Cory's Corner: Communication Is Undefeated

Aaron Rodgers should've known what Matt LaFleur wanted to do on that fateful fourth down. 

The Packers didn't advance to the Super Bowl because of poor red zone execution, questionable play-calling or untimely officiating.

Nope, the reason the Packers won't be playing in Super Bowl LV in a couple weeks came down to communication. 

"If I had known we were going to kick it, I would have maybe gone with some sort of crossing routes maybe there instead," said a sullen Aaron Rodgers after the Buccaneers stunned the Packers 31-26 in the NFC Championship Game. "But I thought we maybe were going to have four chances."

Of course, what I'm speaking of is the final drive that started at the Green Bay 34 with 4:33 left with the Packers down 31-23. Rodgers was 3-for-7 on that drive for 49 yards, including a 29-yard perfect strike to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Rodgers hit Adams on 3rd and 1 for a first down and he was able to tiptoe to the Tampa Bay 8.

That's where the drive stalled. On the next play out of the shotgun and with three receivers to his right, Rodgers faked an inside handoff to AJ Dillon before throwing a fastball to Allen Lazard on the quick slant. The problem was, Lazard didn't even look for the ball. On second down, out of the shotgun once again and with three receivers to his right, Rodgers was pressured but ran up in the pocket, sidestepped Tampa defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh before throwing a pass for Davante Adams that would've been impossible to catch with a fishing net. On third down and goal from the 8 with 2:15 left, Rodgers operated out of the shotgun again, three receivers to his right and an empty backfield. The protection from Green Bay was outstanding, Rodgers stepped up in the pocket and had plenty of room to run for a touchdown. However, Rodgers opted to shoehorn a pass into Adams who was being blanketed by two defenders and the ball fell incomplete.

So what happens next is the play of the game. The Packers were trying to scratch and claw their way back from 18 points down and were now just eight yards away from potentially tying the game. What will it be? Play the percentages and kick the 26-yard field goal or trust the right arm of the regular season MVP to go get a touchdown?

This should've been discussed before this drive even began. It was clear that both guys were not on the same page. And no, this isn't a referendum on the LaFleur-Rodgers relationship because it has obviously been great since LaFleur got to Green Bay. Rodgers knows that LaFleur really wants No. 12 to succeed and better yet, he wants him to do it by limiting hits and extending his career. 

"It was just the circumstances of having three shots and coming away with no yards and knowing that you not only need the touchdown but you need the two-point (conversion)," LaFleur said. 

That's true, but if you're not going to trust a guy that led the league in quarterback rating, passing touchdowns, completion percentage, and the highest percentage of 20-yard-plus throws, what's the point? And even if Rodgers didn't lead the Packers into the end zone, Tom Brady and the Bucs had their backs up against the wall vs. a defense that had been playing very well in the second half. 

Communication is the bedrock to any good relationship. Both LaFleur and Rodgers used that relationship to carve out a 13-3 record and score nearly 32 points a game. You cannot assume that every aspect of the game was digested, but the football takes weird bounces and there are so many strange situations in this game. 

LaFleur didn't have to ask Rodgers' opinion on the fourth down play, but he needed to tell him what he was doing. Maybe Rodgers tucks it and runs for the score on third down. Maybe LaFleur decides he will make it four-down territory and Rodgers will opt to hand it off on first down. 

LaFleur's offense is like a storybook. Everything is interconnected as each play impacts and builds on the next. Rodgers, with the autonomy of the run-pass option is thinking the exact same thing. He needs to know what the plan is for the future so he can pinpoint what to do best right now. 

Either way, you don't want a learning moment to happen in the NFC Championship Game — again. However, this needed to happen to prove how important each inconsequential decision can have a major impact. 

And because of that, Rodgers is now 1-4 in championship games. Communication matters, and it's the reason the Packers weren't dancing on Sunday night. 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

5 points

Comments (40)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
TarynsEyes's picture

January 26, 2021 at 06:36 am

You don't take the ball out of the hands of your best player, especially if he's the boasted about and expected MVP. The MVP should have made a run for the touchdown and knowing the 4th down play, if needed would be easier being a likely1-2 yard need at worst. I could accept the loss easier had it not happened that way, but to think the GOAT (Brady) would give the ball back to Rodgers should have been a thought and immediately discarded, and the FG thought denied as quickly.

