The Green Bay Packers’ disappointing 31-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday essentially ends their playoff hopes this season, given that the NFC is too hotly contested for a 7-7 record to secure a wild card spot. In a game where the Packers had plenty of chances to gain the upper hand, a few things in particular stood out:
Aaron Rodgers clearly wasn’t 100%
We all knew why this game was so hyped: the return of Aaron Rodgers, the Jedi of a quarterback who many thought would lead Green Bay to the promised land this season in spite of their countless struggles on the field. However, it’s only been eight weeks since Rodgers broke his collarbone against the Minnesota Vikings, which isn’t nearly enough time for it to fully heal, according to Ian Rapoport. Rodgers, as well as Green Bay’s coaches, trainers, and medical staff knew this, but he was adamant on returning to active play as soon as possible to give the Packers a legitimate shot at making the playoffs.
Despite Rodgers’ gamble, there was to be no magic today—no walk-off Hail Mary touchdowns, or pinpoint sideline completions thrown off of his back foot. An incredibly rusty, inaccurate Rodgers put up 290 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw three awful interceptions, and completed only 26 of his 45 pass attempts (57.8%). One of the interceptions, a deep bomb intended for Jordy Nelson, would likely have resulted in a Packers touchdown, or at least a red zone possession, had Rodgers not underthrown the ball by about a yard. This is the first time since 2009 that Rodgers has thrown three picks in a single game, and each one proved to be costly in a contest that the Packers lost by only one score.
Aaron Jones should have gotten more carries
The Packers must have anticipated Rodgers struggling at least initially in this game, since it’s natural for someone to have to gather their bearings after missing half of a season. Thus, one would have assumed that the Packers would run the ball for much of the game in order to take pressure off of Rodgers. However, Mike McCarthy definitely didn’t incorporate this into his game plan, since Rodgers threw the ball a whopping 45 times. Packers rookie running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams only received the ball a combined 13 times for just 77 yards. (Rodgers also rushed six times for 43 yards.) While Williams’ 30 rushing yards weren’t outstanding by any measure, even when one considers that he only got the ball 10 times, Jones put up 47 yards on just three carries—a 15.7-yard average. Two of those carries were in excess of 20 yards, so it’s baffling that the Packers didn’t elect to feed Jones throughout the day when he could have easily posted a 100-yard game.
Why wasn’t Thomas Davis ejected?
After Rodgers threw an interception in the third quarter, Davante Adams endured an illegal helmet-to-helmet blindside hit from Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. Adams hit the ground hard after being leveled by Davis, and was attended to on the field by Packers medical personnel. It took a couple minutes for Adams to get up, but thankfully he was able to leave the field on his own two feet. However, the hit forced Adams out of the game, and it was subsequently determined that he had endured a concussion—his second this season, and his third of the last two.
Adams suffered an even more brutal hit against the Bears in September, after Danny Trevathan’s malicious helmet-to-helmet hit knocked the Packers receiver unconscious for several minutes. Trevathan wasn’t ejected from that game, and only received a one-game suspension. Similarly, Davis stayed in the game on Sunday, and if he receives the same punishment that Trevathan did, it will be even harder to take the NFL’s already questionable commitment to preventing dangerous, blatantly dirty hits such as these seriously. Davis did appear to regret his action, as he went over to the Carolina bench and buried his face in his hands, as if he were ashamed of the hit (which was, without any doubt, late and unnecessary). Still, it shouldn’t matter whether or not he is “sorry” for taking Adams out of the game—the fact of the matter is that the hit was completely uncalled for and could have injured Adams even worse. If the League truly wishes to improve the health of its players, it needs to crack down harder – and without delay – on occurrences such as these.
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