The Green Bay Packers finished the season with a 13-3 record, winning their division and taking home the NFC North. It was an impressive year for Aaron Rodgers, who led his team to a Super Bowl appearance after two years of being sidelined due to injury. Despite that success story though, there is still uncertainty as to whether or not this upcoming season will provide enough gains for them to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in February 2019.
The “packers news” is a story about how the Green Bay Packers are still not out of the NFC North race. Aaron Rodgers, Matt LaFleur, and the Packers are still in it with a chance to win. The team has been inconsistent this season which leaves room for doubt on whether they will go on to win the Super Bowl.
The Green Bay Packers are 11-3, the NFC North champions, and the top seed in the NFC, coming off a victory against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 15. It’s difficult, but not impossible, to criticize the Packers right now.
Green Bay’s ultimate aim is to win the Super Bowl, but the Packers still have some serious problems to work on if their “final dance” season is to culminate in a title.
The Green Bay Packers have a major weakness: Special Forces Units
Forcing the #Packers special teams to make a play, even if it’s as simple as catching the football, is solid strategy at this juncture. Every kickoff isn’t a pop up, I’m surprised.
December 19, 2021 — Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood)
This season, and really, during Matt LaFleur’s career in Green Bay, the Packers have been dreadful on special teams.
Maurice Drayton, the special teams coordinator, is on the hot seat in Green Bay. Most Packers supporters want him fired immediately, and if firing a coordinator in the closing weeks of the regular season made sense for a playoff-bound club, the Packers would have plenty of justification to remove the first-year special teams coach.
Aside from Mason Crosby’s mind-boggling problems, special teams have been a nightmare at every step this season.
Against the Ravens, it was once again evident. Head coach John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens saw a hole in the Packers’ matchup and exploited it to the best of his abilities. The Packers, on the other hand, are rather adept at causing havoc on special teams on their own.
A fair catch interference, a pop-up kick-off that Green Bay sloppily and barely recovered, and a delay of game penalty on the punt team followed by a short punt with the Packers on their nine-yard line were among the lowlights versus Baltimore. With 2:30 remaining in the game, the Packers were clinging to a slim lead. The Ravens regained possession of the ball on Green Bay’s 49-yard line and went on a game-tying or game-winning touchdown drive.
Despite how outstanding Green Bay’s offense and defense have been, the Packers’ special teams have been awful enough to cost them a game in the playoffs. The key question now is how the Packers will address the issue at this stage in the season.
It’s possible they won’t be able to.
The Packers are having trouble stopping the run once again.
In the fourth quarter, Baltimore Ravens #2 Tyler Huntley attempts to scramble away from the Green Bay Packers defenders | Getty Images/Patrick Smith
The fact that Kenny Clark was on the reserve/COVID-19 list may have exacerbated the problem versus Baltimore, but it should be remembered that the Packers were swiss cheese against the run in Week 15. On the ground, they gave up 143 yards to the Ravens.
This has been a problem for Green Bay’s defense in recent seasons, but first-year defensive coordinator Joe Barry has done an excellent job of filling in some of the gaps. Clark has been an All-Pro at both providing pressure and blocking up running lanes, while De’Vondre Campbell has been a huge part of Green Bay’s turnaround fighting against the run.
It’ll be fascinating to see whether merely reintroducing Clark into the lineup will get the Packers back on track, but even he would have struggled to stop Baltimore backup quarterback Tyler Huntley on Sunday.
Huntley isn’t Lamar Jackson, but the Ravens chose him as their backup because he’s a quarterback who is quite comparable to Jackson. When Huntley is able to go out and pass on the run or make a defense pay for losing him on the edges, he has the biggest effect. The Packers gave up 73 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to Huntley because they couldn’t hold him in check when the play broke down and went off schedule.
Slowing down a running quarterback has always been an issue for Green Bay, dating back to the 2002 playoffs when Michael Vick went all over Lambeau Field to stun the Packers.
That trend has to worry LaFleur and Barry, especially with an NFC playoff picture that includes players like Kyler Murray, Taysom Hill, and Dak Prescott, who could all damage the Packers with their legs if they meet in the playoffs.
When it counts, can Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers commit to the run?
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) reacts after failing to convert on third down | Rob Carr/Getty Images
With one of the finest quarterbacks of all time at the helm, it must be difficult, but the Packers are at their best on offense when they strike a balance between rushing and tossing the ball.
This is a particularly amusing problem for the Packers since Rodgers is so talented that it’s simple for LaFleur to choose to put the ball in his hands in a pinch. It also makes it easier for Rodgers to play “hero ball” when running the ball and burning the clock is sometimes the greatest option.
That was most obvious against the Ravens at the conclusion of the game, when relying on Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon to finish the job almost cost the Packers the game.
With 4:47 remaining in the game, the Ravens scored a touchdown to make the score 31-24. With less than five minutes to play, the Packers still had a seven-point advantage and the ball. If there was ever a moment to rely heavily on Jones and Dillon to close out a game, it was now.
On the first play, the Packers did give the ball off to Jones, but he was stuffed for no gain. Instead of going back to the well to burn the clock or at the very least force Baltimore to spend some of its timeouts, the Packers responded with two consecutive passing plays. Rodgers was forced to take off and scramble for five yards on the opening drive, which was a botched play from the start. Rodgers dropped back on the second play, got rushed, and was sacked for a loss of nine yards.
On one series, the Packers went three plays for nine yards, burned 2:23 off the clock, and didn’t take a single timeout from Baltimore.
On the ensuing drive, the Ravens grabbed the ball back and scored a touchdown. The Packers would have lost the game if Harbaugh hadn’t decided against tying the game and the Ravens hadn’t failed on the two-point conversion.
The fact is that the Packers are all too acquainted with the aforementioned pattern.
In the darkest stages of the game, LaFleur and Rodgers prefer to forsake the run. Whether it’s a result of their desire to make a big play or just a lack of patience, it’s a pattern that may have cost them the game against Baltimore. It’s also possible that it’ll come back to bite the Packers in the playoffs.
Overall, the Packers are undoubtedly the greatest club in the league, as well as the best in the NFC. With that said, the Super Bowl is not always won by the greatest team.
Yes, chance has a role, but postseason games are decided by little moments, choices, and matchups.
The Packers should be considered a favorite to win it all coming into the playoffs, but even a top-tier club like Green Bay might lose a playoff game due to weaknesses like the ones listed above.
ESPN and Pro Football Reference provided the statistics. Spotrac provides contract information.
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