Packers Put Aaron Rodgers in Impossible Situation And He Keeps Delivering

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystOctober 16, 2018

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) warms up before an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Mike Roemer/Associated Press

Aaron Rodgers is the only reason the Green Bay Packers are even competitive. 

The game's best quarterback brought his team back from the depths of defeat to claim yet another last-second victory despite numerous reasons the Packers should have lost Monday to the San Francisco 49ers. 

Green Bay somehow managed a 33-30 victory at Lambeau Field even though the defense looked overmatched (49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan called an impeccable game), the Packers' wide receivers were depleted and Rodgers had to operate at peak efficiency despite being hobbled. 

Each of the aforementioned issues speaks to much larger problems: The Packers roster isn't built to win on a consistent basis, the coaching isn't helping to make up for talent deficiencies, and injuries exploited the lack of overall depth. 

Rodgers' ability to overcome nearly any situation is his greatest quality. He's never received enough help compared to other organizations that feature legitimate franchise quarterbacks. 

Ben Roethlisberger could lean on Hines Ward, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller and Le'Veon Bell during different points in his career. Drew Brees has more weapons than nearly any quarterback in the league right now, including the league's best backfield. Tom Brady once set NFL records throwing to Randy Moss, and he's had the ultimate security blanket in tight end Rob Gronkowski for the last nine seasons.

Green Bay's future Hall of Fame signal-caller has never had the same luxury. It's only gotten worse over time. 

Donald Driver and Greg Jennings were a nice duo at the start of Rodgers' career, and Jordy Nelson developed into his favorite target over the years, but Green Bay's utter lack of investment around the quarterback is startling. 

The Packers have only used two top-90 picks on wide receivers, running backs or tight ends since 2012. The team didn't have two key targets, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, Monday because of hamstring injuries, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb didn't play Monday due to a hamstring injury.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb didn't play Monday due to a hamstring injury.Mike Roemer/Associated Press

As a result, Rodgers had his normal top target, Davante Adams, to rely upon and continued to break in rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown. This setup is analogous to asking a maestro to conduct without a symphony because it's been replaced by an Oompah band. Music will still be played, but not quite to the level the crowd expected. 

Even so, the two first-year receivers performed admirably. In fact, Valdes-Scantling caught three passes for 103 yards. The problem isn't how the two young targets competed. Green Bay's approach to talent evaluation and acquisition placed it in a position where it had to lean on fifth- and sixth-round rookies. The Packers should have put more around Rodgers long ago. 

"Yeah, it definitely felt that way," Rodgers responded when asked if the chemistry between quarterback and receivers was off for most of the game, per the Packers' official site. "We missed a couple things. We had a couple mental errors. I missed a couple throws. We just weren't on the same page." 

The six-time Pro Bowl quarterback still threw for 425 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Imagine what the two-time MVP could do with an elite receiver corps. 

Rodgers marched his team 81 yards in 61 seconds to place the Packers in position for the game-winning field goal. The quarterback did so by scrambling for 21 yards, connecting with Adams and St. Brown along the sideline on consecutive plays and then flipping a pass over a 49ers defender to Adams once again so kicker Mason Crosby had a much easier attempt after last week's forgettable performance. 

The final drive came after Rodgers threw a perfect touch pass to Adams for a touchdown that—along with the extra point—tied the game with 1:55 remaining. 

Meanwhile, the offensive line had to be shuffled during the contest since right tackle Bryan Bulaga injured his shoulder before returning, per The Athletic's Michael Cohen

Rodgers continued to make plays in and out of the pocket despite his injured knee. The 34-year-old signal-caller originally tweaked his knee against the Chicago Bears in the season opener. He reaggravated it last week against the Detroit Lions and wore a brace during the 49ers game. 

"I told Doc I'd like to be able to take the brace off after the bye," Rodgers said after Monday's contest, per ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky

The Packers are 3-2-1 entering their off week, and Rodgers may be at full strength upon the team's return to action. He'll need to be since the upcoming schedule is brutal. Two trips to opposite ends of the country are next on the docket and happen to be against the NFC's and AFC's best teams, the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. 

Green Bay will probably need a little more than Rodgers' magic to overcome those squads, which falls on the coaching staff to have the team better prepared.

Head coach Mike McCarthy has never been the most creative play-caller. This is even more apparent with how imaginative teams like the Rams and Kansas City Chiefs are. Shanahan called a much better game Monday. The difference was an elite quarterback vs. a marginal backup. 

C.J. Beathard was placed in a position to succeed, though. Shanahan kept a balanced offensive approach with an electric running game behind Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, who combined for 148 rushing yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. 

Shanahan's sequential play-calling to set up multiple big opportunities, particularly for wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, was a sight to behold. But his ability to structure an offense came as no surprise. The Packers defense not being able to answer the call on numerous occasions was. 

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle ShanahanMatt Ludtke/Associated Press

The 49ers' ground attack gashed the Packers defensive front, while their receivers ran free in the secondary. Mike Pettine's soft coverage behind aggressive blitz packages allowed a calm and collected Beathard to pick apart his scheme through three quarters of play. The second-year quarterback completed 69.6 percent of his passes and excelled when facing pressure. At one point, he completed nine of 10 passes against the blitz, according to the ESPN telecast. 

Ultimately, Beathard regressed to his mean by throwing the game's only interception late in the fourth quarter, thus giving the Packers the ball for the contest's final possession. 

In the end, Green Bay found a way to win. It's the second time this season the team came back in the fourth quarter thanks to Rodgers. Without him, the Packers might have only one win (over the Buffalo Bills).

Rodgers' late-game heroics adds to his legendary status, because he does what every great quarterback should doelevate and maximize the talent around him, even if it's subpar. 

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @brentsobleski.

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