3 Takeaways from Packers' Week 12 Win
The Green Bay Packers picked up a huge win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. While the Rams came in on a two-game losing streak, they are still a quality opponent and a likely postseason participant. The Packers didn't exactly run them out of Lambeau Field, but Green Bay never trailed in the second half.
It was a bounce-back performance for the Packers—and specifically their defense—after dropping a 34-31 thriller to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 11.
While the Packers still trail the 9-2 Arizona Cardinals by a half-game in the race for the NFC's No. 1 seed, they also own the head-to-head tiebreaker. If Arizona stumbles stumble against the Chicago Bears in Week 13, Green Bay can claim the top spot while on bye.
By handling the Rams, the Packers proved that despite numerous injures they are still one of the top teams in the conference and a Super Bowl contender. Here's what else we learned during Green Bay's 36-28 win in Week 12.
A Hobbled Aaron Rodgers Is Still Dangerous
Injuries have been a story for the Packers in 2021. The defense continues to play without standouts Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith. Tight end Robert Tonyan is out for the year with a torn ACL, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is dealing with a toe injury.
Rodgers might undergo surgery during the Packers' bye week, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.
While Rodgers may have been less than 100 percent against the Rams, he showed few signs of it. He flashed his trademark mobility in the pocket and rushed for a touchdown in the game's opening quarter. He finished a solid 28-of-45 for 307 yards and two touchdowns.
The big takeaway here is that Rodgers can be at less than 100 percent and still outduel most quarterbacks. That's a massive asset for a team with Super Bowl aspirations because few players are at 100 percent at this point in the season.
Rodgers' willingness to tough out the injury is also big because the Packers got a good look at what their offense is like without him during the 13-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 9.
Rodgers' Connection with Randall Cobb Is Alive and Well
Receiver Randall Cobb had his best game of the season Sunday, showing exactly why Rodgers wanted him back in the fold. The Packers acquired the 31-year-old in an offseason trade at the behest of Rodgers.
"Obviously without Aaron, I don't think we would probably be pursuing that," general manager Brian Gutekunst said of the deal, per ESPN's Rob Demovsky.
While Cobb hasn't gone off in every game this season—he only had two prior contests with at least 50 receiving yards—he was a difference-maker against the Rams. He finished with four receptions for 95 yards and the second-quarter touchdown that opened up a 10-point lead.
Davante Adams is always going to be Rodgers' go-to target—he led the Packers with nine targets and eight receptions Sunday—but Rodgers has plenty of chemistry with Cobb and knows how to take advantage of his skill set.
Cobb might not be a prolific receiver down the stretch, but expect him to continue playing an important role in critical games such as Sunday's.
Rashan Gary Continues to Make Strides
The Packers have navigated injury obstacles because players have been willing and able to fill the gaps. Third-year pass-rusher Rashan Gary, for example, has helped ease the absence of Smith. The 2019 first-round pick has played the most significant role of his young NFL career this season and is evolving as a defender.
After playing just 24 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie and 48 percent in 2020, Gary has played 67 percent this season. Despite coming in with a shoulder injury, Gary played well and notched another sack against Los Angeles, giving him a career-high 6.5 on the season. His strip-sack led directly to Rodgers' rushing touchdown.
Gary also has an impressive 26 quarterback pressures, 21 quarterback hits and two forced fumbles.
Smith, who underwent back surgery in late September, may return for the postseason push. Green Bay will welcome him back if he does. However, Gary showed while chasing Matthew Stafford on Sunday, that he deserves to be a significant piece of the pass-rushing rotation regardless.
Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.