“I like our chances because no one is giving us any.” The Packers entered this week’s game against the NFC’s best team missing Za’Darius Smith, Jaire Alexander, Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, David Bakhtiari, MVS, and even Joe Barry. Vegas didn’t give them a chance — by game time the Cardinals were favored by almost a touchdown. Talking to Erin Andrews before the game, Aaron Rodgers knew better. Here’s your Green Bay Vs. Arizona game recap.
The best Packers’ offenses over Aaron Rodgers’ time in Green Bay have been forces of nature. In 2011, 2014, and 2020 the team did whatever it wanted. If they wanted to hit play action deep shots, they did. If they wanted to run the ball, they did. If they wanted to pick a player on the opposing defense and pick on him the whole game, they did. So far in 2021, this offense is a counterpunch offense. And that’s OK.
The Packers ran the ball down the Bear’s throats with power and counter. They used constant chip blocks and quick throws against the 49ers and Steelers. They threw the ball to Davante a thousand times in each game that he wasn’t double covered.
Without their best offensive lineman and their second best offensive lineman and second best wide receiver in most games, the offense has evolved to take what the defense gives it.
Coming into this game, the Cardinals defense was one of the best against the pass and very boom or bust against the run. Their run d either gave up 5 or more yards or got a tackle for loss on most plays and their best tackler for loss (JJ Watt) was out.
Without the team’s best three wide receivers, the game plan for Green Bay was easy. Run the damn ball. Outside of a few extraordinarily frustrating goalline plays, they stuck to it the whole game. The team’s 151 rushing yards almost matched the passing total of 184 and it led to winning the time of possession battle 37:35 to 22:25.
They couldn’t have done it without the defense though.
This year’s defense hasn’t quite hit its stride (and how could it with so many players missing). But there’s a lot to like and be optimistic about.
They clog the middle with defensive tackles and widen the edges out to stop the run. They let everything develop in front of them and then rally to tackle better than any Packers defense in at least the last ten years. They have several guys who can pressure the quarterback. They disguise coverages without blowing them four times a game.
That type of defense doesn’t necessarily lead to a lot of excitement week to week, but it was the perfect recipe for the Cardinal’s streetball-like approach to offense.
Playing without his star wide receiver for most of the game, Kyler Murray clearly had his worst outing of the season. He threw two picks against no touchdowns. Took two bad sacks. And his completion percentage was 8% lower than his season average despite completing several screens.
The Packers managed to slow down one of the league’s MVP favorites season to date while also being stout in the run game. The Cardinals averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and didn’t have a single explosive run on the night.
Onto Kansas City
On a night where the offense and defense played better than most expected, the Packers still needed a Rasul Douglas miracle interception to come away with the win.
If the Packers had lost, a bad drop by Juwan Winfree late in the second quarter, several plays where Josiah Deguara had no clue what was happening before the snap, possibly De’Vondre Campbell’s first bad missed tackle of the season, Rashan Gary not setting and edge, and horrific goalline play calling would be burned into Packers fans brains.
It’s certainly true that this team is capable of winning the super bowl — they just knocked off the only unbeaten team while missing even starters — but they also have work to do. Oh and if the Tonyan injury is serious, Brian Gutekunst should be calling Bill Belichick right now to trade for Jonnu Smith.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.