The Dallas Cowboys’ defense faces the unenviable task of attempting to slow a white-hot Aaron Rodgers.
Dallas stymied Rodgers early in a 30-16 Week 6 trouncing, but that was a different Green Bay Packers team and a different quarterback. Don’t expect interceptions tossed right into the gut of Barry Church this time around.
Rodgers stats in the Cheeseheads’ seven-game winning streak have been MVP-level. With renewed faith in his receivers to get open, Rodgers has ditched the hesitation that caused his early season hardships.
Rodgers’ first 10 games: 4-6 W-L record; 63.2 comp. percent; 276.1 pass YPT, 25-7 TD-INT ratio; 96.0 passer rating
Rodgers’ last 7 games: 7-0 W-L record; 69.6 comp. percent; 289.9 pass YPT, 19-0 TD-INT ratio; 121.7 passer rating
“The guy is an animal in there,” Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said, via the Dallas Morning News. “But I feel like if we can keep him in the pocket, we’ll be able to get him down. Our coverage will hold up long enough where we can get him down.”
This is always the defensive plan for slowing Rodgers. It’s not so easily done. Ask the New York Giants. Big Blue sacked the Packers’ QB five times last week and forced punts on Green Bay’s first five drives. Rodgers still threw four touchdowns and 362 yards in a 25-point win.
“The guy makes crazy plays no matter what,” Crawford said. “I don’t know how he does some of the things he does passing that ball. We just have to keep our lanes and make sure we don’t lose [containment] to make sure he doesn’t get out of the pocket.”
There is the rub with Rodgers: If you rush after him too hard, he’ll escape the pocket and destroy you on ad-lib plays. If you keep contain, he’ll sit and sit and sit and sit, bounding from side to side in the pocket until your secondary finally breaks down.
The Cowboys’ best pass rusher, David Irving, who had the lone sack of Rodgers back in October and leads Dallas with 26 QB pressures, said they “can’t allow” Rodgers to dance around in the pocket.
“There’s no defense for that,” Irving said. “No one can cover anybody that long. We not only have to rush and get pressure but we also have to do it in a smart way and keep him contained.”
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli deserves to win the Assistant Coach of the Year award for his work with a defense that lacks all-world talent up front. Dallas defense is as healthy as it’s been all season — getting back Morris Claiborne, Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence after injuries.
The best way for the Cowboys to combat Rodgers? Feed Zeke. A clock-churning ground game featuring All Pro rookie Ezekiel Elliott that keeps the Packers’ soaring offense on the sideline is the best recipe to avoid Rodgers slicing up Marinelli’s defense.
Source: NFL Headlines