Rodgers’ near-perfect play ‘much better’ than 2011 MVP season

Packers fans congratulate quarterback Aaron Rodgers after Green Bay's 38-17 win against the Carolina Panthers.

Mike Roemer/Mike Roemer/Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Being the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for a second time isn’t on the mind of Aaron Rodgers. But if he keeps playing at a near-perfect level like he did Sunday in the Green Bay Packers’ blowout win over the Carolina Panthers, Rodgers will likely be adding another MVP trophy to his collection.

Rodgers had a maximum-possible passer rating of 158.3 just a few plays before he exited the game early due to the Packers having a 35-point lead. At that point, he had completed 17 of 19 passes for 248 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Three passing attempts later, with Rodgers only able to complete two of them, he had to settle for a 154.5 passer rating, still the second-best of his career.

After the incredible statistics that Rodgers put up in his first MVP season of 2011 (including a 122.5 passer rating and 45 touchdowns to just six interceptions), topping that will be very difficult for him to ever do. Even if Rodgers is currently only halfway through his career — which he stated again this week is his goal, those were once-in-a-lifetime type of numbers.

What Rodgers is accomplishing this season, though, now with 18 consecutive touchdown passes without an interception, might be even more impressive.

"Aaron is a much better player today than he was in 2011," head coach Mike McCarthy said after Green Bay’s 38-17 victory. "His responsibility level has increased a lot since then. So, what he does during the course of the week, during the course of the game, at the line of scrimmage, the communication between (quarterbacks coach) Alex Van Pelt and myself, he is, in my opinion, watching him grow throughout his career, he’s clearly a better player."

Rodgers agreed. Well, sort of.

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"Well, if Mike said it, it must be true, right?," Rodgers said. "He’s our leader, we’ve got to follow everything he says. I hope I’m better. I’ve had a lot of experience since then. I’ve been through a lot of games, tough games, wins, losses, solid performances, poor performances. You’ve got to learn from everything. There were stretches in that season where I was playing really, really well, and we’re kind of in a stretch right now where we’re playing pretty well."

This stretch of playing well all started with Rodgers’ "R-E-L-A-X" comment. The Packers were 1-2 at the time and about to go into Chicago. But the Packers won that game and have followed it up with three more victories. In that span, Rodgers has 13 touchdown passes, no interceptions and has completed more than 70 percent of his passes.

"That’s what I expect from him," said wide receiver Randall Cobb, who added his eighth touchdown catch of the season Sunday. "I’ve stated many times that I think he’s the best player in this league, the best player that — at the end of the day — is going to be one of the best. So I expect that from him. I expect these type of games."

Rodgers has been questioned recently for perhaps being too conservative. It’s the idea that he wants so badly to not throw an interception that he’ll not give his wide receivers a chance to win a battle against a cornerback on a potentially risky pass.

"It’s just being smart with the football," Rodgers said. "I’ve thrown a couple (interceptions) on offsides or 12 men on the field (penalties), so I think I’m getting them out of the way on those situations and then taking better care of it on the ones that actually count. There’s going to be interceptions from time to time, it’s just limiting the number of 50-50 balls that either they get their hands on or get tipped or are poor throws.

"If (defensive players) are not touching the ball that much or at all in a game, that means you’re being as accurate as you want to be."

It’s that style that has Rodgers making history. His current streak of 192 pass attempts without an interception is the longest of his career and the second-best run in Green Bay since Bart Starr had 294 passes in a row without a pick in the 1964-65 seasons. Rodgers also became the first player in NFL history to throw 18 touchdowns with one interception in the first seven games of a season. Rodgers also joined Tom Brady (in 2007) as the only quarterbacks to have four consecutive games of three touchdowns with zero interceptions.

Rodgers threw the same amount of touchdown passes against Carolina as he did incompletions. He sailed a pass high over Cobb’s head that could be interpreted as a drop for hitting both of the receiver’s hands, had a ball slightly tipped that fell in front of Jordy Nelson and tried to lob a touchdown pass to rookie tight end Richard Rodgers in tight coverage.

Packers 38, Panthers 17

Rodgers could only recall two of his three incomplete passes.

"There’s probably another really bad one in there somewhere," Rodgers said.

The 2011 season was "one of those off-the-charts years" that Rodgers had, according to McCarthy. And there are aspects of that season that Rodgers won’t surpass no matter how well he plays in the final nine games of this year. That’s especially true of yards per game, with Rodgers setting in 2011 what is still a career-high for him of 309.5, while this season he’s at a career-low of 239.1.

It’s the efficiency with which Rodgers is playing that has him an early leader for MVP, regardless of whether he’s thought at all about that possibility.

"I wouldn’t mind it, but it doesn’t," Rodgers said. "I’ll take a Super Bowl championship first."

Just like the MVP award, a Super Bowl championship would be a second one for Rodgers.

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