Brett Christopherson column: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers teaching Green Bay Packers, NFL a thing or two about history

Oct. 3, 2011

Aaron Rodgers seemed sure he had the list nailed as he rattled off the receivers he connected with for scores during Sunday's rout of Denver.

"Jordy (Nelson), James (Jones), Greg (Jennings) and Randall (Cobb) all had touchdowns," the Green Bay Packers quarterback said before pausing and thinking through that honor roll once more.

"Jordy, James…Greg and Donald (Driver) — yeah," Rodgers continued and corrected with a wry grin. "Took a couple of hits today."

Consider it a rare misstep to an otherwise sterling afternoon for No. 12, now — and clearly — The Man among NFL signal callers.

How good was Rodgers in steering the Packers to a 49-23 triumph of the Broncos at Lambeau Field?

His coach, Mike McCarthy, called him a "special player."

Denver coach John Fox, said Rodgers "is playing as well as any quarterback that I have seen, and this is my 23rd season."

Broncos safety Rahim Moore called Rodgers "great" and added, "The man has got it going on."

And Packers tight end Jermichael Finley took to Twitter shortly following the win, gushing … err … tweeting: "4-0!! ARod and the rest of us on point. 49 pts! ATL Sunday night football here we come. Let's go!!"

Better yet, watch out.

Rodgers and his offensive mates have rewritten team and league history through these first four weeks, a sturdy metric to use when trying to gauge if he's truly worthy of wearing the label as the best in the biz.

Consider these gaudy numbers and then judge for yourself if the superlatives are knee jerk stuff:

148: The total points amassed by the Packers over their first four games, a franchise record. That's an average of 37 points per game.

408: Rodgers' passing yards against Denver, a career best in the regular season and the third-most passing yards thrown by a Packers quarterback in a single game.

1,325: Rodgers' passing yards to date, the most in franchise history through the first four games.

12: Rodgers' touchdown tosses to date, tying him with Brett Favre for the most thrown through the Packers' opening four contests.

124.6: Rodgers' season passer rating, tops in the league and better than the season record of 121.1 set by future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning in 2004.

73.0: Rodgers' season completion percentage, which leads the league and is ahead of the NFL season record of 70.62, established by Drew Brees in 2009.

And in the oh-by-the-way category, Rodgers also rushed for a pair of scores to become, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the first quarterback in NFL history (there's that word again) to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns and rush for two touchdowns in a game.

Afterward, McCarthy called Rodgers' performance perhaps the best he has seen statistically.

As for the man of the hour? He lamented about his lone blemish — a fourth-quarter pick — and felt the offensive tempo was a bit sluggish.

"I think I've probably played some better games," Rodgers said with a straight face.

Hard to fathom given the lasers he was firing on Sunday, some of them through seriously tight coverage.

Two were thrown on the same drive: A dart somehow squeezed into Cobb's hands as the rookie parlayed the grab into a 61-yard gain, and a 16-yard beauty to Jones three plays later on a completion that reached the end zone and dropped jaws.

Jones curled around cornerback Andre Goodman, receiving the pass where only he could catch it and just as he made his break, extending the Packers' lead to 42-17 late in the third quarter.

Rodgers was masterful in delivering passes with precision, quickly and with great vision, like that 17-yard pitch-and-catch to Jennings with 24 seconds remaining in the first half that capped a 10-play, 80-yard march while executing the two-minute offense.

Understanding the Broncos' defensive game plan was aimed at containing Finley, Rodgers immediately unleashed the ball to Jennings — lined up in the right slot in a four-wide set — when safety Brian Dawkins shaded his coverage toward Finley, lined up wide, on the snap.

Jennings, one of eight Packers with receptions, was wide open.

It was just another in what is becoming a growing list of examples of Rodgers' complete command of the game and offense.

His day offset another worrisome display from the defense, which, while producing key turnovers, failed to generate a consistent pass rush and allowed a ho-hum quarterback in Kyle Orton to direct an offense that finished with 384 yards.

And it was a performance that kept his club on pace with the unbeaten — that's right, unbeaten — Detroit Lions for the top spot in the NFC North.

"Sometimes I get scared, when he's taking those hits," Packers running back James Starks said. "He's a great player, a great leader, and I only wish the best for him."

We've heard the MVP chants cascade from the seats at Miller Park this season. We've seen the Heisman chatter grow for that quarterback down in Madison.

Make it a Wisconsin trifecta as Rodgers now officially links his name with the accolades and honors that represent the very best in his sport.

Relish what you have Packers Nation. Because yes, the dude is that good.

Christopherson writes for the Post-Crescent of Appleton.

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