9 points
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SterlingSharpe's picture

January 26, 2021 at 06:40 am

Rodgers should have run it. Like he did last week vs Rams & like he did in the only other NFC Championship game he won, vs the Bears 10 years ago.

I would have gone for it too, however, with the way the bad refs were allowing Tampa Bay to grab, hold, molest our WRs, it would have failed. I actually now think LaFleur made the right call....because....after our D stopped them, Rodgers was about to get the ball baxk down 5 now, with over a minute left.

But Kevin King....and he, his hold was so bad & obvious, the bad ref almost had to throw the flag. Kevin King killed us early with allowing 14 horrible points, and he killed us in the end. He Bostick'd us.

5 points
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stockholder's picture

January 26, 2021 at 09:44 am

I say he wouldn't have made it. The cb was 7 yds from the goal line. #12 would have crossed the LOS. And had a guy coming from his side. Both would have got him. But he would have had at least some more yards.

3 points
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Since'61's picture

January 26, 2021 at 10:56 am

Agree, I think it was a Tampa LB coming from Rodgers left who would have caught Rodgers at the 4-5 yard line. However the basic point here is that Rodgers thought he was in 4 down territory.

If I were the Packers I would have run on first down with Dillon and Williams in the backfield. Motion Williams out to move an LB and handoff to Dillon. Hopefully he picks up 2-3 yards and maybe breaks a tackle and scores. 2nd down, same thing except fake to Dillon and throw to Williams.

I don’t understand why we are empty backfield on every down and going into the end zone on each play. We had plenty of time to at least show the possibility of a running play or picking up a at least a few yards on first or second down. We saw much more creative play calling during the season than we saw throughout this game.

The 4th down call is in another category by itself. If anything MLFs logic justifies going for the TD on 4th down because if you score 6 points and fail on the conversion you only need to drive a short field to kick a winning FG assuming that you can get the ball back after the KO to the Bucs.

A game filled with poor decisions and dropped balls by the Packers. Adams dropped a TD pass cost us 4 points. Redmond dropped an easy pick resulting in 7 points for the Bucs, ESB dropped a 2 point conversion cost 2 points. That is a 13 point swing not counting Jones fumble which is very rare.

Decision making; 1. Why is King left with no safety help on either the 1st TD or the end of half TD? Don’t we watch film of our own team and how we would attack our defense if we were the opponent? Terrible job of preparation by the coaching staff and I’m not trying to minimize King’s poor play. He is a veteran CB who should know how to play his position.
2. Twice inside the opponents 10 yard line without calling a single running play. Why?
3. Trying a 2 point conversion when it was unnecessary to do so. There was plenty of time left at the point in the game.
4. Again, not one running play called after both of Alexander’s picks. Tampa’s D needed to be pounded at that point after spending most of 3Q on the field.
5. As posted above, 4th and goal call makes no sense based on the logic stated by MLF.

Dropped balls and poor decisions cost this game. We beat ourselves with coaching mistakes, lack of preparation and poor fundamentals, specifically catching the football.

Disappointing end to a great season. Thanks, Since ‘61

8 points
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flackcatcher's picture

January 26, 2021 at 12:54 pm

I agree '61. So many chances...

2 points
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dobber's picture

January 26, 2021 at 07:35 am

""If I had known we were going to kick it, I would have maybe gone with some sort of crossing routes maybe there instead," said a sullen Aaron Rodgers after the Buccaneers stunned the Packers 31-26 in the NFC Championship Game. "But I thought we maybe were going to have four chances."

But---ARod---are you saying down by 8 and with a limited clock you weren't trying to score on those first 3 downs? You're a smart man. Come on. You're not going to piddle away 3 downs and make it all or nothing. Quit posturing.

7 points
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Coldworld's picture

January 26, 2021 at 07:55 am

Players have to come to terms with defeat too. Give the man a break. The play calling leading up to that was flawed. Frustration is natural but not always logically expressed.

2 points
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Archie's picture

January 26, 2021 at 08:17 am

That is obviously NOT what the man was conveying. Consider taking a course in reading comprehension.

-1 points
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murph27's picture

January 27, 2021 at 12:32 am

Thanks, Dobber.

