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The Top 10: Week 16

Matt Waldman's weekly film notebook includes the Packers going tilt, Brandin Cooks' ceiling, L.A. dismantling Seattle, ill-advised calls, and Fresh Fish.

1. the Packers went tilt on Aaron Rodgers and paid the price

Green Bay went on a seven-week diet that emphasized regular servings of the ground game from run-centric alignments and its quarterback under center. While the Packers went 3-4 during that span, Brett Hundley's inexperience prevented the offense from capitalizing on easy opportunities that the ground game generated.

This is what many people misunderstand about good quarterbacking. It's less about the quarterback's ability to do something amazing as it is to find the simple solutions consistently enough so the difficult plays aren't necessary.

Hundley played some of his best football during the final two minutes of games, but often missed the quick reads and throws that would have set the offense up for easy down-and-distance plays. Some of this has to do with his lack of rapport with his receivers, but a lot of it had to do with him getting a feel for the road. 

Think of quarterbacking as driving. There are the rules of the road, the technical operation of the vehicle, weather conditions, and the behavior of other drivers. Young drivers learn all of these skills, but their knowledge is often "on paper" or developed in highly controlled practice settings. 

For example, it's difficult to explain to a young driver how they should handle routine scenarios that can't be separated into neat little categories, but require an integration of all these skills plus strong doses of wisdom: 

  • Why using the horn in the Caribbean is much different than the Midwestern and Southern regions of the U.S.
  • Which cities and countries require aggressive driving that might engender road rage in other places. 
  • Handling clueless drivers who attempt to give up their right of way at crowded intersections. 
Hundley's tenure as the Packers' starting quarterback was like a young driver with a good, but currently, limited skill set traveling to a new country where he had to learn the rules of the road and important details about the culture so he didn't get in any major accidents. At the same time, the Packers discovered that the GPS system and specialty tires that it acquired this summer (Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones) were assets that made Hundley's job easier.
 
One would have thought that if Hundley had an easier time thanks to the ground game, that Green Bay would stay with it. After all, Rodgers said he wouldn't have returned if the Packers were out of the playoff hunt, and if Hundley didn't read specific developments that a good ground game gave him, Rodgers would. Why not continue relying on that ground game to set up easier opportunities for Rodgers, who could exploit that Hundley didn't? 
 
Back to the diet analogy with this offense, Green Bay was learning how to have a balanced diet with those healthy servings of the ground game. Add Rodgers' ability to create when plays break down but also find easy opportunities as a result of the ground game, and the Packers could use the run to set up the pass more often and generate balance we're seeing in New Orleans. 
 
Instead, the Packers saw Rodgers' return as an eagerly-awaited trip to the candy store that they were forbidden to visit for the past two months. Whether it was the staff losing its resolve or Aaron Rodgers forcing his will into the gameplan (or both), Green Bay binged on the candy and it ended like most parents would expect. 
 

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