• After a six-point first half, Aaron Rodgers threw three touchdowns to lead the Green Bay Packers to a Thursday night win against the Chicago Bears.
By Jonathan Jones
October 21, 2016

What should have been clear before Thursday night was blatantly obvious after the Chicago-Green Bay sleeper. Aaron Rodgers’s receivers cannot get separation, and it’s the biggest impediment to the two-time MVP’s down 2016 season.

Jordy Nelson couldn’t get away from his man. Neither could Jeff Janis. Randall Cobb had a tough time creating space. For half of Thursday’s game, Rodgers bounced in the backfield waiting for someone to get open before evacuating the pocket to buy more time, only to ultimately throw an incomplete pass.

Green Bay’s 26–10 win against Chicago should not signal that the Aaron Rodgers of 2014 is back despite tallying his first 300-yard passing game in nearly a year. The Packers beat a Bears team at home with a third-string quarterback who was unable to muster an offensive touchdown.

But they did it with 56 pass attempts by Rodgers, and too many of those were intended for receivers who were more covered up than they should have been.

“No one’s helping the man out. Gezzzz!,” tweeted Jermichael Finley, who spent his entire six-year career with Rodgers as his quarterback.

It took until late in the third quarter for things to open up for Rodgers’ receivers—most notably Davante Adams and his 132 yards and two scores. The Bears began biting harder on the double moves. The 10-point deficit seemed like 21 points, so the defense felt the onus to do more in order to create points.

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By now, every NFL observer knows Rodgers’s woes this season. He entered Thursday night with career-lows in yards per attempt (6.5), completion percentage (60.2) and passer rating (88.4). And every explanation under the sun was given in the past week. Let’s try to account for them all.

There was a breakdown in Rodgers’s mechanics that was causing the kind of inaccuracy we saw last week against Dallas. Mike McCarthy was putting the receivers in too many isolation routes too often. Late in the week McCarthy complained about the dwindling practice time in the NFL and how it negatively affects a young team. There was a spat of injuries to Green Bay’s running backs. Throw in a bizarre notion linking Rodgers’s decline to Deflategate and the omnipresent (and always silly) Olivia Munn excuse and that should just about cover it.

Before Green Bay’s offense got it together in the second half and rebounded from a six-point first half, Rodgers wasn’t actually playing that poorly. His first trip to the red zone ended in a field goal but could have been a touchdown had Randall Cobb better secured a pass in the end zone.

The next trip to the goal line saw the Packers dial up a predictable rollout for Rodgers that was blown up, a great Bears stop on Janis and a head-scratching playcall that stuffed emergency running back Ty Montgomery inside on fourth-and-goal. Rodgers got the Packers on the doorstep of scoring a third time in the first half and Cobb couldn’t drag his other foot in the back of the end zone.

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Rodgers’s most glaring error came in the early third when he coughed up the ball on a Leonard Floyd sack and the Bears recovered for a touchdown. Unable to generate any offense, the Bears could only survive with Rodgers’s mistakes.

There would be no more.

California-cool Rodgers was right to tell everyone to R-E-L-A-X two years ago, and he’d do well to say it again.

Except to his receivers. They don’t need to relax. They need to get open.

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