Don't you always call the play that you feel gives you the best chance for success?

2 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 27, 2021 at 04:11 am

Amen, dobber.

After watching the first three attempts to score from the 8 yard line, I understood kicking the field goal even though I'd have gone for it. One can't communicate until one knows what to communicate. Part of the decision no doubt rested on the outcome of those three plays, albeit all of them were in the end zone and not thrown short of it trusting the receiver to run it in for 6.

What plays would have been better than those three plays? Crossers? How about a running play in there, which probably means playing for the tie? Who is calling these plays, anyway?

I think AR has his moments, mostly great ones but some where less worthy sentiments get expressed.

2 points
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murf7777's picture

January 26, 2021 at 07:37 am

Both sides have merit, but MLF should’ve talked to Rodgers about his thoughts. I suspect he wasn’t thinking that far ahead. Can only hope MLF learns from this and thinks further ahead and communicates that to his QB.

1 points
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Since'61's picture

January 26, 2021 at 11:03 am

This is on the pre-game preparation, therefore it is on MLF. You must prepare during the week for this situation. Meaning are we going to use all 4 downs to score or not. It changes Rodgers entire approach to how he makes decisions with the ball on the 3 previous plays.

Terrible job of preparation by the coaches and on their communication at critical points in the game. MLF for the offense and Pettine for the defense. No excuses.
Thanks, Since ‘61

5 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 27, 2021 at 04:15 am

I completely disagree.

So LaFleur is supposed to say if our OL can't run block worth a tinker's dam and our tackles are getting eaten alive, here's what we're going to do on first and goal from the 8 when it is do or die in pre-game prep?

-1 points
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Rebecca's picture

January 26, 2021 at 07:47 am

Ultimately it’s in the coach. Once again,” what ifs” don’t change anything. The Super Bowl is “maybe next year”. Trying to heal.

4 points
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Archie's picture

January 26, 2021 at 08:24 am

8 ydl - 3 incompletions and a kick. back-2-back ints followed by 6 incompletions.

Rodgers is a rapidly depreciating asset after this debacle. Time to trade league MVP QB for the best deal possible. Right now you can get between 3 #1 picks and 1 #1 pick and 2 #2 picks. Take it and run. If Love is not ready give Boyle a year at the helm. Strengthen the OL. Pick up a stud RB/WR. Get a top CM prospect and a big time pass rusher. Keep Linsley, let King, Jones & Williams go.

-6 points
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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

January 26, 2021 at 08:45 am

Archie,
One of the best posts I have read here in a very long time!

-5 points
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Tingham's picture

January 26, 2021 at 08:50 am

So simple. Packers need to hire you as GM right away.

1 points
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packerbackerjim's picture

January 26, 2021 at 09:52 am

Talk about recency bias!

4 points
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flackcatcher's picture

January 26, 2021 at 12:41 pm

heh heh heh heh...:-)

1 points
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dobber's picture

January 26, 2021 at 09:56 am

ARod's trade value suffers from other quality QBs asking for trades at this point, too. Teams will play them off against each other. You'd never get anywhere close to his value in return at this point.

3 points
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Dtrsi's picture

January 26, 2021 at 09:57 am

Love is nowhere near ready. Go with Boyle and the Packers are 4-12 at best.

0 points
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marpag1's picture

January 26, 2021 at 11:00 am

I'm interested to hear what you know about Jordan Love's development. Can you give us a progress report?

3 points
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fordguy's picture

January 26, 2021 at 08:12 pm

Boyle was number 2 qb all year so I would think that makes his development (Love) pretty clear.

-3 points
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stockholder's picture

January 26, 2021 at 08:37 pm

How many years do you want to give him? Loves development will be more important then the super-Bowl. And while this goes on. The odds? No pressure to win? . Have you followed whats gone on with Stafford? Because after Rodgers leaves. Just saying. Don't expect a Hall of fame QB.

0 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 27, 2021 at 04:24 am

"Loves development will be more important then (sic) the super-Bowl."

Only to the bean-counters at 1265.

2 points
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BAMABADGER's picture

January 26, 2021 at 08:40 am

Difference between Brady and AR.... Given the same situation, if Arians sent the FG team on the field, Tom Brady would have talked him out of it. Leadership.

