Can Patriots Expose Aaron Rodgers’ ‘Obvious Weakness’ For Week 4 Upset?

Bill Belichick needs to find a way to fluster the Packers QB

by

September 29

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has heaped tremendous praise on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers this week ahead of New England’s Week 4 matchup with Green Bay at Lambeau Field.

“He’s got a great arm. He’s got a great touch. He’s accurate. He helps the team win,” Belichick told reporters Wednesday. “He does the things that they need to do to win. He makes the plays that there’s not many guys that could make. But he doesn’t try to do that all the time and he makes good decisions. Certainly he’s very protective of the ball and the operation of the offense. And he has a lot of freedom, which he should. He makes a lot of good decisions.”

Sounds like the perfect QB, no?

“Really no weaknesses with the player at all,” Belichick even declared Monday on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.”

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But FS1’s Nick Wright disagrees with Belichick, to some extent. While Rodgers certainly is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, he’s by no means infallible. And it’ll be incumbent upon New England’s defense to make the four-time NFL MVP uncomfortable this Sunday.

“I buy that Bill Belichick believes almost everything that he’s saying,” Wright said Wednesday on “First Things First.” “But Rodgers has one clear and obvious weakness — and it was on display in their playoff game (last season), it was on display in the last two regular-season games where Rodgers played the Bucs, as recently as this weekend — which is if something goes awry, unlike the other greatest quarterbacks we’ve ever seen, not only does he not rally from it, he tends to unravel because of it.

“It’s, to me, his only weakness as a player. I think when things are going well, he plays the position as well as any player, and maybe better than any player, ever. But why is he not Tom Brady? Why is he not Patrick Mahomes? Because those two guys, their best moments have come when things have gone poorly.”

Fair criticism? Maybe, so long as we acknowledge it’s rather nitpicky, relative to the flaws of most quarterbacks, and that nearly every team across the NFL would kill to have Rodgers running their offense.

Nevertheless, there have been several examples of Rodgers folding in the face of adversity, which helps to explain why the Packers have won only one Super Bowl in his decade and a half as Green Bay’s starting QB. And flustering Rodgers — still easier said than done, of course — might be the only chance New England has of pulling off an upset in Week 4, especially if Brian Hoyer starts for the Patriots in place of injured quarterback Mac Jones.

The problem: New England’s defense, like the team collectively, has been a mixed bag through three games, occasionally looking very solid but other times failing to produce key stops. Pro Football Focus has the Patriots ranked 25th defensively. The unit ranks 20th in EPA/play and 26th in success rate.

“I don’t think it’s going to come into play this weekend, because with respect to (Kevin) Wildes’ Patriots, I don’t think the Patriots are going to have enough firepower,” Wright said. “But (Rodgers) does have a clear weakness — Peyton (Manning) had something similar to this, as well, which is why Peyton, as great as he is physically and talented mentally, is not the greatest quarterback ever when he probably should have been. When something goes wrong, Rodgers doesn’t pull together. He goes apart. So, yeah, I disagree with Belichick.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the Patriots were 9.5-point underdogs for Sunday’s game against the Packers. This speaks to the discrepancy between the teams’ talent — especially at the quarterback position, with an all-time great on one side and a career backup on the other — and Belichick and company therefore need to figure out a way to rattle Rodgers, or else it could be a long day in Wisconsin for New England.

Thumbnail photo via Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports Images
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