Sometimes Injuries Are An Excuse

Injuries are never an excuse is a phrase we hear all the time when it comes to sports, but it’s simply not true. There are times when injuries are very much an excuse, and 13 days ago in the divisional round of the playoffs was one of those times.

Let’s be clear, injuries didn’t make Aaron Rodgers miss a wide-open Allen Lazard with the season on the line, make Marcedes Lewis fumble, or make both a field goal and a punt get blocked. The Packers did those things to themselves, and that’s why they aren’t playing Cincinnati next Sunday. But to dismiss the impact injuries had on the offense would be ridiculous.

The Packers faced a talented and determined 49ers defense without the best left tackle in the league, one of the best left guards in the league, arguably the best deep threat in the league, and one of the four or five best tight ends in the NFC.

Insert David Bakhtiari at left tackle and Elgton Jenkins at left guard, move Jon Runyan from left guard to right guard and Billy Turner from left tackle to right tackle, and the 49ers four-man rush would’ve been far less effective. That particular offensive line would’ve given Rodgers more time in the pocket and wide receiver Davante Adams more time to free himself from constant double coverage. And with speedy Marquez Valdes-Scantling at the other receiver and crafty Robert Tonyan at tight end, there would’ve been two other talented targets to throw to if Adams still couldn’t get open.

Because the Packers kept winning in November and December without these four injured stars, too many people just assumed their success would continue in January. That confidence was misguided. Green Bay played only one team with a winning record after Jenkins went down against Minnesota in Week 11, and the offense was inconsistent all season, especially in the red zone. So anybody who looked at the 49ers game through objective eyes knew there was potential for trouble against an ascending defense that would likely be able to harass Rodgers with just four pass rushers.

Getting pressure with four and dropping seven into coverage is kryptonite to most offenses, especially when the defense also has fast and talented inside linebackers like Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. Rodgers was under duress most of the night, and while a lot has been made of the receivers he missed, he more often than not had nobody to throw to down the field. That led to a lot of innocuous dump-offs in the flat and too many forces to a well-covered Adams.

The best way to attack the 49ers was with the run, but that became a lot more difficult without Valdes-Scantling, who injured his back in the meaningless Week 18 game versus Detroit. His big-play potential would’ve forced the 49ers to play their inside linebackers and safeties a little deeper. That would’ve made it easier for Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon to find more open space on the second level, and their 19 combined rushes probably would’ve gained a lot more than 66 yards.

On this 2nd & 7 play, AJ Dillon (#28) had very little room to run as the 49ers kept nine defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

Even with all the offensive stars in street clothes and all the mistakes, Green Bay should’ve beaten the 49ers. They were the better team. But put Bakhtiari, Jenkins, Valdes-Scantling, and Tonyan in the lineup, and the Packers could’ve had two fumbles and three kicks blocked, and they still would’ve won by double digits. Sometimes injuries really are an excuse.

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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

4 thoughts on “Sometimes Injuries Are An Excuse

  1. Dillon also left early in the second half. I remember seeing Taylor, Davis, St. Brown, and Dafney on the field and thinking this should be August and not January.

  2. Agree with you that injuries played a huge role in our loss a few weeks ago. We had no business losing to the 49ers and it’s a real shame that it occurred.

    I am of the mindset that it’s absolutely time to move on from Rodgers. He’s a great thrower and I respect him, but I don’t believe that he has a Super Bowl left in him. If we can trade him to a team that pays us two number ones, a second and third round choice and perhaps a player or two. We should make the move and try to get started off on our rebuild or restock plan. In fact, I saw this purposed trade the other day and felt it would be a good one for us.

    I welcome thoughts for or against, but my take was it would work.

    Denver gets Rodgers and our 4th and 7th round picks this year while we receive the following:

    Denver’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd round picks this year and their 1st next year. Plus QB Drew Lock and WR Jerry Jeudy.

    I really believe that this would be worth the trade. Rodgers can’t play forever and this provides us with a good amount of talent that can help us move forward positively.

  3. I would also trade 12, but as I’ve said many times, that’s easy to say when your career isn’t on the line. If 12 is traded and the Packers go 5-12 for the next three seasons, my Sundays will be less enjoyable, but Gutekunst and LaFleur could be out of jobs.

  4. I think this is absolutely right, Michael. And I totally agree with you that Bakhtiari’s knee has probably cost the Pack two super bowls. It’s almost sickening watching the Rams – a team the Packers really dominated and who the Pack matches up really well with – make it to the Super Bowl. Boy did Les Snead luck out on his gambles. If Tartt catches the Stafford pick there’s probably a totally different narrative on the Rams and Snead.

    Talent goes a long way, but so does luck and injuries. The Packers are clearly better than both the Rams and Bengals. Tough season – not as tough as last year, but still a tough end.

    I still lean towards keeping Rodgers and being pretty good for three years than having Love struggle for the next two before starting over again.

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