The age-old adage involves playing clean football by cleaning up any penalties and not committing any turnovers – and for the Green Bay Packers, their dominant offense and improving defense can help play into those two simple elements quite easily on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
For quarterback Aaron Rodgers, his pinpoint accuracy this season has been based on the clean pocket that the offensive line has helped create around him, oftentimes keeping him so clean that his jersey could be hung right back up in the locker room for the next game. A clean QB means an efficient QB and one that is able to go through all of his reads and survey the defense, exactly what has helped Rodgers reclaim his MVP form.
In the regular season, it was David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Corey Linsley, Lucas Patrick, and Billy Turner manning the OL for the vast majority of the time – but with the unfortunate ACL injury that Bakhtiari suffered, the spotlight has been put on the two tackles, as Turner has slid out to LT to replace 69 and Rick Wagner takes Turner’s old spot at RT.
This unit has been incredibly solid all across the board, but the emergence of both Turner and Wagner as the unit’s bookends has been the cherry on top and a much-needed development, especially for Rodgers. While having a dominant OL certainly has helped with carrying out head coach Matt LaFleur’s zone-running scheme through the three-headed monster of Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and rookie AJ Dillon, the biggest beneficiary still remains AR.
Ever since their Week 6 drubbing at the hands of the Buccaneers, when they threw everything and the kitchen sink at Rodgers through the pass rush and forced two of his five interceptions on the year, the Green Bay offense has been stellar in keeping their MVP upright and on his feet, letting him surgically tear defenses apart on a weekly basis.
Sacked only 20 times, the lowest amount in his career in a season that he played in at least 15 games, Rodgers was able to use a clean pocket to his advantage, posting the third-highest 1st down percentage on his throws and the second-best QB rating in his career as well. This also was the 14th season that Rodgers threw single-digit interceptions and the fourth year he kept it at five or under in a slate of 15+ games.
But keeping the game clean also relies on the defense’s help too, as they will be tasked with keeping Tom Brady and the Tampa offense on its heels and off the field, putting the ball back in the hands of the GB offense. Keeping it clean for Green Bay means keeping it unclean for the opposition, which means getting to Brady with a focused, four-or-five man rush, all the while helping to bottle up the running game.
Keeping it clean also means not committing any silly penalties, which GB has been pretty good at doing but can easily slip up at times. If defensive holding and pass interference penalties can be kept to a minimum or at zero, then that bodes well for the defense not giving away free points.
By not putting the GB offense in bad situations (i.e. poor field position, early/large deficits), the defense can help control the flow and tempo of Sunday’s game, which is all that can be asked of. If the defense looks even remotely as efficient as it did when facing the Rams, then the Bucs will be in for a long afternoon and night.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23