Same ol’ Aaron, despite performance Sunday
No one wanted to break down his 82.8 quarterback rating, or examine the causes of his two interceptions. There was no oohing and ahhing over the just-ended streak of 586 consecutive INT-free passes he’d thrown at Lambeau Field, no interest in discussing football in any meaningful way, really.
No, once Aaron Rodgers arrived at his house in suburban Green Bay on Sunday afternoon, no one in the welcoming committee really cared that their friend hadn’t put up the astronomical numbers to which Green Bay Packers fans have become accustomed. And somewhere during the drive up Interstate 41, the quarterback’s outlook had shifted, too.
While the perfectionist in him was still displeased with his own performance – moments before, he’d stood at the podium and predicted he’d have trouble sleeping – Rodgers reminded himself that a) the Packers had still beaten the visiting St. Louis Rams, 24-10, and b) Green Bay is 5-0, one of only six unbeatens who remain in the 32-team league.
And with that perspective, Rodgers was able to enjoy the rest of his Sunday with girlfriend Olivia Munn; astronaut and fellow Jeopardy! contestant Mark Kelly and his wife Gabrielle Giffords, the former U.S. Congresswoman from Arizona; Rodgers’ personal acupuncturist and her husband; and country music star Brad Paisley and his family.
“I think if you ask the people I came home to on Sunday – I had a full house – we had a blast,” Rodgers said Wednesday, as the Packers prepped for this Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers at Lambeau Field. “We had a good time; we had fun.
“People get it. They know I’m a perfectionist, they know I want to play great. But when you set the bar high – really high – you just have to realize that you’re not going to be compared to your peers anymore. You’re going to be compared to yourself. You have to be comfortable with that. And I am.
“I know I’ve set the bar high, and I’m proud of it. I know I want to play great every week, and the weeks I don’t play as well as the bar I’ve set, then it’s going to feel like this. And I’m OK with that. Still frustrated, still a competitor, but … we’re 5-0! For the second time in 50 years. That’s pretty awesome.”
And despite his below-the-norm numbers against the Rams (19 of 30, 241 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, two sacks and a passer rating of 82.8, his lowest in a home game since a Dec. 9, 2012 victory over Detroit), Rodgers still enters Sunday’s game against the Chargers with his typical NFL MVP-type stats: 108 of 153, 1,236 yards, 13 TDs, two INTs, 117.4 rating.
At his current pace, Rodgers will finish with 3,955 yards, 41 touchdowns and six interceptions – after winning his second MVP last season with 4,381 yards, 38 TDs and five INTs (112.2 rating).
“I think he’d be the first to admit that he strives for greatness, so when things like this happen, he understands why people come with the questions that they come with,” said veteran fullback John Kuhn, one of Rodgers’ closest friends on the team. “But seriously, he takes the same approach every week. It could be a great game, it could be a bad game.
“At times, he can be hard to be around because he’s so competitive and exhausting. And at times, he’s just happy-go-lucky Aaron that everybody gets to see. It doesn’t matter, the game situation. What matters is the preparation process the following week. That’s what determines his attitude.”
And those who know Rodgers best say that he’s not carrying around any extra burden this week, doesn’t seem any more focused than usual. Same ol’ Aaron.
“As a leader, that’s what you’ve got to do,” wide receiver Randall Cobb said. “He does a great job of that. I don’t think anybody points fingers at each other. We all know we need to step up and do a better job.”
Rodgers has almost always done that the week after a subpar showing. Since a four-game stretch of sub-90.0 passer rating games midway through the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV-winning season of 2010, Rodgers has only had one set of back-to-back games with QB ratings below 90.0. That came early in the 2012 season.
“He’s such a competitor that, it’s not a frustration of, ‘Oh, man, this isn’t supposed to happen [to me].’ It’s just the competitive side of him,” backup quarterback Scott Tolzien said of Rodgers’ two INTs against the Rams. “Really, the first one is a tipped ball. That happens. The other one, the guy made a heck of a play, he caught it two inches off the ground. Sunday, there certainly was no panic.
“You’re going to have, I wouldn’t say it was a bad game, but not everything is going as planned. And it doesn’t matter who you are – how you respond is going to be the difference between a win and a loss.”
And the way Rodgers has responded? By working just as hard, focusing just as much, being as demanding as ever of himself and his teammates.
“There’s going to be games like that every year. Hopefully not that many,” Rodgers said. “You just try and keep on doing the same stuff, not get too high or low every week, realize your preparation’s gotten you to this point, the routine has worked for years, stick to it. And yeah, that’s the toughest part – it’s a week between games, [and] you just can’t wait to get out there.
“[But] I’m the same. Hey, look: When I threw six touchdowns in the first half (last November against Chicago) or five on Monday Night Football (against Kansas City on Sept. 28), I think I’m the same on Wednesday as if I threw two (interceptions) and two (touchdowns), like I did Sunday. You can ask the guys, but they would probably say that nothing’s really changed.”
MIDDLE OF THE PACK
How out-of-the-ordinary was Aaron Rodgers’ ordinary performance Sunday against the Rams? In the 14 Week 5 games played in the NFL, 16 quarterbacks had higher passer ratings than Rodgers, who is the NFL’s all-time leader in that category (106.5). Of those 16 quarterbacks, only nine of them were on the winning side of the scoreboard:
154.2 – Carson Palmer, Arizona
130.9 – Tom Brady, New England
125.4 – Blake Bortles, Jacksonville
122.5 – Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay
116.6 – Brian Hoyer, Houston
111.3 – Josh McCown, Cleveland
110.2 – Eli Manning, New York Giants
107.4 – Matt Hasselbeck, Indianapolis
107.1 – Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco
99.7 – Philip Rivers, San Diego
97.4 – Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo
95.9 – Andy Dalton, Cincinnati
91.4 – Russell Wilson, Seattle
90.7 – Drew Brees, New Orleans
88.5 – Sam Bradford, Philadelphia
88.4 – Jay Cutler, Chicago
82.8 – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
82.8 – Alex Smith, Kansas City
82.1 – Derek Carr, Oakland
81.8 – Joe Flacco, Baltimore
73.1 – Mike Vick, Pittsburgh
69.7 – Kirk Cousins, Washington
68.1 – Marcus Mariota, Tennessee
67.0 – Brandon Weeden, Dallas
66.9 – Dan Orlovsky, Detroit
62.3 – Peyton Manning, Denver
55.1 – Matt Ryan, Atlanta
50.0 – Matthew Stafford, Detroit
41.7 – Ryan Mallett, Houston
23.8 – Nick Foles, St. Louis