Green Bay Packers 2020 Season Recapby Christopher Gallagher January 29, 2021 0 comments
Once again, among the NFL’s elite during the 2020 season, the Green Bay Packers won 13 games for a second season in a row. Backed behind one of the best offensive lines in the league and a much-improved defense down the stretch, the team closed out the regular season with six straight victories.
After locking up the number one seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season with a victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in week 17, the Packers continued their recent reign of terror over their NFC North counterparts with a record of 5-1 in divisional play. Primed and ready for a deep run in the playoffs, Green Bay would defeat the Los Angeles Rams 32-18 in the Divisional round. Ultimately falling short in the NFC Championship game, for the fourth time under quarterback Aaron Rodgers the team was defeated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-26, ending their campaign short of their ultimate goal.
After scrutiny during the duration of the offseason as a result of the Packer’s selection of Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, many suspected general manager Brian Gutekunst would opt to add to his wide receiver room at the trade deadline. However, after being rumored to be involved in the sweepstakes for Houston Texans wideout Will Fuller, the team’s front office would opt to remain with the current group in place to close out the year. Along with this, the team also remained quiet in adding pieces on the defensive side of the ball. In a bind at the linebacker spot over the previous few years, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was forced to rely on fifth-round pick Kamal Martin and undrafted rookie Krys Barnes to anchor the middle of the unit.
Hammered on the injury front early on in the year, the Packers lost starting guard Lane Taylor in the season opener. In addition to this, the team would place rookie tight end Josiah Deguara, safety Raven Greene and defensive tackle Montravius Adams on the injured reserve list with season-ending injuries. Although no injury would prove more costly than the loss of all-pro left tackle David Bakhtiari to an ACL injury, forcing the group to make adjustments in their protection of Rodgers. Enjoying another standout season, the longtime tackle surrendered just one sack on 758 offensive snaps as the team’s blindside protector.
What Went Right
In his second year in head coach Matt Lafleur’s system, Green Bay enjoyed another standout season from Rodgers at the age of 37. Catapulting himself back into the league’s MVP conversation, the 16-year veteran completed 70 percent of his passes while throwing for 4,299 yards. In addition to this, the California native posted the second-highest passer rating of his career at 121.5 while tossing a career-high 48 touchdown passes with just five interceptions. Additionally, star receiver Davante Adams looked virtually unstoppable at points as the 28-year-old enjoyed the best season of his seven-year NFL tenure. Hauling in a career-high 115 receptions, Adams posted 1,374 receiving yards with an astounding 18 touchdown grabs.
A much-improved group from a year ago, the Packers defense finished the 2020 regular season ranked eighth in total yards (349.9) and 7th in passing yards (221.2). Led in the secondary by second-team all-pro Jaire Alexander, the group held opposing quarterbacks to under 250 yards passing in eight of their last ten games. In addition to this, Green Bay received major contributions from their younger group of players on the defensive side of the ball, with outside linebacker Rashan Gary racking up five sacks. Also, safety Darnell Savage Jr set a career-high in interceptions and tackles with 75 takedowns and four picks in 15 games.
Strong in their protection along the offensive line yet again, Green Bay’s group surrendered just 20 sacks, the lowest total under Rodgers’ tenure. Led up front by one of the best passing blocking tackles in the league in Bakhtiari, the team sent three linemen to the Pro Bowl, with center Corey Linsley and second-year guard Elgton Jenkins joining the longtime tackle. More notably, after locking him up to a four-year contract before the 2019 season, guard Billy Turner was solid up front for the team all year long in 2020. Surrendering just two sacks and three penalties on 884 offensive snaps played, Turner earned a 69.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.
What Went Wrong
One game away from heading back to the Super Bowl for the second time in 10 seasons, the Packers could not get over the hump and back to the big game. Dropping to 1-4 in NFC Championship Games under Rodgers, the team failed to generate consistent pressure on Tom Brady throughout the game, with just five pressures on 37 dropbacks. Furthermore, both Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan struggled mightily in coverage, with King allowing five completions for 66 yards and two touchdowns. Sullivan allowed three receptions for 57 yards, with all three of them coming on third downs to extend their opponents’ drives. Lastly, the team opted to kick a field goal down eight points when faced with a fourth and goal near the final quarter’s two-minute mark. Never receiving the opportunity to get the ball back, a pass interference call would halt Green Bay’s championship hopes.
