The Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers made it eight wins in a row Sunday and that guy just does things throwing the football that I haven’t seen many others do.
He makes throws you just don’t make in the NFL. You make them on Madden, on a video game. You make them with your Nerf Turbo in the backyard. You don’t make them with a real football against the best athletes in the world.
There are a handful of quarterbacks who have made the throws Rodgers is making right now and he does it more routinely than anyone I’ve ever seen. I don’t think there has ever been anyone as gifted as he is throwing the football. There have been better quarterbacks and guys who won more games. But if you’re talking just about arm talent and throwing the football with accuracy and arm strength, I’d say he is as good as anybody.
But I still think the Packers are headed into trouble Sunday in the NFC championship. Atlanta is going to be a much tougher test for Green Bay.
I don’t see (Aaron) Rodgers sitting in the pocket for eight or nine seconds this week. It’s going to be a lot faster.
There are two things in play. First, Rodgers is very careful about who he trusts when he’s throwing. Second, Mike McCarthy’s offense, as great a coach as he is, isn’t very complicated. From a defensive scheme standpoint, it’s simple to digest, find a plan and go out there and execute it, though Rodgers just takes it to another level.
Put those two together, and that trust becomes so important.
When Rodgers got into trouble early in the season, he didn’t have Jordy Nelson or Jared Cook. If Davante Adams or Randall Cobb were not open right off the bat, he clearly wasn’t going to pull the trigger. Late in the season when he got those guys back, he started pulling the trigger to Nelson while Cook became a matchup nightmare. The offense took off and hasn’t been stopped since. When those guys are in there, Rodgers can do what he wants. He can extend plays. He can make throws. Even after losing Nelson, Rodgers still has that Cook matchup where he feels like he can make throws. On the last play against Dallas, where did Rodgers go? He didn’t go to a receiver – he went to Cook, his tight end.
The X-factor for the Packers this week, however, is the Falcons’ pass rush.
You always hear, “Well, can they get a pass rush on Rodgers?” The Cowboys couldn’t; they had to bring five or six guys. Dallas got to him a little in the second half, but it was too late. From an explosive standpoint, you see all these points. But when the Cowboys started heating him up a little bit and bringing extra guys, they were able to slow down Green Bay.
When those guys are in there, Jordy Nelson or Jared Cook, Aaron Rodgers can do what he wants. He can extend plays. he can make throws. He trusts Nelson. He trusts Cook.
Now, look at Atlanta. The Falcons can rush four and get to the quarterback. Vic Beasley Jr. led the NFL in sacks during the regular season with 15.5. He’s a dynamic young player who can get off blocks and make his way to the quarterback to make it uncomfortable for him. You have a veteran on the other side in Dwight Freeney in addition to some others who can pass rush. Atlanta can also bring pressures and I like its secondary better than what I saw last week with the Cowboys. Coach Dan Quinn has built a fast, tough defense. They fly to the ball. They play as hard as anybody. They don’t take plays off. All these young kids, they don’t stop.
I don’t see Rodgers sitting in the pocket for eight or nine seconds. It’s going to be a lot faster, and this is where that trust comes in.
Is Nelson going to be able to play? If not, is Rodgers going to be able to get the ball out of his hand and trust other guys to win right off the line of scrimmage? If they can do that and they can make plays, then they have a chance. But then you have to keep up with an Atlanta offense that I think is probably the best in the league.
If the Packers don’t have Nelson, then they’re going to need a big day from Cook, Adams and Cobb. They are going to have to win against guys who I think are better than what they saw against Dallas. If they don’t win off the jump and Rodgers doesn’t pull the trigger and tries to bounce around and buy time, now you have the guy who leads the league in sacks coming after you.
It’s going to be a different game for Green Bay, but it’s the same in that it will be another great one. This one might be better than Dallas.
Question of the week
From Tyson Porter: Do you think football as we know it will be around in 50 years? With all the data available now on injuries and concussions, will society continue to support a full-contact sport?
At the NFL Network, there’s a lot of talk about ratings. You’re always comparing, and because you’re in that world, you hear a lot of those conversations. Some people were a little concerned with the number of outlets where you can watch the games now. If you’re flying or going on a trip or somewhere away from a TV, you can watch the games from a phone. The way people consume the game now is different and it’s going to take away from TV ratings.
As far as the game and its safety, there are a lot of eyes on us now. There are independent neurologists on the sidelines and there’s a lot they’re trying to do to improve player safety. They’re teaching safer tackling technique. The equipment is better – the helmets are so much better. I have all of my helmets going back to college hanging in my gym in Bakersfield and if I grab a helmet that I wore my first year and I compare it to one I wore my last year, it’s lighter. You look on the inside, it’s like looking at a car from the 1970s compared to one with 15 airbags in it now. It’s just so much better. I can remember early on getting hit and my head would ring. Later on, I would take the same hits and nothing. I didn’t become more resistant to concussions; the equipment got better.
The technology is great. I think it’s great for the game. I think it’s going to have to save the game. You hear Bo Jackson when he says he would never have played football if he knew the risks. Parents are obviously going to be concerned when they hear a player say something like that. But it’s a great game, too. There’s nothing better to learn life skills, to learn what you have inside you. It expands to so many areas of your life even after you’re done playing. I think they’re taking the right steps to make the game safer. We have a long way to go, but I think we’re on the right track.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
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