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QB Rodgers’ big plays, few giveaways help Packers go 7-0

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Chris Jenkins
November 1, 2011
— Aaron Rodgers’ predecessor would dismiss even the most egregious interceptions with a shrug. Just tryin’ to make a play, Brett Favre would say.

Rodgers, meanwhile, seems genuinely bothered when he gives the ball away. Fortunately for Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, the subject just doesn’t come up very often.


In the Packers’ Oct. 2 victory over Denver, Rodgers threw for 408 yards with four touchdowns and rushed for two more scores. Afterward, he was asked if it was the best performance of his career. He said no, and brought the interception up almost right away.


“I don’t know about that,” Rodgers said at the time. “I think I’ve probably played some better games. It was a pretty good game. I’m disappointed about the interception.”


Rodgers has been remarkably careful with the ball in his three-plus seasons as a starter, throwing 106 touchdowns and 34 interceptions in 54 career regular-season starts. And as good as Rodgers was at avoiding interceptions in his first three seasons as a starter, he has shown almost freakish control this season, with 20 touchdowns and three interceptions in seven games.


Rodgers’ current 1.9-percent interception rate puts him ahead of the career mark for quarterbacks of 2.11 percent set by Neil O’Donnell. Rodgers is completing 71.5 percent of his passes this season, ahead of Drew Brees’ record of 70.62 percent with New Orleans in 2009.


Most important, the Packers are 7-0 heading and people already are asking them about the possibility of making a run at a perfect season. Their play has been far from perfect, especially on defense—but Rodgers and his receivers are so good that the Packers can get away with making mistakes.


Packers coach Mike McCarthy rates Rodgers in some pretty elite company.


“He is clearly the best decision maker that I’ve been around since my time in Kansas City with Joe Montana,” said McCarthy, whose NFL coaching career began as an offensive assistant with the Chiefs in 1993. “He does not get bored throwing completions, and that’s a great attribute to have as a quarterback. He’s clearly in tune with taking what the defense gives you. He has the anticipation, arm strength, dead accuracy to attack the seams. He does a great job of staying disciplined and playing within the offense.”


Don’t confuse careful with cautious, though. Rodgers’ low turnover rate is particularly impressive given the aggressive nature of McCarthy’s offense.


“We’re pretty aggressive,” McCarthy said. “We line up with a lot of receivers. We move people around. We stretch the field vertically. I would challenge anybody in the league with our vertical passing game. We’re not just a three-step and take-what-they-give-us offense. He’s running a well-oiled machine. It’s an offense that has a lot of weapons and he’s in great control of it right now.”


And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Rodgers has perhaps the NFL’s deepest and most talented group of receivers.


“He does his job, and we do our job as well getting open, hopefully give him big enough windows to throw it in that he’s not having to try to squeeze it into small holes all the time,” Jordy Nelson said. “So I think it goes on both sides. He’s doing his job putting the ball in the spot, and we’re doing our job of getting open and hopefully making it as easy for him as possible.”


Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said Rodgers is getting plenty of help from his teammates.


“Nothing happens, as I’m sure Aaron would tell you, individually in this game,” Philbin said. “He’s doing a great job and we expect it to continue. There’s a lot of guys helping him make his job easier.”


And on the rare occasions that teammates don’t make life easier for Rodgers, they don’t have to be told they messed up. When a ball deflected off Greg Jennings’ hands for an interception in the Packers’ Oct. 16 victory over St. Louis, he knew Rodgers would be disappointed.


“He knows my standard, and I didn’t live up to it,” Jennings said after that game. “We talked the other day just about that. I talked to him about how I feel about drops is pretty much how he feels about having a pick. And I had a drop AND gave him a pick. That’s a double-whammy.”


Jennings knows how hard Rodgers takes interceptions.


“Anytime he throws a pick, he’s going to be upset,” Jennings said recently. “He’s a special player, and he raises all of our level of play. If he continues to play at the caliber that he’s playing—and a credit to the offensive line for keeping him upright—the sky’s the limit.”


Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is glad he doesn’t have to come up with a game plan to stop Rodgers.


“I’m glad he’s on our team and I don’t have to concern myself with that,” Capers said. “What he’s doing right now, I don’t think that’s been done before. That’s a credit to him. If you’re around Aaron and watching him from the other side of the ball, the way he works on the practice field, the way he handles things, the control that he has, I’ll just say I’m glad he’s on our team.”



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