NFC Championship Preview: Green Bay D, Running Game, O-Line Need to Take Pressure Off Aaron Rodgers’ Limping Leg

Clay Matthews
The Associated Press

What makes Aaron Rodgers perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL is that he’s an elite passer, who also has very good mobility, which allows him to move around, create extra time, giving his receivers more opportunities to get open.

But you can throw out mobility right now since he’s playing with a torn calf muscle. That basically negates his elusiveness in the pocket.

The last thing you want when facing Seattle’s vaunted pass rush is a sitting duck in the pocket, and that is basically what Rodgers is right now.

So this puts a lot of pressure on the Packers offensive line to play on a very high level and keep Rodgers clean in the pocket like they did last week against Dallas. Because with time, as he showed versus the Cowboys, he can still get a lot done as a pocket passer even with the calf injury.

To help take pressure off the hobbling Rodgers, a heavy dose of talented tailback Eddie Lacy would help.

While the Seahawks play superbly against the run, the 231-pound Alabama product isn’t going to back down when hit in the face by the tenacious Seattle defense. He won’t be intimidated. He will come right back at them.

And establishing the run with Lacy would help Roger sell play-action fakes and perhaps take a little edge off the Seattle pass rushers.

In their Week One loss to Seattle, the Packers didn’t throw one pass in the direction of Seahawks superstar cornerback Richard Sherman. This was a mistake, and expect them to use the whole field in their passing game this time.

Perhaps putting quick, elusive slot receiver Randall Cobb on Sherman could be effective. While Sherman is a great player, he sometimes struggles against short, quick receivers because he has issues changing directions at 6-3 with long legs.

Rookie receiver Davonte Adams wasn’t a factor in the first matchup. He could help the Packers a great deal this time around. Adams really emerged late in the season, and was superb against Dallas last week with seven catches.

The Seahawks starting corners are very good, but their third cornerback spot has been a little shaky. They have tried several different players there. The Packers have three very good receivers with Cobb, Adams, and Jordy Nelson. So, whichever receiver matches up with the nickel back, expect Rodgers to go there a lot.

As for Green Bay’s defense, they might get some assistance with the possibility that Seahawks right tackle Justin Britt won’t play due to a knee injury. Whether Britt plays at less than 100 percent, or Green Bay uses a backup, look for the Packers pass rush, featuring Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and Nick Perry, to exploit the right tackle spot.

Green Bay’s run defense, which plays at a pedestrian level at best, needs to step up their game against the NFL’s best running team, featuring the league’s most violent runner, Marshawn Lynch, and pro football’s best running quarterback, Russell Wilson.

ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi said the Packers have “no chance” in this game. Is he right? It all depends on Rodger’s calf. If the Cal-Berkeley product can ignore the pain, and play like he did in the second half against Dallas last week, the Packers have a shot.

But remember, that game was in Green Bay, and the Seahawks have a much better pass rush than the Cowboys. And the Seahawks defense has given up an average of eight points a game in their last seven contests.

So it’s fair to say, consider Rodgers’s health, Seattle’s defensive prowess, and their awesome home record, a Green Bay win would have to be considered a major upset.