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

January 26, 2021 at 09:34 am

You call a time out in those situations, wtf.

3 points
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Since'61's picture

January 26, 2021 at 11:36 am

Johnny Unitas would have told them to get off the field because we’re going to score a TD. Then he did it on the next play. He never conferred with the HC who was Don Shula at the time. The Colts also went on to win the game BTW. Balls, greatness and leadership. Thanks, Since ‘61

2 points
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flackcatcher's picture

January 26, 2021 at 12:48 pm

But Rodgers is not in that position, having used up most of his 'goodwill' undercutting McCarthy the previous seasons. Wishing Rodgers were Unitas, or even Starr in temperment. One can hope for the future...

0 points
1
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stockholder's picture

January 26, 2021 at 09:29 am

I accepted it. Time to move on. The team roster should not be judged on this game. If you thought Rodgers called the shots. Guess again. Accept the fact too, that Rodgers will never win another Super-bowl in Green Bay. And you can thank your Gms for that. If this was war, and men were getting killed, you'd replace the leader. Well Pettine must go. King ,Sullivan, and Redmond got Killed. Your ILbs will always get broken thumbs until they fix the DL. It's no wonder CM3 didn't like to play it. Solution: So lets get the biggest failures out of GB! Well that doesn't work. It puts you into a rebuild. Something obviously was wrong with King. I'd sign him again. He's a bargain now, and if he can stay healthy. His experience is still needed. Even if it's BACK_UP! Next: The OL failed! Thats the next fix! I'm tired of the back problems. Retreads at RT. It's time to move Jenkins to center. Savings$$$. You now have money to sign. Lets not Rebuild. Draft the DL. And you'll like what you see.

-1 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

January 26, 2021 at 09:30 am

Panic City. O.K. you moved the ball to the 8 yard line down eight thanks to stone hands (cut him) Take the timeout at that time; it gives you a chance to collectively define the play set.. You have to score the TD, #one and worry about the two points later. A valiant effort to get back into the contest, but giving away 14 points as in the October fiasco is very hard to overcome. I'm on to the draft and sending threats to Gutedkunst.

-5 points
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stockholder's picture

January 26, 2021 at 10:15 am

The Cbs this draft are not worth the cost of moving up.

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

January 26, 2021 at 03:53 pm

Surtain is the only target to move up for. We'll have to see his speed at the virtual combine.

1 points
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4thandinches's picture

January 26, 2021 at 06:52 pm

Focus on the draft if that pleases you but threatening the gm because your team didn't win it all (or select your draft crush) is childish.

2 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

January 27, 2021 at 09:24 pm

It seems you are humorless.

-1 points
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Handsback's picture

January 26, 2021 at 09:48 am

Green Bay's play calling was horrid the whole game. Once they got behind, they mentally checked out of using the run game to set-up the pass and went back to the MM days where they would pass and try a surprise run. Another example was they targeted Adams way too often. TB didn't have to protect the whole field, just Adams because Rodgers was focused on him every play.
Inside the 10 yard line...the play calling seemed to get worst. Not saying the defense wasn't at fault, since it was obvious that King needed help, an extra CB would have been helpful and enough blitzes to get into Brady's face.
Too bad that the Packers didn't win. Frankly they were outcoached all the way.

6 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

January 26, 2021 at 03:54 pm

Use what got you to the dance. Maybe A.Jones injury changed the scheme?

1 points
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Packers0808's picture

January 26, 2021 at 10:00 am

With our abysmal tries at 2 pointers after TD boy all this in so many ways is all just conjecture! Nobody will never know what would have happened had he run.

6 points
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4thandinches's picture

January 26, 2021 at 11:28 am

I really dislike the narrative that kicking the field goal with 2 min to go indicates MLF doesn't trust Rodgers. If anything, it should indicate he had a lot of confidence that Rodgers could lead the team down the field and score a TD on the next drive if the D could get a stop...

6 points
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bassrock's picture

January 27, 2021 at 09:36 am

Rodgers looked like a deer in the headlights on the 3 plays inside the 10. Wasn't one of those 3 plays that were even close to being completed. For some reason he was panic mode instead of seeing the play. While I don't agree with not going for it on 4th down, I can see why they chose not to. Oh if they don't fire the special teams coach will be a damn shame.

2 points
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