Rodgers adds six milestone records in 100th career start
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There's nothing Aaron Rodgers does on the field that surprises his teammates anymore. Rodgers is 100 regular-season starts into his career after Monday night's game and officially added six milestone records to his already lengthy list of accomplishments. It's not that players inside the Green Bay Packers locker room weren't impressed. It's just that they've already seen it all from their quarterback, with Rodgers likely to win his second NFL Most Valuable Player award in what could be a unanimous vote.
While leading the Packers to a 43-37 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Rodgers' 100th start placed him No. 1 in league history in touchdown passes (222), passing yards (27,520) and passer rating (107.3) at this stage of any NFL quarterback's career. He also tops the all-time list in zero-interception games (58), 100-plus passer rating games (60) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (4.11:1).
"It's been fun; it's been a great 100 games started," Rodgers said. "When you're a young player, you can only dream about these kinds of opportunities. Then you get into it and you think 'I'd love to do 100 more.'"
Jordy Nelson has been on the receiving end of more than 21 percent of those touchdowns and yards since Rodgers took over as Green Bay's starter in 2008. Nelson added 146 yards and two touchdowns against Atlanta, including a 60-yard touchdown that gave him the passing yards mark.
"It's an honor to play with a quarterback like that," Nelson said. "I've been blessed to have him for seven years, and most likely the whole career. It's special to be able to have that opportunity to play with a quarterback like that. He's great. He works at it every day, he definitely never settles for anything, he's an extremely big competitor and I think that's what drives him every day in practice.
"No matter what it is, he's striving for that perfection and we're trying to get up to his level and help him out and make it as easy for him as possible. He's a great player."
When the Packers took a 31-7 halftime lead over the Falcons, it seemed like this game would serve mostly as a celebration for Rodgers' incredible statistical production. Instead, Green Bay's defense allowed 30 second-half points to an Atlanta team that had scored more than 30 points only twice this season -- and that was in full games, not just a half.
Despite winning their fifth consecutive game since the bye week, the Packers weren't able to feel as good about this victory as they had the previous four.
"There may have been a slight relaxation there at halftime up 24," Rodgers said. "Occasionally that can be the natural thing."
Rodgers also believed it was "a reminder you have to play four quarters." That's something Green Bay hasn't had to do in several games this season, winning by so much that Rodgers and other starters didn't have to play the fourth quarter in Weeks 5, 7, 10 and 11.
"Maybe I need to go back and look at what was said at halftime," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "We haven't played four quarters here in a while and we clearly didn't show up for four quarters in several parts of the game."
Everyone on the Packers' defense was well aware before the game that Atlanta's Julio Jones is a top-tier, elite receiver. Jones had just showed that a week earlier when Arizona's $70 million cornerback Patrick Peterson couldn't stop him from reeling off 10 catches for 189 yards. But what Jones accomplished Monday at Lambeau Field was on a different level.
Jones' 259 receiving yards were the most ever allowed by Green Bay. That topped the 244 yards that the Packers gave up to Detroit's Calvin Johnson in Week 17 of the 2011 season.
"Julio is a really good player but I think also us on the back end, we messed up quite a bit," safety/nickel back Micah Hyde said. "Just with the fundamentals, dropping into our zone coverage and passing off the receivers and stuff like that."
Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams didn't look at it as a setback for Green Bay's defense, but rather "a little hitch in the step" of an otherwise good year for his group.
"All wins aren't going to be pretty," Williams said. "We were hoping it would be. In the first half, we were hoping. It didn't happen that way. We had to fight all 60 minutes."
The Packers have had their signature wins this season. This was not one of them. Beating the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles displayed that Green Bay very well could be Super Bowl-bound after a three-year drought. However, losses at Seattle, Detroit and New Orleans -- and a game like this allowing 37 points to 5-8 Atlanta -- can create doubt that the Packers can make a run like they did in 2010.
"If it takes scoring 38-plus points to win, then that's what we've got to do," Rodgers said. "There's no excuses with our offense. We approach every drive like we're going to score on that drive."
Sure, the Falcons could be in the playoffs -- and even host a postseason game, but that's only because the NFC South is so dreadful. If Green Bay as a team is going to achieve what its offense seems more than capable of helping it achieve, Monday night's defensive mess has to be a one-night-only problem.
"We made Matt Ryan look like Matty Ice again out there," Clay Matthews said. "More power to him, but a lot of that was our doing. We've got to get better, and we will."
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