Bad protection, big production for Pack's Rodgers

BY foxsports • October 16, 2009

Peyton Manning looks like his old MVP self. Brett Favre looks like his young MVP self. Eli Manning looks like his future MVP self. Kyle Orton, gulp, is generating MVP buzz.

Those four guys are a combined 20-0.

But the single most impressive QB performance of the young season belongs to a guy whose team is 2-2.

Aaron Rodgers has a 101.1 quarterback rating and has thrown only one interception in 127 attempts despite being hit more than a pinata.

Cheddar may be the leading variety made in Wisconsin, but the Packers O-line has been strictly Swiss cheese, allowing a league-high 20 sacks. You know it's bad when a team has already had its bye week — meaning it has played 20 percent fewer games than 28 other teams — yet still leads the league in total sacks allowed.

The retirement of right tackle Mark Tauscher and an injury to left tackle Chad Clifton have left the Packers backfield looking like a convention center for converging defensive ends.

Adewale Ogunleye embarrassed right tackle Allen Barbre on opening night, spending the night in Rodgers' lap and recording two sacks. In Week 2, Antwan Odom tied a Bengals franchise record when he sacked Rodgers five times. Leonard Little sacked Rodgers twice in Week 3. Jared Allen set a Monday Night Football record with 4.5 sacks in Week 4, humiliating Daryn Colledge after bellowing, "That guy can't block me!" early in the game.

Still, despite not always being upright to see the result of his passes, Rodgers has yet to have a bad game. His lowest QB rating — 83.4 — is only a couple of points below Tom Brady's season mark (85.9). And with the pocket constantly collapsing around him, Rodgers has proven himself an able scrambler, racking up 104 yards on 17 runs for a 6.1 average.

But the running-for-his-life phase of Rodgers' 2009 season may be over. Clifton is set to return from his injury in Week 6, and the Packers have lured Tauscher out of retirement.

If Rodgers can post a 101.1 QB rating with no time to throw, imagine what he'll do when he can stand in the pocket and wait for Greg Jennings and Donald Driver to get open.

If seeing Clifton and Tauscher reunited makes Rodgers happy, seeing the Lions coming to town in Week 6 should make him ecstatic. Rodgers threw for 636 yards, six touchdowns and no picks in two games against Detroit last year.

Hottest hot seat

It seems about half the coaches in the NFL are under fire.

But even though there are nine coaches whose teams have worse records heading into Week 6, no one's fate seems as sealed as Jim Zorn's. His situation has become so precarious his players are wondering aloud whether he'll make it through the year and demanding management let them know one way or another.

The off-the-record quotes from three players didn't amount to a vote of confidence as much as a plea for some decisiveness so they wouldn't have to answer questions about Zorn's fate anymore.

And now that the S-word — Shanahan — has surfaced, all the pieces seem to be in place for a midseason fragging. Who wouldn't want two-time Super Bowl champion and offensive genius Mike Shanahan running his team?

Meanwhile, the Redskins will play their sixth straight game against a winless team this week, hosting the Chiefs.

Where the bad-call bar is set

While there has been much handwringing about "the Brady rule," over the past couple of weeks, all the data suggest roughing-the-passer calls have been meted out without bias toward the marquee quarterbacks the past five years.