it outta the bag the last few games!


Keys To The Game

Rodgers: Ridiculous

While I’m aware I’ve written about him in this section a few times over the last few games, every week he just one-ups himself and makes me do it all over again. While he may not win MVP because of his weaker games earlier in the year, no quarterback in football is playing at the level Rodgers is now. The touchdown throw to undrafted standout receiver Geronimo Allison (he of the strongest twitter game) was a perfect example. On a 3rd & 9 from the lions 10 yard lion with a little over 10 minutes remaining in the game, Rodgers took the snap and evaded the pass rush twice.

Shifting the pocket over to the left hash, then rolling away from a close tackle by Lions defensive tackle Kyri Thornton to the numbers on the left side of the field. After 9 seconds (that’s right, 9, like one less than 10 full seconds) of evading the Lions rushers, he then squeezed the ball into a tiny window to Allison who was streaking across the back of the end zone for the touchdown. As our good buddy James over at Titletown Sound said on twitter as it happened, Aaron Rodgers is the only human on planet earth that could have made that play. After calling his shot about running the table, and succeeding, is there anything this man can’t do?
If our playoff success hinged only on offense I’d be willing to bet my years income on a superbowl win with Rodgers playing like this. Just spectacular.

Packers Airways – Offering Unlimited Air Miles

Time for the weekly chat about this defense. I’ll try to keep it limited (like their ability to cover in the secondary). Injuries once again ravaged the back end, losing Rollins and Randall to injury during the game. That’s not to say that they were doing well while on the field prior to their exits. Both of the 2nd year cornerbacks were giving up huge plays in soft or non-existent coverage as we have come to expect. Rollins ended up leaving the stadium and being taken to hospital following his injury, and ultimately the important thing is that we all hope he is alright, too easily lost in the emotion of being a fan is that this is a game and that’s a young dude with a life ahead of him.

Gunter, however, had another strong showing and has proven himself to be the best of the young cornerbacks on the Packers roster this season. While he sometimes struggles with those receivers who are more short area quick than fast, his make-up speed and ability to bounce back from tough plays has been remarkable and looks to be the most promising candidate moving forward. Per Mike McCarthy comments after the game, the defense late in the fourth quarter was down to 3 different defensive calls with the personnel available to them, so the 347 yards passing allowed in this game is somewhat understandable, if not excusable.

Now that week 17 is in the bag and we can look at the season rankings for this defense, yikes.
The Packers pass defense ranks as follows:
Completion % allowed: 25th (64.8%)
Total passing yards/yards per game allowed: 31st (4308 and 269 respectively)
Yards per attempt allowed: 32nd (8.1)
Opponents passer rating: 26th (95.9)
Passing TDs allowed: 29th (32)

That’s a historical level of aerial ineptitude, and it’s going to severely hamstring the team going forward into the postseason if something can’t be done. While lots of it is down to injuries, a lack of fundamentals like tackling have cost the Packers dearly in the secondary also, something hopefully the coaching staff will finally get on top of.

Non-Pro Bowl Receivers

Courtesy of two TD passes to Adams in this game, Jordy Nelson leads the league in touchdown receptions with 14, and Davante Adams is tied for 2nd (Antonio Brown, Mike Evans) with 12 more. Neither of these guys was voted into the pro bowl at the wide receiver position.

Some other receivers who are in the pro bowl and their touchdown numbers? Amari Cooper (5), AJ Green (4), T.Y Hilton (6), Larry Fitzgerald (6).

I enjoy voting for Packers in the Pro Bowl each year, but I think until the voting format is changed I’ll be boycotting it going forward. What is the point in having a pro bowl if production doesn’t matter? That’s like having an MVP discussion where it seemingly doesn’t matter if you were suspended 25% of the season for being caught cheating……wait…..that’s happening? Oh well.

Looking forward into the postseason on this front, however, with the emergence of Geronimo Allison, Jared Cook becoming truly comfortable in the offense, and the leading 2 receivers of touchdowns in the entire NFL on the same team, maybe, just maybe, the Packers will be able to overcome defensive woes and run a second table. We’ll soon find out versus the giants.

Ty Montgomery Player of the Week Award

This week the award goes to the aforementioned undrafted rookie wide receiver Geronimo Allison, who firmly announced himself to the league in this primetime Sunday night game with 4 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown in relief of the inactive Randall Cobb. Allison had a couple of crucial drive extending catches, as well as the spectacular touchdown.

The 6’ 3” tall receiver has reportedly earned Rodgers trust, a huge factor in the Packers offense that more than some others determines how many targets and chances a young receiver will get, with both teammates and coaches singing his praises for his attitude and effort on the practice field in the days leading up to the game. While he had his embarrassing moments earlier in the season (if you’re going to become famous, check your twitter), he truly seems like the kind of receiver the Packers can really turn into something special. Like a Jeff Janis who can actually run a route.

Totally-Not-Knee-Jerk Reactions

1. I’m not going to talk about Dom Capers here because I promised in last weeks column I wouldn’t. So this is me not discussing Dom Capers.

2. I think far too much is going to be made over the next week of the fact the Giants won their last two postseason games in Lambeau. While narratives from 2007 and 2011 may be easy fodder for people, they’re far less relevant than the fact that Green Bay (and, for that matter, a Green Bay team playing not nearly as well as the current incarnation) already beat the Giants this year. Yes, the Giants defense has improved throughout the season, but nowhere near to the level of the Packers offense. I like the Packers chances in this game.

3. It was excellent fun watching Ripkowski churn out ridiculous amounts of fullback yards. I think it speaks volumes that in the postgame presser Aaron Rodgers was constantly comparing him to John Kuhn. If Ripper can become a player anywhere close to what Kuhn was the Packers should have yet another super dependable rock in the backfield for the remainder of Rodgers career. That makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

4. Happy New Year to all of you who take 10 minutes out of your week to read this column! One of the best parts of 2016 was coming on board with Pack To The Future, and it’s vastly amplified my enjoyment of football, so here’s to many more!