Allen, the Atlanta Falcons‘ free safety, recorded one of nine interceptions Rodgers threw in 2016 on 738 pass attempts, including the playoffs. And Allen was part of a Falcons team that went 2-0 against Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last season, including a 44-21 triumph in the NFC Championship Game.
As the Falcons and Packers prepare to square off for the third time in less than a year, Allen knows the areas of caution regarding Rodgers: hard counts, quick snaps, active feet. But having a read on Rodgers doesn’t mean you have the formula to stop him.
“He’s a guy who makes very little mistakes,” Allen said. “When you get a chance to capitalize, you have to. He’s one of those people that if you miss out on that opportunity to turn the ball over, that thing might come back to bite your butt. It might end up being a touchdown later on.”
Rodgers enters Sunday night’s game fresh off throwing for 311 yards and a touchdown in the Packers’ 17-9, season-opening victory over the vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense. But Rodgers also was sacked four times. And he would have thrown a pick-six for just the second time in his career had a penalty not wiped away Nazair Jones‘ interception return for a score.
In dissecting film of Rodgers, Allen talked about what he sees in the two-time MVP.
“He’s done a really good job with extending plays,” Allen said. “I know he’s always been really good at extending plays, but he’s taken that to another level. He’s able to hit every spot on the field with the ball while running, and that’s very rare when a quarterback pushes to the sideline running away from his throwing arm and is able to still get the ball down the field. Most quarterbacks, if you run them away from their throwing arm, they can’t make that throw. He can.”
In those matchups with the Falcons last season, Rodgers completed 55 of 83 passes for 533 yards with seven touchdowns, the one interception to Allen, and a passer rating of 107.2. And unlike last season, all of Rodgers’ primary weapons are healthy now, with the likes of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery, along with the addition of big-play tight end Martellus Bennett, whom the Falcons saw with New England in the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, the Falcons are faster and deeper on defense, particularly up front. Reigning sacks champ Vic Beasley Jr. has a nice complement off the opposite edge now in rookie Takkarist McKinley, while Adrian Clayborn, Grady Jarrett and Brooks Reed, among others, give Atlanta even more capable bodies to get after Rodgers. The linebackers — led by Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell and rookie Duke Riley — have the speed and length to track down running backs and tight ends, provided they all wrap up with the tackles. And the defensive backfield, led by cornerback Desmond Trufant — who admitted to not having his best game last week against the Bears — has the ability to prevent big pass plays, absent any mental lapses.
So how do you stop Rodgers?
“You’ve got to make everybody compete on the field,” Allen said. “You’ve got to try and keep as much pressure on him as possible. I’m not saying [stopping him] is going to be easy, but it can be done. It’s going to take some pressure.”
Said strong safety Keanu Neal about slowing Rodgers, “It’s just handling him on the front end, getting pressure on him. And then once he gets off the spot, plastering on the back end. That’s the biggest key to containing this offense.”