GB-DEN Grades: Broncos defense stymies Packers in lopsided victory

The top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Broncos’ 29-10 win over the Packers.

| 12 months ago
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

GB-DEN Grades: Broncos defense stymies Packers in lopsided victory

Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Broncos’ 29-10 win over the Packers.

Denver Broncos

– Absent since their Week 5 win over Oakland, DeMarcus Ware (+1.9) returned with a bang against the Packers, with his strip sack leading to the safety early in the fourth quarter that finished the scoring and put this game on ice. Ware earned a positive pass-rush grade for the fifth time in six games this season, and sits fourth among edge defenders with a pass rush grade of 86.5 for the season.

– While the Packers were very obliging with their coverage, Broncos fans will have been relieved and delighted in equal measures to see this performance from Peyton Manning (+2.8). After a ropey start to the season, Manning looked more like the assured veteran you’d expect (at least until his final pass), dominating the middle of the field completing 14 of 18 pass attempts for 206 yards and a +2.8 PFF passing grade on passes targeted between the numbers.

– Last night’s game pitted arguably the league’s top slot corner against the league’s best slot wide receiver and the victory, as with the win, went to the Broncos’ sideline. After an early holding penalty, the battle between Chris Harris Jr. (+2.0) and Randall Cobb (+0.6) appeared to be finely poised, but Harris gave little away for the rest of the night. Targeted five times, Harris surrendered only 23 yards on four completions, adding to some airtight coverage by forcing a fumble from Eddie Lacy (-1.2) early in the third quarter.

Top performers:

DE Derek Wolfe (+4.9)
WR Demaryius Thomas (+3.6)
LG Evan Mathis (+3.5)
QB Peyton Manning (+2.8)
ILB Danny Trevathan (+2.1)


Green Bay Packers

– There was very little for the Packers to shout about last night, and their struggles are embodied by the fifth-highest grade on their team belonging to Randall Cobb (+0.6), a receiver who netted only 27 yards on six receptions. Simply put, Cobb was offered no room to work last night, only shining on an end around, and with one impressive catch working out from behind Danny Trevathan’s coverage. Cobb was held to 8 yards after the catch, his lowest YAC total in a multi-catch game since Week 10 of his rookie season.

– The struggle to get open affected the performance of quarterback Aaron Rodgers (-0.4), with a miracle of throwing receivers open against this Denver secondary beyond even the Packers’ mercurial signal caller. Rodgers completed three of his four passes targeted more than 10 yards downfield, but he had very little to work with on a night where his short completions gained only 24 yards on five completions as the Broncos defense flexed its muscles.

– The Packers’ defense wasn’t nearly as stingy against run or pass, with both Casey Hayward (-0.7) and Damarious Randall (-0.5) allowing in excess of 70 yards in coverage. The 135 yards Hayward allowed marked only the second time he has given up 100+ yards in a single game, and was a career high, topping the 105 yards he surrendered to Arizona in his rookie season.

Top performers:

LT David Bakhtiari (+1.3)
OLB Julius Peppers (+1.2)
C Corey Linsley (+1.1)
RG T.J. Lang (+0.9)
WR Randall Cobb (+0.6)

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • Kason Edell

    This game was so tough to watch.

  • ElwayIsGod7

    This game was so fun to watch.

  • Mac Moj

    The Aaron Rodgers era Packers remind me of the Steve Young 49ers. Had several amazing seasons of high-flying offenses, and always looked like the champs mid-season, but were stymied by good defenses, especially in the playoffs.

    • Brian

      Kind of like peyton manning. To me, rodgers is the new manning. Absolutely elite & unstoppable in the regular season, but nothing special in the postseason. Overall rodgers is 6-5 in the postseason. Aside from his ONE super bowl run, he is 2-5. Rodgers has been to the postseason 6 times and half of those times he has been one and done. Peyton has also been one and done half of his postseason trips. That meltdown gb had in Seattle last season was eerily similar to a peyton team. Just saying

      • Kevin

        Look at what the defense has done in those losses though. It’s hard to put most of the losses on Rodgers or the offense in general.

        2009 he put up 45 points and still lost the game. The loss also came on that horrible facemask that wasn’t called. Packers gave up 51 points in that game.

        2010 won the Superbowl when he finally had a competent defense.

        2011 defense gave up 37 points in the loss.

