Make no mistake about it, Clay Matthews is still a superstar and an essential part of this team. With that being said, Mike Daniels is the best defensive player on the Green Bay Packers. He has become an absolutely disruptive force on the defensive line. As good as he is as a pass-rusher, I’m not so sure that he isn’t even better in run defense. Daniels and Letroy Guion were absolutely man-handling the Viking’s offensive line. Throughout the first half, they had complete control of Adrian Peterson, allowing him only 14 yards on 11 carries before Peterson left the game with an injury.
Thomas is making this list for the second week in a row. There is no one on the Green Bay Packers right now who has made a bigger jump from 2015 than Joe Thomas. While the inside linebacker group as a whole played considerably better this week than last, it is Thomas who is leading the group. He looks comfortable playing in Capers’ defense. He’s quick, taking good angles to the ballcarrier, and making tackles. He’s playing with the sort of instinct that you want to see from the position.
Often relegated to the Dime linebacker role, Capers needs to find a way to get Thomas on the field even more. Although Blake Martinez and Jake Ryan have played well so far, Thomas has outplayed them both.
Joe Thomas is just a different dude this year. https://t.co/Mu6PBNp4A8
— Aaron Nagler (@AaronNagler) September 19, 2016
This offense went missing when Jordy went down with that knee injury before the 2015 season even began. Now Jordy has returned while the rest of the offense is still lost. The running game is sputtering, the passing game is largely MIA, but Jordy is still getting open and making catches when given the chance. We all wanted to blame the offensive woes on the loss of Jordy, but here he is back and seemingly the same as ever, and yet the problems persist.
There were a few individual defensive performances which stunk last night, but as a whole Capers’ unit was playing at a high level. This is a defense with serious potential. If someone had told you that the Packers would go out and only give up 17 points on the road against a divisional opponent you would have assumed that Rodgers and Co. could have handled that spread easily. That’s not to count the two turnovers given up by Rodgers, as well. The bottom line is that, so far, this defense looks improved from last year, but, like last year, I fear that the offense will waste a lot of good performances.
It looks like we were wrong. Rodgers has not regained his rhythm. In fact, Rodgers played the worst game of his NFL career on Sunday night. He was inaccurate, sometimes wildly so. He turned the ball over twice on potentially game-winning drives. He was lucky that he did not throw two more picks. He fumbled three times. Rodgers was dancing around the pocket like a scared rookie, rolling out toward pressure, running into sacks, etc. It was ugly. TJ Lang expressed some very understandable frustration with QB1 and his hesitation and jitters in the pocket.
Anyone who watched the game will have noticed how many passes Rodgers missed. The narrative that the receivers just aren’t getting open may have been true last year, but it was not the case on Sunday. Guys are getting open and Rodgers is missing them. He’s missing them deep. He’s throwing behind his receivers. He’s throwing balls into the dirt.
It very much seems like Rodgers has the yips. He seems to be out of sync, lacking confidence, and abandoning fundamentals in an effort to dig himself out of the hole. He’s used to pulling things out of nowhere by extending plays with his feet. Now this seems to be the only thing that he’s comfortable doing, and it’s hurting the offense. Gone is his steady pocket presence. Now Rodgers is relying on moving around outside of the pocket on every single play, and not just when protection breaks down. He’s throwing off his back foot rather than stepping up confidently and making the throw.
Most important for Rodgers, however, is how he deals with the adversity. His body language has gone full-Cutler. Rather than using his discouragement as fuel for lighting a fire under his own backside, he’s looking disheveled and lost. Quick to bark out the mistakes of his linemen or receivers, Rodgers needs to own up to this one being primarily on him. Maybe this is an issue that can be solved with more reps in the preseason. Maybe Rodgers needs to return to fundamentals drills. All of that is for McCarthy to figure out, but it’s clear that the work for next week needs to begin with QB1 rather than everyone around him.
Last week I highlighted the great opportunity that Randall had this weekend playing in front of a national audience as CB1 against superstar-in-the-making Stefon Diggs. I guessed that Randall was ready to seize the opportunity and take the next step toward becoming a Pro-Bowl caliber player. I was wrong; he wasn’t.
Diggs exploded for 182 yards and 1 TD. Most of those receptions were accomplished by leaving Randall in the dust. It’s clear from his performance on Sunday night that Randall has a long way to go before being a lock-down starter for the Packers. Randall still seems to possess the tools to get there, but he’ll have to learn from his many mistakes on Sunday. One thing is clear: the Packers need Sam Shields to get back on the field and stay healthy.
It was less than two weeks ago that McCarthy was defending himself against accusations that he’s an overly conservative coach. It’s almost as if he had this in mind when he elected to forgo kicking a game-tying field goal in the third quarter. Why one declines to take the game-timing points on the road against a divisional opponent, I do not know. I could understand if the Packers offensive had been running up and down the field all game, scoring at will, but they had exactly 7 points to show for almost three complete quarters of football. Add to that the fact that the defense was playing fairly well, and the decision makes almost no sense.
Moreover, if you’re going to go for it on 4th and 2, pound the rock with your big back. Bring in Lacy and play to your strengths. Instead, McCarthy ran the ball out of the shotgun with Starks. Mike is overthinking things. Not all gambles are equal and not all teams are Black Jack Del Rio’s Oakland Raiders. The Packers were a Super Bowl favorite who have a lot to lose. Take your points, tie up the game, and get back on defense.
There were a lot of bad calls on Sunday night, particularly in regard to pass interference. The Packers got bailed out a number of times on ticky-tacky calls. They also suffered perhaps the worst call of the night against Damarious Randall, essentially ending the game by giving the Vikings a first down on their final drive. It was a bad call, but the Packers had it coming. And it’s not exactly like the best team lost the game.——————
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.