Two Big Plays Slip Away, and So Does Game

During his weekly radio show, Aaron Rodgers lamented two missed opportunities in Sunday's loss at Buffalo. Had the Packers hit on two potential long touchdown passes, the team's fortunes (not to mention his own) would have been drastically different. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY)

What was perhaps Aaron Rodgers’ worst game of his career almost wasn’t half-bad.

And a disappointing road loss for the Green Bay Packers almost was a victory.

Such is the fickle nature of the NFL, an “Any Given Sunday” league in which small things can make a big difference and surprising results happen on a weekly basis when good teams don’t quite play up to expectations.

Late in the third quarter, with the Packers trailing 16-10, Rodgers was intercepted by Bills safety Bacarri Rambo. It was Rodgers’ first interception in more than 200 attempts. Rodgers threw the ball to Randall Cobb, who was open, but didn’t see Jordy Nelson, who was wide open for what probably would have resulted in a 77-yard touchdown.

“I saw the check that the defense made and had an idea what the coverage was going to be – one-high man,” Rodgers explained on his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee on Tuesday. “As I came up off the fake, the progression is really Randall’s one, Jordy’s kind of an alert and Davante (Adams is) two. In that situation, where Davante’s coming from left to right off the back side, you have to check the back-side corner to make sure that he’s running with Davante, otherwise you’re going to throw a pick like I did in Tampa back in ’08 on almost the exact same play.”

After the play-action fake, Rodgers looked first at Adams and saw that Stephon Gilmore was, indeed, running with him in coverage. That made Cobb the first look in Rodgers’ progression. Because Cobb had broken open over the middle, Rodgers threw the ball to him and didn’t notice that Corey Graham had missed the defensive adjustment and blown the coverage on Nelson until seeing the pictures on the sideline after the interception.

“Unfortunate that Randall’s running free there,” Rodgers said. “If his guy had been running with him stride for stride, then obviously I get off of him and go to Jordy. But because nobody ran with him, I just got stuck on Randall and then threw a bad throw. If I throw a good ball there, maybe he catches it and breaks free. At least you have a big gain and it’s a little bit better than missing a wide-open touchdown, but then you throw an interception and miss a wide-open touchdown, it’s kind of a double-whammy.”

Rodgers’ next pass, a second-and-6 from the 6-yard line, should have produced a 94-yard touchdown. Nelson torched Graham with a double move and would have been in the clear had he hauled in the ball at about the 34. Instead, Nelson, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, dropped the ball. Rodgers completed four passes in extending the drive before tossing his second interception.

“We had a good call there,” Rodgers said. Based on the Bills’ coverage, “we talked about running the slant-and-go there. He ran a good slant, I pumped it and held the safety. That’s the one time in the last five years Jordy’s dropped a pass. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody. I just did an interview and was asked about him and said, ‘There’s some incredible receivers in this league and guys who have been making some unbelievable plays, but I wouldn’t trade Jordy for any of them.’ I love playing with him. He’s a great teammate. He’s incredibly gifted physically but, mentally, he has a great approach to the game and is always pushing himself to get better, and (he) practices really well and is a great leader for us. Physical things are going to happen. The guys were probably disappointed with some of the throws and disappointed with not coming up with some of the throws, as well.”

Had Rodgers completed those passes to Nelson, he would have finished just 15-of-35 but thrown for 293 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (91.7 rating). Nelson might have had a 200-yard day. And the Packers almost certainly would have won the game and remained in the thick of the race for No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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