3 Takeaways from Packers' Week 12 Win
It wouldn't be fair to call Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears a must-win for the Green Bay Packers. However, the game did have serious NFC North implications. A loss would have moved Green Bay to 7-5, just a game ahead of Chicago and with a head-to-head loss on the Packers' resume.
However, Green Bay throttled their longtime division rival, racking up 41 points on a historic night for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. In doing so, they took a commanding lead in the division with five games to play and one more match with the Bears remaining.
Green Bay also remains just a game behind the New Orleans Saints in the race for the NFC's No. 1 seed and lone playoff bye.
While injuries or an unexpected meltdown could still cost the Packers the division and/or a playoff berth, the odds of making the postseason are now pretty high. That's the biggest takeaway from Green Bay's Week 12 win, but it isn't the only one.
Here are three more things we learned from the win over Chicago.
Aaron Rodgers Can Still Make It Look Easy
On Sunday, Rodgers became just the 11th player in NFL history to amass 50,000 passing yards. Rodgers credited his longevity after the game—he's in his 13th season as a starter—but that's far from the only factor here.
Rodgers is pretty freaking good at this quarterback thing, and he showed against Chicago that he's still one of the best signal-callers in the league. He dissected the Bears' 11th-ranked pass defense during an efficient 211-yard, four-touchdown outing.
While the Packers did invest in Rodgers potential replacement when they drafted Jordan Love this past April, it's clear that Rodgers is still running on a full tank.
"This is as good as I've ever seen anybody play," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said, per The Athletic's Matt Schneidman.
Chicago couldn't find an answer for Rodgers, who routinely recognized what the defense was trying to do and presnap and regularly found the open man after the snap. He produced more first downs (13) than incompletions (eight) on Sunday.
Rodgers now has 3,100 passing yards with 33 touchdowns and just four interceptions on the season. He's a viable MVP candidate and is the biggest reason why the Packers have a shot at the No. 1 seed. On a night when Mitchell Trubisky made playing quarterback look extremely difficult, Rodgers made it look remarkably easy.
Green Bay's Backfield Is Incredible
Rodgers deserves plenty of credit for dominating the Bears, but it should be pointed out that he had plenty of help. Green Bay's running back duo of Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones also decimated the Chicago defense, wearing it down and opening up the passing game for Rodgers.
Jones and Williams combined for 163 rushing yards and a touchdown. They made it impossible for the Bears to key in on Rodgers and also made play-action passes more effective—something they've been doing for Rodgers all season.
According to Next Gen Stats, Rodgers' third-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan was his 14th score off play-action this season. He has now thrown five more play-action touchdowns than any quarterback in the leagues.
A season ago, Jones led the NFL in rushing touchdowns. Williams has filled in effectively whenever Jones has been sidelined, and both backs are extremely capable on their own. However, when Green Bay has both Williams and Jones together, their ground game is as dangerous as any in the league.
While Rodgers, Davante Adams and other pass-catchers make the Packers' passing game go, the impact that Green Bay's backfield has on both phases of the offense cannot be underestimated.
Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith Are Still Game-Changers
Last offseason, the Packers brought in pass-rusher Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith to help bolster their defense. Positive results came quickly. The duo combined for 25.5 sacks in their first season with Green Bay and helped carry the Packers to the NFC title game.
However, the two Smiths haven't been quite as impactful this season. Coming into Sunday, the two had combined for just 9.5 sacks while the Packers had just 21 as a team.
Well, against Chicago, Preston and Za'Darius Smith proved that they can still change the course of a game. They essentially put the game out of reach when Za'Darius Smith strip-sacked Trubisky and Preston Smith ran it in for a touchdown.
That score gave Green Bay a commanding 27-3 lead.
A fun side note: According to NFL research, the play also marked the first time since 1991 that one Smith scored on a fumble created by another Smith.
Seeing as how the Packers defense has taken flak for losses to teams like the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it's worth noting that Green Bay does still have playmakers on that side of the ball. If the Packers can get more plays like the one provided by the two Smiths on Sunday, they'll have a good chance of making another deep playoff run.