        2012 won the wildcard game then lost to the 49ers in the divisional round. The defense gave up 45 points to the 49ers.

        2013 GB lost 20-23. Defense finally gave a performance that should of resulted in a GB win.

        2014 won against the Cowboys in Div. round. Then we all know what happened against the Seahawks. GB should of won that game and outplayed the Hawks for 55 minutes. That epic collapse was on the ST’s. Fake FG, onside kick etc. The defense didn’t help the cause with the breakdowns in coverage. Still that can’t really go against Rodgers or the offense. They did enough to win that game and only an epic collapse kept them out of the SB.

        • Brian

          Yeah Im def not saying rodgers is a bad qb or even a bad playoff qb. He’s def not bad like peyton in the playoffs. I’m just saying he hasn’t came thru in a lot of clutch situations in the playoffs the way the brady’s and montana’s of the world have.

          • Leanne Harrington

            You’re not reading/listening to the facts provided. How many times has Brady had to overcome his defense giving up 37 or 45 points in the post-season? In the early years, he had a great defense leading the way. Even in their down years, Belicheck never had a piss poor defense, he’s a defensive coach. Without Belicheck, Brady would be Alex Smith or Rich Gannon.

          • snoth cambin

            Did you just start watching football?

          • Leanne Harrington

            Yes, in 1976…smh

          • snoth cambin

            Than how the hell do you view Bradys early half as brady riding a great defense? The offense was really good why conveniently not remember that? Brady pretty much did what Russell wilson is doing now except Brady didn’t have a rushing offense or defense this good

          • Leanne Harrington

            Let me help you…out of 29 playoff games he started, Br*dy’s defense has only given up 37 or more points once (3%)…38 to Manning’s Colts who beat them. Only 4 (14%) of those times has Br*dy’s offense scored more than 37 points. Defense is critical in the playoffs. You can’t evaluate QB win-loss records in a vacuum unless you want a flawed conclusion…maybe you do to support Br*dy.

      • Kevin

        Basically, You can put 1 loss on Rodgers and the offense. The first 3 are definitely on the defense far more than Rodgers and I think its wrong to put the blame on Rodgers at all after the defense allowed an average of 44.33 points per game in Packers playoff defeat from 2009-2012.

        13-14 are a different story with ’13 probably being on the offense for the first time in Rodgers career. ’14 is hands down on the ST’s as I already said.

        In reality, Rodgers has performed well in the playoffs almost all seasons and it is completely different than Manning’s history. No QB in the history of the NFL could overcome a defense allowing nearly an average of 45 points per game. That is just f’n insane to expect that of Rodgers.

        • jody

          Here is Manning’s playoff history, and it’s a quite different than the lazy narrative and myths people trot out on comment threads.

        • Brian

          Rodgers has performed well in the postseason. Like I said he doesn’t throw the bad picks like peyton however he tends to not come thru in the clutch in those losses.

          • Cant FixStupid

            He doesn’t come through in the clutch?? So he didn’t tie the game up in 2013 vs the #5 defense with over 5 minutes left?? He didn’t drive down the field last year in Seattle vs the best defense to get the game tied up and force it to OT??? How is that not clutch?? Is it his fault he never got the ball back with a chance to win it now???

        • cjfarls

          Not that different than Manning. Until last year’s injury plagued debacle (which im sure changed things), Manning had basically the same post season stats as regular season. We remember his bad playoff games, and forget his dominating ones and teammates fails.

          Dominant QBs can basically make a team perennial playoff teams. Winning 3 or 4 games in a row against other playoff quality teams requires luck and 20+ others playing great too.

          • Kevin

            ’99 – L 16-19
            ’00- L 17-23
            ’02- L 0-41
            ’03- won 2 lost 3rd 14-24
            ’04- won 1 lost 2nd 3-20
            ’05- L 18-21
            ’06- won all defense gave up 8-6-34-17
            07- L 24-28

            I’m late or I’d finish this. Just realized the time.

