What Aaron Rodgers missed on the play that could have saved the Packers' season

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What Aaron Rodgers missed on the play that could have saved the Packers' season
© Provided by Touchdown Wire

It was a surprise to nobody that in the Packers’ 13-10 loss to the 49ers in the divisional round, Aaron Rodgers targeted receiver Davante Adams more than he targeted anybody else, and certainly more than any other receiver. When you have the NFL’s best receiver on your side, you don’t make it a secret. Adams was targeted 11 times, catching nine passes for 90 yards, but there were no touchdowns to be had — the only Packers touchdown in that loss came from a six-yard run from  A.J. Dillon on Green Bay’s first drive.

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After that, it was crickets in the end zone for the NFL’s second-best passing offense (behind only the Buccaneers, per DVOA) throughout the regular season. As my Touchdown Wire colleague Mark Schofield detailed on Sunday morning, the 49ers and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans did a brilliant job of limiting Adams’ options with creative brackets, allowing them to keep Adams in check even when they played single-high coverage — usually a cheat code for both Rodgers and Adams.

Rodgers’ response to this was odd. He didn’t avail himself of his other receivers, which he usually does when restricted by coverage concepts that make things more difficult for Adams. Allen Lazard had one catch on one target for six yards. Randall Cobb, Rodgers’ best buddy, had no catches on one target. Rodgers will probably bring this up in the offseason to augment his belief that Green Bay’s front office needs to get him better receivers behind Adams, but Rodgers was the one at fault more often than not when you analyze how this all broke down.

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Rodgers had just 55 passing yards in the second half of that game, and it’s his final passing attempt of the contest that will haunt him. With 3:40 left in the game, and third-and-11 from his own 28-yard line, Rodgers had the touchdown that would have put the Packers up 17-10, and put Jimmy Garoppolo on the clock — but he simply didn’t see it. It was odd to see perhaps the most physically gifted thrower of the football in NFL history miss an easy score as he did here.

Both the broadcast angles and the All-22 told the same sad story.

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…tough one to watch back. Rodgers will be sick with himself when he sees it on the film. Ugh. pic.twitter.com/caI79hZIbV

— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) January 23, 2022

The 49ers dropped into Cover-3, with safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt blitzing, and Talanoa Hufanga as the deep safety cheating to Adams’ side. Generally speaking, this is why playing single-high against the Packers is a nightmare — even if you do bracket Adams, someone else is going to be very open.

In this case, both Equanimeous St. Brown (who had cornerback Emmanuel Moseley dead to rights from the seam to the numbers) and Lazard (who was wide open on the deep in route) would have created explosive plays had Rodgers thrown the ball anywhere near them, and in St. Brown’s case, that’s most likely an easy six.

“I’ve got to go back and look at the tape and I’ll be able to answer that question for you better,” head coach Matt LaFleur said after the game, when asked why there weren’t more targets for guys not named Davante Adams or running back Aaron Jones. “I think the majority of our pass concepts do run through Davante, and that’s been the case all season long. We obviously didn’t do a good enough job of having the right concepts called or whatever it is, but I got to go back and look at the tape.”

Rodgers knew where the responsibility should land.

“I didn’t have a great night tonight,” he said. “They did a good job of kind of getting me off the spot and a better job of taking away some of the quick game that we got going the last time we played them, and I just missed a couple reads. I probably should have taken a couple hole shot chances at certain times, and then obviously if I hit Allen [Lazard] on that deep-in on the last drive, that probably gets out to about midfield and we’re a couple first downs away from being in field goal range, so I’m definitely disappointed by some of those decisions that I had tonight. So, yeah, I definitely take my fair share of blame tonight.”

When Rodgers looks back and sees St. Brown past Moseley, that will be an even more bitter pill.

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