February 07, 2011
In looking for reasons why the Green Bay Packers can call themselves world champions Monday morning, turnovers jump off the stat sheet first.
"If you're trying to wrap a bow around it [and explain the loss] in 10 words or less, sure. But there were a lot of areas that could have swung the balance the other way and we'll look at every single play in all three phases when we evaluate our performance."
He's right, it is easy to wrap a bow around the turnovers. Watch as I apply a pretty pink bow: The Pittsburgh Steelers gave the football away three times, the Packers never did, and every time the Steelers gave it away, the Packers cashed it in for seven points. You can't win when you give away 21 points.
There. Pretty little bow, see?
It makes sense, but pretty little bows aside, there are two other things I'd point to as bigger factors in the Packers being the champs right now.
Rodgers was sacked three times, but when I think about the game, I don't remember a lot of Rodgers running for his life or taking big shots. He wasn't often hurried or harassed.
That's how the Steelers beat people. The Packers were able to counter it, though, with excellent line play, especially from tackles Chad Clifton(notes) and Bryan Bulaga(notes). They held James Harrison(notes) and LaMarr Woodley(notes) to a sack each, and not a ton of impact beyond that.
But the Packers' best strategy for dealing with Pittsburgh pressure was to get rid of the ball quickly. Aaron Rodgers was getting the ball out so fast that even blitzes that weren't picked up couldn't get to him.
Having to throw so quickly helped to limit big-play opportunities for Green Bay, but that's all it did. Rodgers never tried to force the ball anywhere. He took what was there when he had to, and he struck the big blows when he could.
It was something that could have been an advantage for Pittsburgh, and Green Bay found a way to neutralize it.
Via Gary D'Amato of the Journal Sentinel, Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings(notes) helped to explain the appeal of throwing at Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden.
[Jordy] Nelson was targeted 15 times by Rodgers as the Packers took advantage of his matchup with cornerback Bryant McFadden.
"McFadden likes to play off," Jennings said. "He gives a soft cushion and is kind of slow out of his breaks. Our No. 3 receiver was going to have McFadden and it turned out it was Jordy."
Jordy it was. He finished with nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown, and could've had a lot more if he didn't have a case of the dropsies.
Steelers corner William Gay gave up his share of plays, too. Nelson got him on the game's first touchdown, getting past him on a nine route and rearviewing him as Rodgers dropped in a perfect pass. It was Gay who was abused by James Jones(notes) on a big third-and-7 conversion early in the fourth quarter. Jones got Gay again for a 21-yarder with under four minutes to play.
The Green Bay receivers vs. Pittsburgh secondary was a matchup that favored the Packers, and the Packers found a way to capitalize on it.
What these two things have in common is that Aaron Rodgers is really good, and was able to fit his game to what was available while never making a crippling mistake. Years from now, what will stand out about this game will not be the turnovers, but the plays that Rodgers was able to make because of his superior ability.
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