      • jody

        Or the new Brady? Take away his fortuitous game-managing first seasons with a championship defense (and knowing 90% of the opponent’s defensive play calls) and Brady went 10 years losing in the playoffs too – with one being the biggest choke job in SB history (18-1). He also sat on the bench while his defense saved his bacon last season . Good fortune and flat out luck have a lot more to do with winning a Super Bowl than anyone ever gives credit for – just look at the NFC games leading up to the Super Bowl last season. The best team doesn’t always win, and getting the right match ups along the way can be the key to outlasting better opponents…

        • Brian

          First of all u are creating your own context to make your opinion seem factual. The 18-1 super bowl loss was far from a choke job. First brady was playing hurt in the san diego afc champ game and in that super bowl. And sure he didnt play great vs the giants. But it was far from a choke job. The patriots were down 7-10 late in the 4th qtr and brady led them on a clutch game winning td drive to put them ahead 14-10. He gave his team the lead late and put them in position to win. His defense failed him and gave up their own game winning td drive to eli. If u want to say brady choked in their loss to baltimore in 2013 vs the ravens im in total agreeance but saying he choked in that 1st super bowl vs the giants is simply untrue. Also while he did sit on the bench as butler saved the season, brady is in fact the reason they were in the position to win that game in the first place. Brady led back to bacl clutch 4th qtr drives to give the pats the lead in the super bowl. He didnt have 1 game winning drive he had to have back to back td drives to win. I have watched every super bowl multiple times and it was the best 4th qtr any qb has ever had in a super bowl. I agree there are many things that cant be controlled by the qb in the game of football. I’m in no way saying Russell is gonna be the next brady but of all the nfl qbs his career is most similar. Early in brady’s career when he was still developing his best trait was the clutchness. Same w Russell. Both had early career super bowls wins. I was just making a comparison. Definitely not saying Russell will ever be an all time great. I don’t like brady or wilson or rodgers or manning for that matter. But I’m not gonna try to take things and put them in certain contexts to try to make facts.

        • snoth cambin

          Why do people always bring up the defenses Brady had early in his career but ignore the offenses he was the QB of? It’s like they want to make up their own agenda from the get go. Brady had a top 10 offense in terms of points 5 out of first 6 years as QB that doesn’t happen because he rides his defense all day. Not to mention that 2001 patriots offense the year before was dreadful but managed to get better with brady a first year 6th round pick. He’s been so much better than he was early in his career that people forget how good he was early in his career compared to the rest of the league at the time and that patriots offense in general before him. He didn’t ride his defense when he brought them back against Carolina he didn’t ride his defense in 2004 when they had a top 5 offense.

          • Lonestar47

            I stopped reading after the top ten offense remark.

            I think anyone with an objective view KNOWS that a lot of that prowess has a lot to do with the cheating atmosphere/culture of the BB era in NE, the poor play of the division they are in.

            We all know they have cheated and are still cheating in some manner yet to be found out.

            Take Gronk out of that team and you would find a slightly above average offense.

            We all know that the reversal of the court did not exonerate them merely a procedure by the NFL and that judge most likely will be reversed during the appeal.

      • Cant FixStupid

        And do you realize in the same time that both Rodgers and Brady have been in the league starting, Brady is only 1 win better than Rodgers in the postseason, at 7-5. After Brady’s 3 Super Bowls, he’s 12-8 in the postseason. Ever since he became a superstar QB, an elite QB, he hasn’t been that special in the postseason, but everybody act’s like he has been, like he’s been perfect, and he’s far from it. And you look at Rodgers postseason losses. His 1st one they lose 51-45, any team that allows 51 points, i don’t care who the QB is, you’re likely gonna lose that. That’s not Aaron Rodgers fault. Next loss, he is partly to blame, but his defense still allowed 37 points. Brady has never won a playoff game where his D allowed that much, i actually don’t even think he’s played in a game where they allowed that much. The following year, vs the 2nd best defense in football, Rodgers puts up 31 points, leave it to the defense to allow 45 points though. Yea after that. he ties the game up vs the #5 defense with 6+ minutes left to go, never sees the ball again as his D allows SF to convert multiple 3rd downs and kill over 6 mins and kick the GW FG. Last year, Rodgers didn’t play great, but he didn’t need to. 19-7 lead with under 4 minutes to go, and only time Rodgers sees the ball afterwards they’re down 22-19 with a minute left, and he gets the game tied up, never sees the ball again. If you think Rodgers is to blame for all those losses, you’re a delusional hater!! Brady’s won games in the postseason where he’s literally done nothing, but still nobody says anything negative about Brady, because they won. It’s not Rodgers fault his team can’t ever win without him being great.