Remaining a question mark once again in 2020, the Packers struggled to slow down opposing ground games, leading them to give up more than 112 yards per game on average. Routinely gashed in their losses, the team allowed a season-high 173 yards on the ground in their week eight loss to the Vikings. Along with this, they let the Indianapolis Colts run for 140 yards in their narrow overtime defeat. Routinely giving up big plays on the ground, the unit surrendered three runs of 40 plus yards while also giving up nine more runs of 20 plus yards. Fundamentally coming down to a lack of gap integrity and missed tackles in the second level, the team remains searching for a concerted effort to stop opposing backs.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Aaron Rodgers
In a close race with Adams for the most important player award, the edge went to Rodgers after a resurgence during his 2020 campaign. After starting all 16 games for the Packers, Aaron led the team to the number one seed in the NFC playoffs, posting a 100 passer rating in all but two games. Furthermore, the 16 game veteran closed out the season on a tear, tossing three or more touchdown passes in six of Green Bay’s seven final regular-season contests. Finding comfort in his second year in Lafleur’s offensive system, Rodgers’ 84.9 quarterback rating set a new career-high for the 37-year-old. In addition to this, his five interceptions secured his tenth consecutive season with under ten picks while making him the favorite to capture the league-wide honor for the third time in his career.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – AJ Dillon
Adding a power element to the Packer’s backfield, Dillon rushed for 242 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games during his rookie season. Running through defenders with his bruising style, the 22-year-old helped make a name for himself across the league in week 16, leading the team with 21 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns in their victory over the visiting Tennessee Titans at Lambeau. Expected to become the early-down back in 2021 with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams set to hit the free-agent market, the Boston College alumn averaged 5.2 yards per attempt on the ground, with 3.4 of them coming after contact. Making matters even more impressive, he was able to live up to his second-round draft status after being placed on the Covid-19 list, forcing him to miss weeks 9-14.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Krys Barnes
Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Packers after a four-year career at the University of California, Los Angeles, Barnes earned the opportunity to start for the team in their season opener alongside Kirksey. Becoming the primary man in the middle of the team’s defense during the second half of the season, Barnes displayed a tremendous feel for the game while consistently finding a way to get to the ball carrier. Forced to miss a quarter of the season after being placed on the Covid-19 list in November. He is destined to become an even larger contributor on defense in 2021 after finishing his rookie campaign with 421 snaps played, 80 tackles, one forced fumble, and a sack in ten games.
Biggest Surprise – Robert Tonyan
Bursting onto the scene in his third year in the NFL, Tonyan was finally able to provide the Packers with an elusive threat at tight end after searching for multiple seasons. Quickly establishing a connection with Rodgers, the former undrafted free agent recorded 52 receptions for 586 yards with a healthy 11.3 yards averaged per catch. However, the 26-year-old was truly able to make his mark in the red zone as his 11 touchdown catches tied Paul Coffman‘s franchise record for touchdown catches by a tight end. Ultimately finishing in a tie for 13th in receptions and receiving yards, Tonyan tied Chiefs star Travis Kelce for the most touchdown catches in the league for his position in 2020, leading him to become an essential part of the team’s passing attack.
Biggest Disappointment – Preston Smith
A year removed from a career-best season that saw him rack up 56 tackles and 12 sacks after signing a massive four year 52 million dollar deal in Green Bay, Smith disappointed mightily in 2020. Starting just 13 games, the 28-year-old was often invisible at times, leading to an unsatisfying four sacks and seven tackles for loss. Often asked to drop back in coverage in Pettine’s defensive scheme, the former Washington Redskin also struggled mightily in that area, leading opposing passers to complete 72.2 percent of their passes when targeting him, leading to a passer rating of 109.5. A prime cut candidate heading into 2021 as a result of his hefty 16 million dollar cap hit, releasing Preston before the new league year would save Green Bay 12 million dollars.
One Burning Question
Will Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine Return for a Fourth Season?
After choosing to retain Pettine on his staff instead of hiring his own guy once he was named the Packers’ head coach a season ago, Lafleur chose to keep the longtime Jets, defensive coordinator for another year in 2020. Once again, at the center of attention within the organization heading into the offseason. The 54-year-old has often been outcoached in big games while looking unorganized in crucial situations. Evident in their loss to the Buccaneers, Pettine’s man coverage call at the end of the half allowed receiver Scottie Miller to find the end zone with six seconds left to extend the lead. In addition to this, he routinely calls for light fronts along the defensive line while playing soft zone in the secondary, allowing teams to convert a large chunk of third-down opportunities.