4 Downs With Dougherty: Peppers produces
Every week I'll share four quick thoughts the day after the Green Bay Packers' game. Here they are after the Packers' 30-20 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday:
First down: Julius Peppers’ 2 1/2 sacks and two other tackles for a loss Sunday are a sign that he’s not wearing down at the end of the season. It’s not uncommon for older players who are close to hitting the wall to perform well in the first half or two-thirds of a season and then fade down the stretch. The Packers have been good about not overusing the 35-year-old Peppers’ snaps – he came into Sunday having played 68 percent of their defensive snaps – and he appears to be responding well. They signed him two years ago as a free agent for his ability to make big plays late in games and in big games late in the season, and it looks like he has enough in the tank to do that again at the end of this season.
Second down: Second-round pick Quinten Rollins didn’t have the difficult matchup that fellow rookie Damarious Randall had Sunday, but Rollins still played a good game starting in place of cornerback Sam Shields. Randall matched up most of the game against the Raiders’ outstanding rookie receiver, Amari Cooper, while Rollins usually faced their productive No. 2 receiver, Michael Crabtree. Crabtree had a decent day (six catches and an 11.7-yard average), but those six receptions came on 11 targets. More importantly, Rollins had two passes defensed, including an excellent play in the second quarter on a third-down play from the Packers’ 5 when he leaped high with Crabtree on a fade route in the corner of the end zone to break up a potential touchdown pass.
Third down: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers let his frustration with his receivers show several times Sunday. That might not always be the best look for a quarterback, but it was hard to blame him. Davante Adams missed two chances to make a big play – one on a contested high pass in the end zone, the other on a deep post route that should have been catchable but that Adams failed to track. Jeff Janis had two key miscues as well. One was a dropped short slant that would have converted a third down inside the Raiders 5, the other a high-risk throw that Rodgers floated to the end zone against double coverage. Janis waited on that ball rather attacking it, and the Raiders easily intercepted. Rodgers was visibly upset with Janis on both plays. It’s probably not a good idea to show up teammates regularly, but sometimes it’s hard to blame a guy.
Fourth down: Raiders outside linebacker Khalil Mack had a relatively quiet game, which suggests that Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga (and left tackle David Bakhtiari, at times) put in sound performances against him. Mack is one of the game’s best rushers in only his second NFL season and had a sack Sunday. But that was his only hit on Rodgers, and Mack finished with only two tackles. Mack switched sides of the defensive line throughout the game but mostly lined up opposite Bulaga.