Week 15 Recap: Rodgers Returns, Packers Fall

Heading into Sunday’s game, there was a less than ten percent chance the Packers would make the playoffs. The Panthers showed us exactly why, handling the Packers in a game that never felt as close as the score indicated.

Though he kept the Packers competitive with several clutch plays, Aaron Rodgers may also have been the team’s undoing. He threw three devastating interceptions, all of them unforced errors that would be hard to imagine from a player who hadn’t been on the shelf for two months.

The Packers defense did them few favors as well, surrendering big performances from both Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffrey, to say nothing of the masterful afternoon from Cam Newton.

Even a late rally seemed karmically destined to fail, and fail it did with Geronimo Allison losing a fumble on what could have been a game-tying drive.

All-in-all, the Packers looked very much like a team built to function entirely on near-perfect performances from Aaron Rodgers. On a day where he was very much imperfect, the Packers had no chance.

4 and Out

1 - The Packers are well acquainted with Panthers tight end Greg Olsen from his days as a member of the Chicago Bears, and he’s had consistent success against his former neighbors to the north. In 11 previous games against Green Bay, Olsen averaged 3.6 catches for 47.3 yards, scoring four touchdowns. He found even more success this time around,

2 - Joe Buck and Troy Aikman seemed bound and determined to beat the “Aaron Rodgers is rusty” narrative to death, but Rodgers did little to disprove it, throwing three interceptions on underthrows. It’s just the fourth time in his career that Rodgers has thrown three or more interceptions in a game and the first time since 2009. In that same span, two other quarterbacks (Scott Tolzien and Brett Hundley) have produced three interceptions in a game.

3 - Aaron Jones got off to a great start this week, exploding for 43 yards on two carries on a single drive in the second quarter. The Packers were unable to get him involved again for more than a quarter of game action, though. He didn’t touch the ball again until there was 11:56 remaining in the fourth quarter.

4 - The suspension/ejection debate over helmet-to-helmet hits is sure to rage well into the offseason, and I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it here. But it does feel odd that Thomas Davis was allowed to stay in the game this week. His illegal actions forced Davante Adams out of the game, yet Davis remained on the field. The Packers sorely missed Adams on offense, but Davis contributed for the  Panthers through the remainder of the game. That feels like an unfair imbalance.