When the Packers left Los Angeles on November 3rd, it felt like they had been deflated. It felt like the team itself just never showed up. It was like they never got off the plane.
“This is a slice of humble pie,” said Packers’ Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It was no surprise that Rodgers felt that way or the rest of the Packers’ team for that matter. They had just been embarrassed by a Chargers team that struggled every week up to that game. The Chargers needed to regroup in order to continue their season, and after that game, so did the Packers.
That is exactly what they did,
Heading into week 11, the Packers sat atop the NFC North with a 7-2 record and one game ahead of the Minnesota Vikings thanks to a week where all four NFC North teams lost.
The Panthers, on the other hand, came into week 11, and in particular Panthers QB Kyle Allen with a new mindset, to take over the team. With Cam Newton being placed on IR, this was Allen’s opportunity to solidify the case for him to be the Panthers’ franchise quarterback.
In the first quarter of Sunday’s game, Allen showed that he belonged, leading the Panthers to two scoring drives in the first quarter. Allen had done this before, racking up a record of 5-1 as starting quarterback for the Panthers, he knew that his time would come, and he made a positive impression.
The ball in the hands of Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones seemed to be just too much for the Panthers to handle. LaFleur’s offense relies heavily on the running game in order to set up the pass. That run game for the Packers was so effective that they didn’t need to rely on their pass game, compared to earlier weeks.
Aaron Jones rushed for 93 yards on 13 carries that included 3 TD’s.
When Packers’ WR Davante Adams was asked whether or not Aaron Jones should be in the race for the MVP award, Adams said, “I don’t see why not”. Jones has single-handedly carried the Packers’ offense at times.
Jones averaged 7.2 yards per rush against the Panthers’ defense. When a running back is putting up yards like that, it is difficult for a defense to focus on anything else other than where 33 is on the field.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers’ defense keeps racking up sacks. Preston Smith, with 10 sacks on the season, has had more of an impact this season than Clay Matthews and Nick Perry did all of last season. Pair him with Za’Darius Smith, and at times, the newly acquired free-agents can hold that Packers’ defense together. Packers’ GM Brian Gutekunst has single-handedly turned the Packers’ defense, or at least pass-rush, something to watch for in every game. In the past, the Packers’ defense was the Achilles heel of the team and that isn’t the case this season.
After the game, Preston Smith revealed that he will buy buying Rolex watches for not just the linebacking core, but the entire defense. That is one hefty gift for a single guy, but I don’t think money is an issue for Preston at this point in time.
The bend but not break defense that the Packers have has been a sight to see. Frustrating at times, they have made big plays when they count the most. The goal-line stand against Christian McCaffrey showed that a single guy in Kyler Fackrell can shift the outcome of a game. The play design that the Panthers came up with had Christian McCaffrey diving right up the middle toward the left guard, disguised as a pass play. The Packers were playing pass at the moment.
The ending of the Packers and Panthers game shows the resilience that the Packers’ defense has had this year. They held the line and didn’t break, and that has been the difference for the Packers this season.