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What went wrong for Aaron Rodgers against Tampa Bay?

What went wrong for Aaron Rodgers against Tampa Bay?
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Everything was going so well for the Green Bay Packers. The team opened the 2020 season with four straight victories, thanks in large part to Aaron Rodgers, who was in peak form, posting impressive stats. Through those four games, he threw for 1,214 yards, 13 touchdowns and had not thrown a single interception. Then, the Packers walked onto the field at Raymond James Stadium last Sunday to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and got utterly destroyed. Obliterated. Annihilated. Basically, any descriptor you can think of that evokes the feeling of getting kicked in the teeth works pretty well to express what happened.

Green Bay struggled on both sides of the ball, with their offense totaling just 201 yards, and their defense allowing 31 points. But the biggest disappointment of all was Rodgers, who had one of his worst performances in recent memory, throwing for 160 yards and two interceptions. It was his first multi-interception game since 2017. Clearly, something went very wrong for Rodgers in Tampa Bay. Let’s take an in-depth look at his advanced metrics to see if we can find out what.

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According to the OVM, Aaron Rodgers was the NFL’s least valuable quarterback on Sunday

The Offensive Value Metric (OVM) is a grading system utilized by Pro Football Network to measure how much value a player provides to their offense. Aaron Rodgers, unsurprisingly when you look at his stats, received an atrocious grade of 6.55 on Sunday, the lowest received by any quarterback in Week 6. In fact, it is Rodgers’ third-lowest grade in the last four years.

Related | QB Power Rankings 2020 Week 7: Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson out to reclaim seasons

What makes the grade even more shocking is how much of a dramatic departure it represents from Rodgers’ performances in previous weeks. Obviously, his best grade of the season, a 39.68 in Week 1, is significantly higher. However, even his previous low, a 20.24 in Week 2, was still a significant improvement. Week 6 undoubtedly represents a precipitous decline for Rodgers. He went from consistently providing excellent value to his offense to providing almost none in a single week.

Explaining the dramatic decline in Aaron Rodgers’ OVM grade

The biggest difference for Rodgers against the Buccaneers was a significant drop in his completion percentage. The box score will tell you that he completed just 45.7% of his passes, which is concerning enough on its own, but the situation is actually worse than that number would indicate. Much worse, in fact. The NFL has advanced stats that calculate the likelihood that each pass a quarterback throws will be completed. They use those numbers to create an expected completion percentage for each quarterback.

This is a very useful statistic because it allows us to measure a quarterback’s level of play relative to the situations they found themselves in. For example, a quarterback who only threw screen passes would have a high expected completion percentage. On the other hand, a quarterback who was continually throwing passes deep downfield would have a low one.

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Ideally, your quarterback would have a completion percentage that was either close to or above expectation, indicating that they at least did what was expected of them regardless of their situation. Unfortunately, Rodgers did not come close to meeting that standard on Sunday. The chart below shows his completion percentages from each week of the 2020 season, compared to the NFL’s expectations.

COMP% eCOMP% +/-
Week 1 72.7 58.6 14.2
Week 2 60 65.6 -5.6
Week 3 65.6 64.1 1.6
Week 4 81.8 68.1 13.7
Week 6 45.7 58.7 -14

 

As you can see, prior to Sunday’s game, Aaron Rodgers was performing incredibly well in this stat. He had multiple games in which he completed passes at a rate of over 10% higher than expected, and his low mark was just 5.6% below what was expected. But in Week 6, the story took a significant turn for the worse, with Rodgers completing 14% fewer passes than he should have. That is an almost unbelievable difference, one that easily explains Rodgers’ poor OVM grade. If a quarterback is missing more than 10% of the throws he should be connecting on, he is certainly not providing as much value to the offense as he otherwise could be.

Green Bay had more issues against Tampa Bay than just Aaron Rodgers

Despite Rodgers’ struggles, he certainly was not the only reason that the Packers failed to emerge victorious from Sunday’s contest. As is always the case in football, the loss was a team effort. Yes, Rodgers’ two interceptions marked the turning point in the game, but blaming him alone fails to account for the many other problems that Green Bay had.

Along with their inability to stop Tampa Bay’s offense, the team also allowed Rodgers to come under constant pressure from the Buccaneers defense. That led to him being sacked four times before ultimately being pulled out of the game in the fourth quarter. If the Packers plan on competing against the NFL’s best defenses, they will need to do a much job of keeping Rodgers upright. Even one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time won’t always be able to bail his team out of trouble when faced with such a ferocious pass rush.

It shouldn’t take long for the Packers to rebound 

Fortunately for the Packers, we are unlikely to see such a disastrous game from Aaron Rodgers in terms of his stats again any time soon. As I mentioned several times, he was on a hot streak going into last week, and I don’t think a one-off game is enough to derail his season entirely. On top of that, games as poor as this one from Rodgers are notable precisely because of how rare they are. The chances that he follows last weeks debacle up with another, equally calamitous performance seem slim.

Related | Aaron Rodgers Contract: What options do the Green Bay Packers have?

That is especially true when you consider the quality of Green Bay’s upcoming opponents. In the next two weeks, they play the Houston Texans and the Minnesota Vikings, who have just two wins between them. If the Packers are the team we saw during the first four weeks of the season and not the one we saw against Tampa Bay, they should have little trouble defeating either of them.

However, looking further ahead, it is possible that smarter, more talented teams will learn to emulate the strategy that the Buccaneers employed,  which could prove problematic for Green Bay as they make a run at the second Super Bowl victory of Rodgers’ career. Hopefully, the team can adapt quickly, and show that they will be a force to be reckoned with once the postseason arrives.

Lucas Ellinas is a writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Lucas_Ellinas.

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