How do you stop an oncoming train?
Last season Rodgers had one of the greatest seasons of any quarterback in NFL history, throwing 45 touchdown passes to just six interceptions, racking up 4,643 yards and a completion percentage of 68.3 percent. He finished with a quarterback rating of 122.5. Rodgers’ quarterback rating was over 100 in 13 out of 16 regular season games last year on the way to being named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
What’s the key to Rodgers’ success? It obviously first starts with himself. Rodgers has an arm with pinpoint accuracy. If he misses an open receiver down the field once, it very rarely happens a second time.
He also is able to put balls where defenders just cannot get them. A prime example would be the critical third down throw he made to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLV. The Steelers defender had good coverage but Rodgers made the throw anyway.
Rodgers is also a perfectionist. He’s never satisfied with himself and his teammates say his level of preparation is unlike any other quarterback in the NFL. He’s blessed with a long memory and he doesn’t forget the critical throws he makes, whether they are good or a rare bad throw.
You also have to give his receivers credit. Rodgers has the best receiving corps in the NFL. Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley make up the deepest group of wide receivers in the league. You may be able to shut one or two of them down, but not all of them.
So how does one stop the juggernaut that is the Packers offense? Let’s take a look.
Pressure Rodgers and Wrap Him Up
This can be harder than it looks. Rodgers is adept at extending plays and his legs are nearly as dangerous as his arm. His spin move to evade pressure and get out of the pocket is one of the most lethal things about his game. If you drop too many into coverage, Rodgers will find that hole and run for the first down himself if he has to.
Rodgers can be taken down however, as the Seattle Seahawks proved in that fateful Monday night game. Marshall Newhouse and Bryan Bulaga both were beaten badly throughout the first half, although the protection was much improved in the second half. Trapping Rodgers in the pocket by beating the two tackles is crucial.
Rodgers also does not like to force passes into coverage, which can lead to him hanging onto the ball for too long. This was a big role in the eight sacks he suffered against the Seahawks as well. The defender must not give up on the pursuit and he must fully wrap up Rodgers to ensure the elusive quarterback does not escape.
Knock the Packers' Receivers Off Their Routes
If you’re unable to stop Rodgers, then you had better be able to stop or at least slow down his wide receivers.
To do that, you will need to play press coverage and bump the Packers' receivers off their routes. Rodgers has a very quick release, so if the receivers are bumped off for even a second or two, that could force an incompletion or depending on the position of the defender, a rare interception.
The Packers' receivers also on occasion display a knack for dropping the football. While this is sometimes just blind luck for the defense, some look like they have been able to get inside the heads of the receivers. Given how the Packers’ issues with drops seem to go in streaks, this very well could be the case.
Keep Them Off the Field
It’s so simple, yet so effective. Since the Packers have a defense that can allow a high yardage total, the opposing offense is as key to shutting down Rodgers as their defense.
Playing smart, ball-control offense and chewing up clock is the most surefire way to shut down Rodgers and the Packers offense. The New Orleans Saints did this effectively on Sunday at the end of the first half and into the late third quarter. Thanks to their own flawed defense however, it failed them in the end.
You don’t want to get into an aerial shootout with the Packers. Though flawed, the Packers defense has displayed a knack for making a stop at the right time. A balanced attack is the best way to keep Rodgers and company on the sidelines where they can do no damage.
Can It Work?
After facing three consecutive strong defenses to start the season, the Packers offense finally showed flashes of 2011 against a much weaker Saints defense. It’s highly unlikely the Packers can duplicate their numbers from 2011, as such a season is rare occurrence, nearly impossible to duplicate in two consecutive seasons.
The Packers also seem to be aiming for a more balanced attack this season as evidenced by the amount of carries Cedric Benson has had so far. The Packers had virtually no rushing attack in 2011. But if they can get Benson going, that makes the Packers a dual-threat offense and would make Rodgers even more lethal, despite what would be a drop in numbers.
They may not put up the same ridiculous numbers as a year ago, but the Packers' offense will continue to be as efficient as ever. If they can be more balanced, they stand a solid chance at winning another Vince Lombardi Trophy.