Packers riding Rodgers to top of division
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) After spending half of last season on the sideline with a broken collarbone, Aaron Rodgers has been a spectator a lot lately, too, though for a different reason.
The Green Bay Packers offense is so good that Rodgers is not even playing a full game most weeks.
It happened again during the Packers’ 53-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Rodgers was done for the day with 12 minutes, 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter and his team up 46-13. He didn’t take any fourth-quarter snaps in the team’s previous three home games – a 42-10 victory over Minnesota, a 38-17 victory over Carolina and a 55-14 victory over Chicago.
Green Bay is the first team in NFL history to score at least 28 points in the first half of four consecutive home games.
”Obviously Aaron is having a great season and has done so many things, but I think you can’t lose sight of the fact that this is a team sport,” coach Mike McCarthy said Monday, one day after his team improved to 5-0 this season at Lambeau Field. ”I just think it’s a group that’s a year better and has hit its stride a little bit.”
Leading the way is Rodgers, who missed seven games last season with a fractured left clavicle but has been making a strong case for his second NFL MVP ever since telling Packers fans to relax on his weekly ESPN Milwaukee radio show after a 1-2 start.
In those first three games, Rodgers completed 64 of 102 passes (62.7 percent) for 697 yards with five touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 95.1. Since then, the Packers have won six of seven while Rodgers has completed 145 of 211 passes (68.7 percent) for 2,051 yards with 23 touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 132.2.
Against the Eagles, Rodgers finished 22 for 36 for 341 yards with three TDs, no picks and a passer rating of 120.3.
”If you blitzed him, he got it out quick. If you didn’t, he held it until guys got open. He got it to everybody,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. ”Everybody contributed for him, but that all starts with the trigger man, and he put on a show. He is as good as they get.”
He is getting plenty of help from his receivers. Top targets Jordy Nelson both rank in the top 15 in receiving yards – Nelson is third with 998, Cobb is 12th with 779 – and Cobb leads NFL wide receivers in touchdown receptions with 10; Nelson is tied for second with nine.
”He’s hot right now and making a lot of plays, putting us all in good situations to make those plays,” Nelson said. ”It’s a good time.”
Also helping the cause: The Packers are plus-14 in turnover differential this season and they have stayed healthy. Although guards T.J. Lang (ankle) and Josh Sitton (toe) have played each of the past two games with minimal practice time because of their injuries, their preferred starters have lost only one game due to injury this season.
Otherwise, the starting five of David Bakhtiari, Sitton, Corey Linsley, Lang and Bryan Bulaga have been together up front. Nelson, Cobb and running back Eddie Lacy have started all 10 games.
”Having Randall stay healthy and put up the kind of numbers he’s putting up (is big), and obviously Jordy’s having a Pro Bowl season,” Rodgers said. ”The offensive line, being able to have some continuity there has given those guys a consistency we haven’t had here in a while. We’ve been able to avoid the major injuries so far, and hopefully that continues.”
Most important, though, will be Rodgers’ health. The Packers found out last year how difficult life can be without him.
”It’s about playing 16 games in this league; it’s about being available,” said Rodgers, who before last season had missed only one game – with a concussion in 2010 – due to injury before last season. ”That’s how you create some consistency and that’s how you win football games. If you can keep your guys healthy and you can keep them together and start to get on the same page week after week, that’s how you get the momentum and get this thing rolling like we are on offense right now.”