When things go bad for the Green Bay Packers -- not that they have very often under Matt LaFleur -- the head coach almost always puts the blame on himself.
When things go well, Aaron Rodgers usually gets the credit.
A week after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers whipped the Packers 38-10 -- after which LaFleur said in part that "it definitely wasn't my best game" -- LaFleur was on his game.
The second-year head coach, playing without star running back Aaron Jones and All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari plus half of his starting secondary, went back to his bread-and-butter pre-snap motion plays to keep the Texans' struggling defense guessing. Rodgers' second-quarter touchdowns to Jace Sternberger and Malik Turner -- each with their first NFL regular-season scores -- were perfect examples of the motion and deception that are staples of LaFleur's scheme.
Look at all this motion to free up Sternberger (87) for this easy TD. pic.twitter.com/oAterzjmso— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) October 25, 2020
Rodgers completed 14 of 17 passes for 162 yards and all four of his touchdowns when the Packers used pre-snap motion Sunday; he was 9-of-17 for 121 yards without motion. Rodgers had five touchdown passes all season on plays with pre-snap motion entering the game. The Packers have used pre-snap motion on 50% of their snaps this season, after doing so 38% of the time last season, and 27% in 2018 (their last before Matt LaFleur, according to ESPN Stats & Information).
Jamaal Williams has 114 total yards from scrimmage (19 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown, plus four receptions for 37 yards).
Adams, in his second game back after missing Weeks 3 and 4 because of a hamstring injury, caught 13 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. In Week 1, he tied the franchise record with 14 catches against the Vikings. His yardage was the most by a Packers receiver since Jordy Nelson's 209-yard game against the Jets in 2014.
Playing a hapless team like the one-win Texans (1-6) helps, too.
But if the Packers had a plan like this and executed like that a week earlier, they might be sitting at 6-0. Still, 5-1 isn't bad and neither are the Packers a week after everyone wanted to bury them.
QB breakdown: Last week, Rodgers threw for just 160 yards and two interceptions (his only two of the season) against the Bucs. He bettered that yardage total midway through the second quarter against the Texans. Houston interim head coach Romeo Crennel said he told his team that last week's performance by Rodgers was a fluke. Rodgers made him look right. Rodgers completed 23 of 34 passes for 283 yards and four touchdowns. It was his 26th four-touchdown pass game of his career, fourth-most in NFL history behind Drew Brees (36), Peyton Manning (35) and Tom Brady (30).
Promising trend: Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has been looking for more pressure. Za'Darius Smith helped deliver. He recorded a sack and two QB hits and drew a forced a holding penalty on the Texans. Since Smith joined the Packers in 2019, their sack percentage with him on the field is 7.5% but just 1.9% with him off the field. Their pressure rate is 27% with him on the field and 21% without him. Smith and the Packers' pass rush was nonexistent a week earlier against the Bucs, but the Packers pressured Watson on 30% of his dropbacks. Preston Smith, who has been quiet to start this season, also made his presence felt with a tackle for loss on a fourth-and-1 run by Deshaun Watson in the fourth quarter.
Promising trend II: This one didn't help the Packers on Sunday, but perhaps it could in the long run. Former Packers receiver Randall Cobb looked his old self for the Texans on Sunday with eight catches and 95 yards. If the Texans are sellers before next week's trade deadline, perhaps the Packers would like to get their former slot receiver back to complement Adams.