Keeping Rodgers upright is key to Packers victory over Bucs

Throughout the entirety of Aaron Rodgers’ career, the Hall of Fame Packers quarterback has been known for escaping the pocket and extending plays with his legs.

This year, however, Rodgers has done most of his work within the pocket. The 37-year-old quarterback had quite possibly the best season of his career while getting the ball out faster than ever before.

The result? Less hits, less sacks and more efficiency. More efficiency leads to better stats, which leads to more wins.

While getting the ball out quicker has been one reason why Rodgers has gotten hit less, some of that credit should go to the Packers offensive line – who have no less than 8 guys (when healthy) that are capable of playing in different spots since the start of the season.

The Packers only gave up 21 sacks on the season and were one of the highest-graded pass blocking offensive lines according to Pro Football Focus.

Between the solid play of the offensive line, and an increased efficiency for Rodgers, the Packers have controlled the NFC for much of the year and now have a play-in game for a chance to go to only the second Super Bowl of Rodgers’ career.

Standing in the way of the Super Bowl is the team that rattled this Rodgers and the offensive line the most this season: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs sent various pressures and confused the offensive line and Rodgers in a 38-10 victory over the visitors in green and yellow. In that game, which was the worst of the season for Rodgers and the Packers, the MVP favorite was sacked three times against the blitz and threw two interceptions.

Obviously that game happened three months ago. Since that game, Rodgers and the boys up front haven’t allowed a sack off a blitz pressure for the entirety of the rest of the season.

So, can the Packers keep it up and dominate up front like they did for the majority of the season and against the Rams over the weekend? Or will we see Todd Bowles and the Buccaneers defense dial up new looks and pressures that will give Rodgers and the big fellas trouble?

I think the confidence level should be high for the Packers. The only thing I’m concerned about is this exact question.

If the offensive line can keep Rodgers upright and he can stay efficient, there should be no problems on Sunday afternoon. However, that’s a big “if.”

Can’t wait to see how it shakes out.

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Gunnar Davis is a lifelong Packers fan and a recent graduate of Simpson College, where he was a 3-year letterwinner on the offensive line and graduated with a degree in multimedia communications. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gunnar57Davis.

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