Pa Carmen Vital
FOX Sports NFC North Writer

Things did not go well for Green Bay Packers in the first half of Sunday’s game against the visiting New England Patriots. They faced rookie Bailey Zappé under center after knocking out backup Brian Hoyer early in the game, but a lack of offensive rhythm led to Green Bay trailing 10-7 at halftime.

Honestly, it should have been worse.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had an 11.2 passer rating when he entered the locker room at halftime. He said he had a “short” conversation with himself after the game, helped by his friend and left tackle David Bakhtiarihe then put his helmet back on and ran back onto the field.

The Packers started with the ball in the third quarter, but Rodgers immediately committed two incompletions as he tried to pull the ignition cord of Green Bay’s offensive engine. Splash, splash and finally boom. He got the play he wanted.

“I think there were two big plays in the game,” Rodgers said Tuesday on the Pat McAfee Show. “The first one was on third and 10 at 10-7. I hit Allen [Lazard] down the right sideline, he made a fantastic catch. The ball was a little lower, it seemed to be pushed to the side, he jumps on top at the last second and makes something like a diving catch in front of him. And sometimes it just takes one game like that to get you going. Now we are no longer in the 25, we are in midfield. We turn this drive into a touchdown to [tight end Robert] Tonyan after the penalty”.

Then let’s see, shall we?

The Packers run a two-on-one 11-man formation (one running back, one tight end, three receivers), and you’ll see multi-level routes from what will eventually be four receivers after Tonyan works his way into the check spot. What makes this play all the more impressive is that even though New England opted to blitz — going five-and-out and forcing Matthew Judon to do an inside trick — Rodgers’ line gives him plenty of time to get deep a person Lazard passed the sticks well. Both Romeo Dub and Randall Cobb are on or near the line of scrimmage on the other side, and Tonyan is open underneath in case Rodgers needs to bail out. Perhaps the most impressive here is the left guard John Runyanwho ends up taking on two defenders due to Judon’s inside trick.

It worked out, and even as the two teams traded scores, Rodgers knew they would keep humming along.

“Sitting there, 24-17, I turned to Josh [Myers] and said, “We’re not going to lose this game,” Rodgers said Tuesday.

He got the nod on the very next drive, where he scored the game-changing second play for him.

“We dropped, third and sixth. Kobe [Randall Cobb] runs a great route,” Rogers said. – I’m sliding a little to the left, David [Bakhtiari] does a good job of kind of bending his guy on the inside and we kind of executed the turn pretty well. But I put the ball in a good spot, Randall ran a great sail route, as we call it, where you kind of lean and then come back to the sideline. That got us going so those were the two most important plays of the game.”

Here, it almost seems like Bakhtiari was thrown out because of the Patriots tight end’s chip. This causes Rodgers to slide slightly to his left and Bakhtiari recovers by blocking his man to direct it further where he can reach Rodgers. This buys the time Cobb needs to finish the sail concept, and even though the Patriots read Rodgers’ eyes and come down, because of the fun on the sideline, he can’t get there in time .

When Rodgers needed a play the most, he turned to his most reliable receivers. And it worked.

While it’s no secret that Lazard is the team’s de facto No. 1 with Davante Adams gone while Green Bay’s young pass catchers develop, Rodgers has gone as far as that said he would like to see more work for Cobb.

“I’m looking forward to some more snaps for him because every time he’s out there, he’s explosive,” Rodgers said. “I teased him that it would be his highest yards per catch of his career because he makes two or three catches a game and at least one of them is an explosive play.”

Despite being in the league for 12 years, Cobb appears to be playing at the level he was maybe four or five years ago, all while bringing invaluable experience to help the young receivers. He’s been with Rodgers the longest. He knows what makes him tick. And he passes it on to the team.

“It’s just as important a role for me as it is for him,” Rodgers continued. “To be able to convey the way I play and the expectations of the young guys when I’m not in that room. I’m telling you, that’s the most important quality he can have on our football team. Obviously, he’s still an explosive player. He still runs great routes. It is constantly becoming open. But his ability to be that voice in the room, along with Allen, the two oldest guys in the room, Kobe’s obviously been around a lot longer than Allen, but being able to explain the little intricacies of the plays is priceless. I promise you.”

It took every minute of overtime to pull off a win over the Patriots, but the Packers went 3-1 and tied for first place in the NFC North.

Moral of the story: count on Cobb. And never count Rodgers out.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen previously appeared with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added a Super Bowl title (and a boat parade appearance) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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