      • Greg Mueller

        What you are completely discounting is the impact of the other 45 players in the game. Rodgers didn’t melt down in Seattle at all, if you watched the game

  • Adam LeClair

    Rodgers vs Chiefs: 22/35, 333 yards, 5 TD 0 INT (PFF grade -0.8)

    Rodgers vs Broncos 14/22, 77 yards, 0 TD 0 INT (PFF grade -0.4)

    These are both average games?

    • GatorLegal1

      The Broncos have a better defense. But I agree, the rating system used here is silly. (edited to correct my mistake in reading the numbers correctly)

      • Adam LeClair

        Ha, I agree. It’s not possible. Also, who mentioned Manning?

        • GatorLegal1

          I was reading the comment wrong, my mistake. I corrected my comment…

      • Aaron McFarland

        Have you watched that Packers/Chiefs game fully? Most of the yards were done by YAC, which Rodgers shouldn’t get credit for.

        • GatorLegal1

          Every other QB gets credit for their receivers’ YAC, why shouldn’t Rodgers?

          • Aaron McFarland

            no they don’t, PFF doesn’t credit the QB for yards after the catch.

          • Adam LeClair

            Then it’s flawed. Which is our point.

          • Aaron McFarland

            Well I guess to each is their own. 19 NFL teams though, don’t think their system is flawed.

        • Adam LeClair

          Of course. Finding an open receiver and recognizing he as space to run isn’t nothing though. Proof? He couldn’t even do that last night. Why would these grades be nearly identical?

  • Aaron McFarland

    Where are all those Packer fans today, saying Rodgers should have scored higher, like they were for the Chiefs game? #GoBroncos

    • Adam LeClair

      Why would he score higher? It was a terrible game.

  • Jim Winslow

    lol how did cobb grade positively.

  • Joe Doe

    Denver did an incredible job of not only getting pressure, but keeping their lanes and not allowing Rodgers to find receivers while escaping the pocket. At the same time, Rodgers did seem to have ample time while the pocket converged to make throws. If you watched that game in its entirety it’s almost surprising that Denver only tallied three sacks.

    Which brings me back to the point I brought up two weeks ago (and was lambasted for) . Cobb simply isn’t doing his job getting open. Rodgers said multiple times in his post game interview that guys weren’t getting open, as softly as he could. When Denver is often bringing 5, 6 and 7 guys that means there are single coverage opportunities. An elite receiver, even when challenged by an elite corner should produce.

    • anon76returns

      I didn’t see the Broncos bringing extra pressure all that often. They bring pressure from different directions often, but usually by dropping Ware or Miller (or both!) back into coverage. Miller’s sack might have been a five man rush, but I think Smith’s was only 4 man, and I know Ware’s was only a four man rush. Broncos’ defensive gameplan was containment of the pocket and disciplined rush lanes, not sell-out blitzes.

      • Leanne Harrington

        You’re right, Denver stayed in a base defense most of the game. Check out Rodger’s post game press conference, he says that and that GB expected it and had a plan for it, just did not execute. That’s a good team, when the other team knows what you’re going to do and can’t beat you anyway.

        No legal-illegal formation gamesmanship needed…just beating the other team mano a mano.

  • Tommy

    I don’t know how u can give casey hayward a grade that high??? did he even compete on the dozens of balls thrown his way, throw in a missed tackle or three, The Rookie was far more competitive knocking a ball away and making a diving interception, yet u grade them nearly the same. BIZARRE

  • Tommy

    McCarthy and the offense clearly had no plan to go into this game and commit to a real running attack. They thought they could throw the ball all over the field and they got destroyed. The brainpower on GB has yet to figure out a way to replace the deep presence and reliability of Jordy Nelson and his entire trickle down effect on the offense.

  • Autocephallic

    The Packers just aren’t that good.

    • Cant FixStupid

      This reminds me of our loss in Detroit last year, everybody was saying the same exact thing, and then we finish the year 11-2 and were multiple single plays away from getting to the Super Bowl. Over half a season left to play, Green Bay needed this game, needed to get knocked on their ass after the way they’ve been playing the last few weeks, now they’ll get to work, buckle down and make a strong run into the playoffs.

      • Autocephallic

        No doubt this loss will benefit them in the end. They will learn from it.

  • LH Almeida

    I’d love to have these grades, you know, real stats, not those stupid “grades” you have.

  • Duhast

    Not to mention that holding penalty on Harris was completely fabricated by the refs.