40 and 2: Rodgers on pace for most efficient season
Mike McCarthy swears he's seen this before. And then some.
Over seven seasons, the Green Bay Packers head coach has watched quarterback Aaron Rodgers set an almost impossibly high standard. There has been an MVP, a Super Bowl ring, a 45-touchdown season, 62 wins in 93 starts. Records have fallen. More will come.
McCarthy said his quarterback is playing "very, very well" through the season's first six games. Rodgers rebounded from a slow start to 2014. In the past three weeks, he's been flawless. With 15 touchdowns and one interception this season, is Rodgers playing his best football?
McCarthy isn't ready to go that far.
"I think he's spoiled us," McCarthy said. "I've seen him play better. I just think one thing from the standard that he's set and all the things he's done at a high level, he's got a lot of good football in front of him."
Jordy Nelson agrees.
The Packers receiver, who step for step has grown with Rodgers throughout their careers, points to his quarterback's run through the 2010 playoffs. In four games, each growing in importance, Rodgers tossed nine touchdowns with two interceptions. In three of those games – including Super Bowl XLV – his quarterback rating soared above 110.
Then there was the 2011 season. Forty-five touchdowns, six interceptions, only one loss. At times, Green Bay looked unbeatable. That was the mountaintop of Rodgers' career.
At least to this point.
"Our offense was pretty ridiculous right there," Nelson said. "So, I don't know, but I think I've seen better."
Rodgers may be submitting another entry for the "best of" category. How efficient – borderline perfect – has he been through the first month-and-a-half? Consider the following.
- Rodgers is on pace to throw 40 touchdowns and two interceptions this season. Forty and two. It would be the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history … by a comfortable margin.
- Rodgers has finished with a QB rating of at least 99.7 in four games. Rodgers' 111.4 QB rating on the season is 6.1 points higher than his NFL-record career rating.
- Rodgers' lowest QB rating in the past five games is 88.8. That's the average QB rating for the Kansas City Chiefs, who rank 19th in the NFL.
- Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception in five straight games. It's only the second time in his career he's gone interception-less in five straight games, joining 2010. He's never gone six straight games without a pick.
Then, there's this: Rodgers shouldn't have an interception this season. His lone pick bounced of Nelson's hands in the third quarter of the Packers opener against the Seattle Seahawks. After the game, Rodgers said he missed his target window by a foot.
Nelson isn't buying that.
"I'll take (the interception)," Nelson said, laughing. "That way, he's 15-0. There you go."
Rodgers has never played the quarterback position this efficiently, remarkable for one of the most efficient quarterbacks in NFL history. Still, numbers indicate Rodgers has yet to meet the heights of his 2011 season.
Rodgers is averaging 248.16 yards of offense per game, the fewest in his career. In 2011, his 326.66 yards per game were the highest of his career. Rodgers' 7.51 yards per pass is also the fewest in his career, well behind the 9.25 yards per pass he threw in 2011.
Nelson said he was sure these first six games would leave Rodgers unsatisfied. He was right.
"I don't think we're on a roll yet," Rodgers said. "I think we're playing OK, scored enough points to win, but we're still low in the league in yards per game (27th), low in first down percentage (25th), low in a lot of stats, yards per play (19th), passing yards per game (20th), rushing yards per game (24th). We've got to play better on offense, but we've scored enough points on offense the last three weeks to win."
Still, there's something to be said about being on pace to throw 40 touchdowns and only two interceptions. The season is early, and it's hard to imagine Rodgers can stay on that track through 16 games. If he does – and if the Packers keep extending their three-game winning streak – Rodgers will find himself in the conversation for a second MVP award.
And maybe 2014 will be remembered as the best football of his career, greater even than 2011.
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