Green Bay – Sometimes there just aren’t enough superlatives to describe Aaron Rodgers’ play—and that was the case Sunday in Green Bay’s 42-24 blow-out victory over the Oakland Raiders on a picture-perfect afternoon at Lambeau Field.
Rodgers was back in vintage form and accomplished something he’s not done in his illustrious career: a perfect 158.3 passer rating. New offense, new head coach, backup receivers—no matter.
Rodgers showed the potential of Matt LaFleur’s system, completing 25 of 31 passes to eight different receivers for 429 yards and five touchdowns. And this with top receiver Davante Adams still out with a turf toe injury.
To top it off, the 36-year-old Rodgers also ran for a 3-yard touchdown. “A lot of times that ball leaves his hand, I’m always like, in awe,” La Fleur said. “So yeah, he’s pretty good.”
Looking at Green Bay’s challenging schedule before the season began, few would have thought the Packers would be atop the NFC North Division standings with a 6-1 record at this junction of the season. They hold a one-game lead over 5-2 Minnesota with the faltering 3-3 Chicago Bears and 2-3-1 Detroit Lions both absorbing losses Sunday.
As Rodgers and the Packers offensive players get more comfortable in the new offense in the past seven weeks, they have played well in spurts or quarters, with Green Bay defense carrying the load in several close victories.
Sunday, the offense put it all together with a 42-point performance that will get them recognition as a major NFC contender.
“Any time you score 42 points and have 400-some odd yards, or whatever it was, that’s how you want it to look at it,” LaFleur said. “I mean, this is the National Football League, so it’s not going to be like that every week. But you know, again, I just thought our guys, especially coming off six days, I thought they were locked in. They knew the game plan inside and out and they went out there and executed it. I’m just really proud of the effort and the execution.”
Of course, the skill players grab the headlines, but the unsung heroes of Green Bay’s fast start has been the Packers’ veteran offensive line, who run block as well as they pass block.
“It’s a credit to our guys and our quarterback being able to progress through reads and find the open guys,” LaFleur said. “It takes all 11 to do that. It takes him doing his job, it takes the guys blocking for him doing their job, and the receivers have got to be in the right place at the right time.”
The Green Bay defense did its job, and generated the game-changing play just before halftime with the Packers holding a 14-10 lead.
Middle linebacker Blake Martinez, one of the NFL’s leading tacklers, was a machine with 16 total tackles. But his hustle play at the end of the second quarter was the turning point in the game.
With Green Bay clinging to a four-point lead and Oakland threatening at the Packers 3-yard line, Martinez hit quarterback Derek Carr as he dove for the pylon, causing a fumble through the end zone that resulted in a touchback. Rodgers then finished off a seven-play, 80-yard drive with a 37-yard pass to Jake Kumerow for a 21-10 lead going into intermission.
The margin grew to 28-10 as Green Bay cored on the opening possession of the second half.
Oakland head coach Jon Gruden said that turnover before halftime swung the game. “After that play, the next time we got the ball we were down 28-10,” Gruden said. “We were going to make it 17-14 Raiders. That was a big play in the game.”
JK Scott has proven to be a consistent special teams weapon in his second season, and he continued his superb kicking Sunday against the Raiders. With the offense rolling, Scott punted just three times for a 55.3 gross average. He booted a 52-yarder in the first quarter and a pair of 57-yarders in the fourth quarter to flip the field position in Green Bay’s favor.
The Packers young receiving corps—especially Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling—battled through injuries and contributed to Rodgers’ perfect quarterback rating.
“I thought our receiving corps played pretty well, I was really happy for those guys,” LaFleur said. “I thought Jake Kumerow, Allen Lazard, we mentioned G’Mo (Allison) and MVS (Valdes-Scantling), I thought they all did an outstanding job. It was great to see Jimmy Graham bounce back. He made a heck of a catch on that touchdown pass. Aaron Jones got involved in the passing game. Again, had a heck of a catch on the corner route that he caught. I just love the energy and effort that those guys gave. I thought they gave great effort in the run game. It was just, overall, I thought it was a really good offensive performance.”
Green Bay travels to Kansas City for a showdown with the Chiefs—minus league MVP Patrick Mahomes—on Sunday evening.