The Green Bay Packers have struggled defensively this season. That unit ranks 22nd in the league in rush defense (121.4 rushing yards allowed per game) and is 20th in scoring defense (22.4 points per game).
But the Packers are 4-1, they’ve won three straight games, and, if the playoffs started today, they would have a first-round bye – all because of one man.
Rodgers has competed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,367 yards and 13 touchdowns through five games and has brought the Packers back from two-touchdown deficits in two of the last three weeks, most recently in Dallas on Sunday. Rodgers threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams with 11 seconds to go to beat the Cowboys, 35-31.
With Rodgers, there’s not one element to his game that makes him great; it’s the whole package.
“I think he’s playing better now than he ever has,” CBS Sports NFL analyst Steve Beuerlein said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “He’s making it look so easy. That game-wining throw yesterday, you sit there and say there’s absolutely nobody else that can make that throw the way that he made that throw. He just does it week after week, game after game, and makes it look so easy. It’s almost like he decides, ‘Okay, now I’m going to flick it up to the next level.’ And then he does it.”
Rodgers, 33, has played in the same system his entire career. He’d excel in any system, but the importance of that consistency cannot be understated.
“It takes three to five years in the league of playing before you really feel like you’re in control of understanding all the things that defenses are trying to do and how to implement your offense into whatever defensive scheme you might be facing that week,” Beuerlein said. “I think guys that are in the same system like Aaron Rodgers his whole career, like Tom Brady his whole career – you can go down the list of all these guys. If they’re fortunate enough to play one system, it’s a huge advantage because they know that system inside-out, they know it as well as the coaching staff does, and they become a coach on the field.”
Beuerlein, 52, played for six teams and 10 head coaches in his career, which spanned 1987 to 2003.
“A lot of people called me a coach-killer,” Beuerlein said, chuckling, “but the bottom line is that the more time you spend in a system, the more efficient you’re going to be and the more automatic all the decisions are going to be as they happen on the fly. Aaron Rodgers, he just does what he wants to do on the football field now.”
While Rodgers dazzled Sunday afternoon, Deshaun Watson dazzled Sunday night, albeit in a losing effort. Watson threw five touchdown passes and has 10 touchdowns (nine pass, one rush) in his last two games.
Watson is the main reason why Beuerlein believes Houston (2-3) might be able to overcome the losses of J.J. Watt (tibial plateau fracture) and Whitney Mercilus (torn pectoral), who are out for the season.
“Deshaun Watson last night absolutely blew me away,” Beuerlein said. “What he did in just trying to find a way to keep them in that ball game with all the things that went against them was absolutely phenomenal. He’s a competitor, he doesn’t ever quit, he’s one of those guys that just finds a way to make plays when no one thinks it’s possible. Some of those throws late in the game that his teammates came down with, there’s a real art to that. Aaron Rodgers seems to get those kind of breaks. Deshaun Watson is one of those guys, I think, (who’s) going to be able to find a way to keep his team in the ball game no matter what the situation might be.
“But losing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, those are two big, big losses,” Beuerlein said. “It seemed like every play someone was going down in that game last night. Both teams. But I think the Texans are good enough across the board, especially in that division, to contend. They’ll find a way to, I think, get themselves into the playoff as long as DW stays healthy and is playing at the level he’s playing at now.”