GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers woke up Sunday morning with a stiff neck that was really bothering him. By Sunday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback broke his previous career-highs in passing yards and tied the all-time franchise record with 480 yards in a 38-20 victory over the Washington Redskins.
It wasn’t a great performance by Rodgers, though. At least he didn’t think so.
“I don’t think this was my best game,” Rodgers said. “I’m very happy with the accuracy and the way things went in the passing game, but we definitely have things to work on.”
Rodgers didn’t want to blame the local hotel for his poor night’s sleep, but the former NFL Most Valuable Player never had an issue with his neck before. Rodgers got treatment before the noon kickoff, which he doesn’t like to do, but he didn’t think he really had any other option.
“I didn’t feel great before the game,” Rodgers said. “I was hurting pretty bad. But once the adrenaline started going, I just kind of got into a rhythm.”
The rhythm that Rodgers found himself in resulted him being only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 480-plus yards with at least four touchdown passes and no interceptions in a game. The last time it was done was 1962 when Y.A. Tittle accomplished that feat.
By halftime, Rodgers already had 335 passing yards and 26 completions, which were both the best marks of his career in a half. Not since Tom Brady in 2009 has an NFL quarterback statistically performed that well in one half.
“Aaron spoils you,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He makes it look easy. He was on point all day. I thought the communication, just all the little things just went right.”
There was one record, however, in which Rodgers has to settle for a tie. The Packers marched down the field late in the fourth quarter and got to the 10-yard line at the two-minute warning with Rodgers sitting at 480 passing yards. Needing one more passing yard to beat the previous franchise record set by Matt Flynn in the 2011 regular-season finale, Rodgers took a knee on three consecutive plays to run out the clock.
“I don’t mind sharing that with an old buddy of mine, Matt Flynn,” Rodgers said. “I’m sure I’ll get a text later about that from him.”
Rodgers had no idea he was tied for the record until the game was over. McCarthy wasn’t aware, either.
“I don’t really, and if I did know he had 480, I wouldn’t have known that was the exact number Matt Flynn had,” McCarthy said. “I’m not that in tune with the numbers. Once in a while, the P.R. department informs us of those things. That was not the case today.”
Part of the reason that Rodgers didn’t feel like he played all that well was because of the yards-after-catch (YAC) that his receivers posted. According to STATS, Packers receivers accounted for 295 of Rodgers’ 480 yards with their work after the catch.
“Aaron’s a special football player,” McCarthy said. “He’s at the point of his career where he’s about making other people better, pulling everybody up. It’s the ultimate team game. The quarterback position gives you the opportunity, particularly when you have a great one, to lift everybody up. And he definitely did that today.”
James Jones had 178 receiving yards (96 YAC), Randall Cobb finished with 128 yards (79 YAC) and a touchdown, tight end Jermichael Finley had six catches for 65 yards (59 YAC) and a touchdown, while Jordy Nelson scored two touchdowns on three receptions.
This was the third 400-yard passing game in Rodgers’ career. No other quarterback in Packers history ever had more than one.
Rodgers is getting along with Brett Favre these days, but he took another record from his retired former teammate. By connecting on 34 of 42 passes (81 percent), Rodgers topped the previous single-game completion percentage mark (when throwing 40-plus attempts) that’s been held by Favre for more than 20 years.
“This is what we expect; we know how good he is,” Cobb said of Rodgers. “We know he’s a great quarterback. He’s a tier above the elite in all of our eyes. When he’s putting up numbers like that, we know we have to go out there and do our job and take care of everything that we can to continue to give him those yards.”
Rodgers was joined in his big day by two of his receivers also having career-best performances. Jones, who’s in his seventh season with Green Bay, set personal records in catches (11) and receiving yards (178). By halftime, Jones had had already broken his own single-game records. Cobb’s 128 receiving yards was also a career high.
The Packers’ success throwing the ball also opened up the running game. After Eddie Lacy suffered a concussion in the first quarter, James Starks came in off the bench and gave Green Bay its first 100-plus yard rusher for the first time in 44 regular-season games. This was the first time in NFL history that any team has had a 450-yard passer and a 125-yard rusher in the same game.
“We have the opportunity, with the guys that we have in this locker room, to do that week in and week out,” Cobb said. “As long as we continue to prepare ourselves right and communicate throughout the week and be prepared and execute the plays, I think the stats should continue to look the way they do.”