Yeah, that stuff Aaron Rodgers was saying the other day about his own play not being up to par?
Rodgers was back to MVP Rodgers, and he dragged the Packers back to looking like champions along with him.
He was laser-sharp while carving up the Texans 42-24 Sunday night, completing 24-of-37 passes for 338 yards and six touchdowns, the same amount the Texans had allowed in their 5-0 start. (Watch the highlights here.)
And it wasn’t as if Rodgers stood back with clean pockets all day.
He stood in and took shots and delivered passes, he scrambled for first downs and more when plays broke down. He read through progressions, and found guys who weren’t the first choice.
In short, he was Rodgers again.
And as long as that’s the case, the 3-3 Packers are as good if not better than any team in the NFL.
Here’s another thing: They’re without their best wideout in Greg Jennings, although Jordy Nelson is quickly making that a debate. And a guy with bad hands (James Jones) has caught multiple touchdowns in three straight games.
Those things don’t happen in a vacuum, or with anything short of the best quarterback in the game throwing it to them.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. The Texans didn’t look like the undefeated team that really hadn’t been pushed.
Or maybe they did.
The Texans were able to beat five teams by an average of 15.2 points per game coming into this one, and it might not be an accident that all five were AFC teams. In fact, the toughest of the lot might have been the Jets game, and the Jets can play a physical style you see more often in the other conference.
But from Connor Barwin trying to play buck-buck like Fat Albert on a field goal, to Danieal Manning trying to punch out from the bottom of a pile, the Texans played without much composure, which doesn’t bode well for the games that matter in January, when somebody else might punch back.
2. It’s not exactly breaking news to say that J.J. Watt is having a phenomenal year.
But with two more sacks, pushing him to 9.5 in six games, it becomes more amazing with each passing week.
A 3-4 defensive end is simply not supposed to do be able to do this. The job description, as originally written, doesn’t come close to what Watt is capable of doing. Ends in the 3-4 are supposed to contain the run, be solid and clog lanes for outside linebackers to make the glory plays.
It’s not like a receiver leading the league in rushing, but it’s at least the equivalent of a tight end leading the league in receiving yards, and speaks to his singular talent.
3. The Packers can’t keep inside linebackers healthy, but that doesn’t cover up the fact that one of them is playing very well.
Desmond Bishop was lost for the year with a preseason hamstring, and his replacement D.J. Smith left the game with a knee injury after a suspect block by Texans left tackle Duane Brown.
But the other Packers inside linebacker, A.J. Hawk, has been more than just solid of late, playing very well against the run. The Packers (who were also missing nose tackle B.J. Raji) held Texans running back Arian Foster to 22 yards on 13 carries in the first half, when the run game was a viable option.
Hawk has taken a lot of criticism, and it’s easy to make a case that he’s overpaid. But he’s played well when the Packers needed him most.
4. One other quick note on the Brown hit on Smith.
The Texans have now ceded the moral high ground, and can no longer complain about linebacker Brian Cushing’s season-ending injury from a block of similar intent by Jets guard Matt Slauson.
You can’t have it both ways, fellas.
A wise man told me once there’s a difference between innocent and righteous. Just because it wasn’t flagged doesn’t make it right.
5. The Texans spent a lot of money ($48.75 million for five years) on cornerback Johnathan Joseph, and they’re not getting a return on their investment lately.
There was no injury reported during the game, but he came out for a few plays for backup Alan Ball.
The Texans struggled last week in the secondary against the Jets, and if they were playing a team with actual receivers (and more of a quarterback), it might have cost them then.
It caught up with them Sunday night.
Joseph is a good cover player, but his two-week lapse is noticeable, and something they can’t afford.