Aaron Rodgers plays at MVP level in statistically perfect game
GREEN BAY - Aaron Rodgers wanted to aim his throw at Aaron Jones’ outside shoulder. That’s how the play worked in practice during the week. Now, early in Sunday’s first quarter, the running back corner route was being brought into a game.
Only problem was the Oakland Raiders had the corner covered. When Jones broke his route outside, the way he was instructed, Rodgers didn’t have a throwing window.
So the Green Bay Packers quarterback improvised.
“I felt like to throw it within the boundary would’ve been too flat,” Rodgers explained, “and a guy was on him. So I just tried to put it up.”
Rodgers put it toward his running back’s inside shoulder. He dropped it over Raiders linebacker Nicholas Morrow’s head, yet still inside cornerback Gareon Conley, a perfect throw that, no, coach Matt LaFleur didn’t script.
When Jones caught Sunday afternoon’s opening touchdown pass, making a remarkable adjustment and securing the football as he fell to the field, it seemed like something special might be brewing. Jones, running wide open through the Detroit Lions secondary, dropped a sure touchdown six days earlier. The degree of difficulty here was infinitely higher.
Even still, nobody could have guessed just how special the Packers’ two-time MVP quarterback’s day would become.
Rodgers accounted for as many touchdowns as he had incompletions during the Packers’ 42-24 rout of the Raiders, a win that improved their record to 6-1 and positioned them firmly in the NFC’s early conversation for home-field advantage. He had a season-high 429 passing yards, just the ninth time in his career he has exceeded 400 in a game. His five touchdown passes — he added a 3-yard rushing touchdown — to five different receivers was one behind his career high, and only the fifth time he has done that in his career.
Then, there’s this: Rodgers’ 158.3 rating, the maximum value a quarterback can achieve, was the first time in Packers history a quarterback has had a perfect mark in a single game. Rodgers broke his own single-game franchise record of 155.4, which he set at the Cleveland Browns in 2009.
“That’s some legendary stuff,” outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith said.
What does a perfect passer rating look like in the box score? How about a 25-for-31 completion clip, 13.8 yards per pass, and six total touchdowns. Rodgers became only the second quarterback in NFL history to have at least 400 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and no interceptions in a single game, joining former Washington quarterback Mark Rypien.
The afternoon might have started imperfectly, with Rodgers forced to make an adjustment on his first touchdown throw. By day’s end, it was as close to perfection as any quarterback has reached in NFL history.
“I still don’t understand how they put that rating together,” Rodgers said, smirking and perhaps, considering his football intelligence, presenting a little humility, “but it does sound pretty good.”
It looked even better. Looked vintage. Rodgers threw deep Sunday, completing a 59-yard bomb to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. That stood as the Packers’ longest play of the season until Valdes-Scantling capped his afternoon with a 74-yard touchdown catch and run in the fourth quarter. Rodgers hit almost everything underneath, with LaFleur’s crossing patterns frequently leading to wide-open receivers.
It looked like everything the Packers hoped their offense would be once quarterback and head coach found their rhythm.
“I feel like this has been coming,” Rodgers said. “I really do. I feel like we’ve been building, and I’ve been feeling a lot more comfortable, and Matt’s been feeling more comfortable with him calling it for me and feeling when I’m in that rhythm, and when to be aggressive and when to pull back.”
“When we’ve been at our best over the years, it’s being aggressive and knowing when to dial it back. We had even some more shots called that we called off or dialed back because of the look. We kept dialing them up. I thought the plan was really good.”
That Rodgers did it without top receiver Davante Adams might be the most impressive part.
The Packers have won each of their three games without the Pro Bowl receiver, two of those wins accounting for their two highest point totals of the season. Rodgers assured the Packers are missing Adams’ presence. “I can promise you,” the quarterback said, “we need him and we’re a better offense with 17 on the field.” Still, by spreading the wealth and relying on a consistent run game, Rodgers has found something resembling MVP form.
Without Adams, Rodgers’ top receiver is a former fifth-round pick (Valdes-Scantling). Rounding out his top four Sunday were a trio of undrafted receivers (Geronimo Allison, Jake Kumerow, Allen Lazard). A great quarterback is supposed to elevate those around him. Suffice to say, Rodgers has elevated the offense around him.
“I think he can be in that (MVP) talk pretty much every year,” right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. “Even look at the years he’s not in it. I mean, you see what happens. That’s just the type of talent he is. Aaron Rodgers is still one of the best quarterbacks to ever play, and to still play right now.
“So, yeah, I mean, I don’t know who puts people in those discussions, but I don’t see a reason why he shouldn’t be. We’re 6-1, and not a lot of people thought we were going to be at this stage of the season what we are.”