The Green Bay Packers suffered a disappointing loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship on Sunday. Right now, this loss is painful for the team and their fans as the Pack had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
But once the air clears and fans gain a little distance from this loss, they will realize what a successful season 2020 was for this franchise.
Here are ten reasons Packers fans should be proud of the 2020 season:
- The Packers Overcame the Obstacles of Covid-19 and an Unusual Offseason
There were no OTAs this season, no rookie camps and no preseason games. Training camp was truncated and there were no fans in the stands at Lambeau Field until the playoffs because of the pandemic.
Despite all this, the Packers emerged from the beginning of the season as a cohesive unit that was ready to start the 2020 season.
At the end of the day, head coach Matt LaFleur did a great job of keeping this team together and ready to play despite the unusual and unprecedented obstacles placed in their way.
- Aaron Rodgers Was Revitalized
After two subpar (for him) years, Rodgers returned to his MVP form. The veteran quarterback is the favorite to win the NFL’s MVP and for good reason. The Packers franchise quarterback finished the season with a career-best 48 touchdowns and completed 70.7 percent of his passes, also a new personal best. Rodgers had a quarterback rating of 121.5, the second highest rating of his illustrious career.
There were several reasons for Rodgers’ success. First, he was more comfortable in LaFleur’s offense in his second season at the helm. The coach and quarterback worked well together and Rodgers bought in to LaFleur’s system. More of the second-year coach’s offense was plugged in including pre-snap motion that was not a big part of the previous coach’s offense.
Rodgers also watched film of his 2010 season and saw some things he was doing differently recently. He made changes and his play picked up. He may have also been inspired by the drafting of his possible successor, Jordan Love.
Rodgers was back on top of his game and the Packers were the top seed in the NFC.
- The Packers Had the NFL’s Top Scoring Offense
The Packers finished the season with 509 points on the season, tops in the league. That’s an average of 31.8 points per game.
The offense was also consistent. The team scored 30-or-more points in 12 of their 16 regular season games. They topped 400 yards or more of offense in eight of 16 games.
This is no small accomplishment. The last time the Packers led the NFL in scoring was 2014, another year they reached the NFC Championship Game and Rodgers’ second MVP season.
The offense accomplished this despite injuries to the offensive line that caused starters like David Bakhtiari, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley and Rick Wagner to miss significant time.
The Packers also had a 1,000-yard rusher for the second straight season with Aaron Jones topping that mark again.
The Packers also became the top scoring team in the league despite the overwhelming criticism the team faced for not drafting or adding a significant receiver in the draft or via free agency.
- Davante Adams Had a Career Year
Packers wideout Davante Adams enjoyed the best season of his career and may be the best receiver in the NFL today.
Adams caught 115 passes for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns. The latter total led the league which was impressive considering that the Fresno State alum missed two complete games and part of another due to injury. The 115 catches were a new franchise record for a single season.
Adams is an outstanding route runner who gains an advantage on defenders off the snap of the ball with his footwork and body control. He and Rodgers have outstanding chemistry and work extremely well together.
If the Packers do add another starter opposite Adams next season, his numbers may be down a bit, but he may be even more dangerous and effective.
- Jaire Alexander Developed Into a Shutdown Corner
In his third season, Jaire Alexander became one of the top cover corners in the NFL. Alexander earned Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career and finished near the top of Pro Football Focus’ ratings among cornerbacks.
Alexander allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 51.3 percent of their passes when they targeted receivers he was covering and quarterbacks had a rating of just 67.4 when throwing at receivers covered by Ja’Money.
Alexander is confident, quick, smart and has a short memory so on those few occasions when he does give up a big play, he is ready for the next play.
The former Louisville star had a huge interception and a safety that helped turn the game around in Week 1 in Minnesota and then had two picks in the NFC Championship Game.
Having Alexander available allows the Packers defense to know one side of the field is taken care of and takes away a top weapon from opposing offenses, something Alexander did consistently throughout the season.
- The Offensive Line Had a Great Season
The Packers offensive line overcame a rash of injuries and played very well all season. The offense would never have scored all those points without the strong play of the linemen.
Starting right guard Lane Taylor was injured in Week 1 but Lucas Patrick filled in and did a good job in his place. Billy Turner was injured early in the season but managed to play through it and played both tackle positions and guard over the course of the season.
The Packers lost All Pro center Corey Linsley for three weeks due to injury and All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari missed the end of the regular season and all the playoffs after suffering a knee injury in practice before the season finale.
Elgton Jenkins played center, guard and both tackle positions for the Packers and earned Pro Bowl honors for his skill and versatility while Rick Wagner played well at right tackle and filled in at left tackle when called upon and even played as a blocking tight end for one game.
Rookie Jon Runyan, Jr. stepped in and played well when he was called on to fill in due to injuries.
Despite all these injuries, the Packers allowed just 21 sacks all season and the line did a strong job of opening holes for the running backs.
- The Defense Improved As the Season Went On
The defense started the season playing inconsistent football but got better as the season progressed. By the end of the season, the Packers were 13th in the league in points allowed.
As far as yardage goes, the defense finished seventh in passing yards allowed per game and 13th in rushing yards allowed per game and ninth overall in yards allowed on defense.
Improved play by several players contributed to the improvements. Safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage played much better football down the stretch as their roles were refined and were suited more to their strengths.
Rookie free agent Krys Barnes played well at inside linebacker and he and Kamal Martin pushed Christian Kirksey to play better as well.
Kenny Clark was injured early but by December, he was back to his Pro Bowl level of play.
Rashan Gary and Za’Darius Smith provided steady pressure on opposing passers and Preston Smith played better late in the season than he did early on.
- Mason Crosby Had a Perfect Year On Field Goals
Don’t forget the Packers all-time leading scorer, kicker Mason Crosby. Crosby hit all 16 of his field goal attempts, the first kicker in franchise history to complete a season with a perfect record in that department.
He also had 107 points on the season, one more than last year. He now has 1,682 career points, by far the top total in franchise history.
Crosby did all this despite starting training camp on the Covid-19 reserve list and fighting through several nagging injuries.
- Matt LaFleur Is 26-6 In Two Seasons
Few coaches have achieved what LaFleur has in their first two seasons. LaFleur has put together back-to-back 13-3-0 seasons as head coach of the Packers for a winning percentage of .813.
By contrast, Vince Lombardi was 7-5 in his first season and 8-4 in his second year as coach. Mike Holmgren was 9-7 in each of his first two seasons.
Now, LaFleur needs to build on this fast start to his tenure in Green Bay.
- Back to Back NFC Championship Games
The Packers reached back-to-back NFC Championship Games for the first time since they reached three straight title games from 1995-1997.
Now, LaFleur needs get over the hump of losing in the NFC title game and reach (and win) the Super Bowl. Rodgers is 37 and will be 38 by the time next year’s playoffs get under way. The Packers face a big challenge this offseason with key players set to leave as free agents and the team tight against the cap. Repeating the success of the last two years will certainly be a challenge for LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst.
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