In a Sunday night shootout, who ya got: The guy who is arguably the most talented quarterback in NFL history? Or the guy who backs up one of the other guys who is arguably the most talented quarterback in NFL history? Basically, do you bet on Aaron Rodgers, or do you bet on Matt Moore?
The decision seems easy on the surface, but this game was anything but. Rodgers' Packers and Moore's Chiefs traded body blows all night long, with each quarterback standing tall in the pocket and delivering strikes, buying time to make plays outside the pocket, and getting the ball into the hands of playmakers to let them do the work. But it was the Packers standing tall at the end, with a 31-24 win keeping them alone in first place in the NFC North.
After falling behind by two scores earlier in the game and beginning the night 2 of 4 for negative-1 yards, Moore rallied the Chiefs back to take a 17-14 halftime lead, tossing touchdowns to Travis Kelce (on a gorgeously-thrown ball down the right sideline) and Mecole Hardman.
The Packers won a thriller over the Chiefs and there's a lot to go over. Fortunately Will Brinson, John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough are here to break it down along with all the other Week 8 games on the latest episode of the Pick Six Podcast. Listen to the full show below and be sure to subscribe right here for daily NFL goodness.
It took until late in the third quarter for the Packers to tie the game on a Mason Crosby field goal, but they got the break they needed on the ensuing drive. LeSean McCoy fumbled deep in Kansas City territory, setting Green Bay up with a golden opportunity. It looked like the Chiefs were about to force yet another field goal, but Rodgers did what Rodgers tends to do in those situations, pulling the perfect throw out of his bag of tricks to give Green Bay a 24-17 lead.
Moore then calmly engineered another touchdown drive, which ended with Damien Williams (on in relief of McCoy after the fumble) plowing through the line for a three-yard score. But then Rodgers saw an opportunity to let Aaron Jones go to work, checking out of one play at the line of scrimmage and getting the ball into Jones' hands on a screen, which he took 67 yards to the house. That, ultimately, was what decided the game.
Moore traded shots with one of the best there ever was, and nearly led his under-manned team to an upset win. In the end, Rodgers just made one more play. And that was all it took for the Packers to push their record to 7-1, and drop the Chiefs' mark to 5-3.
Why the Packers won
The Aarons were unstoppable. Rodgers completed 23 of 33 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns. Jones ran 13 times for 67 yards and caught seven passes for 159 yards and two of Rodgers' three TD tosses. Jones really should have had another touchdown reception, but he somehow stepped out of bounds on a wheel route where he was 10 yards beyond the nearest defender and already had the ball in his hands. The Packers defense did not exactly shut the Chiefs down, but they got timely plays from the likes of Za'Darius Smith (two sacks) and Tyler Lancaster (he both forced and recovered the aforementioned McCoy fumble).
Why the Chiefs lost
The Packers have Rodgers and they don't, I guess? Really, the Chiefs played a good game. Moore was composed and effective, completing 24 of 36 passes for 267 yards and two scores. He made maybe two poor throws all night, and they both fell incomplete rather than into the hands of a defender. The Chiefs battled back from two scores down to take a lead, then answered Green Bay's short-field touchdown with another score to tie the game again. They just happened to get beat by one of the best of the best, because they had one guy make one mistake, and that was all it took. Sometimes that's the way it goes. (One could also quibble with Andy Reid's decision to punt the ball back to Rodgers with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Kansas City never touched the ball again.)
We mentioned it earlier, but it has to be Shady McCoy's fumble, which gave the Packers the ball in Chiefs territory and set the Packers up with a short field, which they used to reclaim the lead.
The Packers' run defense has left much to be desired this season, with Green Bay allowing big games to several opposing backs. But they bottled McCoy up for much of the night, holding him to 40 yards on nine carries and a long run of just nine yards.
Moore was able to pick up the slack and matriculate the ball down the field, but it certainly would have been nice for the Chiefs to be able to lean on their run game a bit more. They really were not able to do so, and the back they had come to view as their most reliable over the past several weeks ended up making a game-changing play for the wrong team.
Plays of the game
Look at this freaking throw from Aaron Rodgers. The man is an alien.
I swear he was trying to throw that ball away. He had to be. Right. Right? Nope. He appeared to know exactly what he was doing, and he dropped the ball into the smallest possible bucket, where only his guy could make a play on it. And damn, did Jamaal Williams make a play on it.
On Green Bay's next drive, Rodgers motioned Aaron Jones into the formation and got the ball into his hands ahead of a Kansas City blitz. Jones did the rest.
These are the kinds of plays your quarterback makes when he is a superstar in both the physical and mental realms of the game.
The Packers are now 7-1, and they have a one-game lead on the Vikings in the NFC North. They're a half-game back of the 49ers for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Packers travel to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers next week. Kansas City is 5-3 and still holds a two-game lead in the AFC West, thanks to the Raiders' Week 8 loss to the Texans. The Chiefs host the Vikings at Arrowhead Stadium next week. They may or may not have Patrick Mahomes back for that game, but he figures to return sometime in the next few weeks, though it remains to be determined whether that's before or after their Week 12 bye.