Aaron Rodgers is producing at an undeniably impressive level in 2014, but the Packers say it's not the best work of the quarterback's professional career.
Brad Barr/Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Fifteen touchdown passes with just one interception is quite the statistical accomplishment for Aaron Rodgers after six games. No other NFL quarterback has a better touchdown-to-interception ratio this season. Not even Rodgers when he was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2011 — with 45 touchdowns and six interceptions — was that good.
"I’ll take it," Nelson added with a laugh. "That way he’s 15-0 (touchdowns to interceptions)."
It certainly wouldn’t have been an easy catch for Nelson. He outstretched his body on a pass thrown in front of him. Even Rodgers said the pass was thrown a foot farther away from Nelson than intended.
"To each his own," Nelson said. "I’m pretty sure he’s not going to blame me and I’m not going to blame him. It’s a pick, that’s all that matters. And it was a big one in that game."
It would take seven times as long to break down Andrew Luck or Matt Ryan’s interceptions this season. For Drew Brees and Jay Cutler, it would take six such explanations. For Rodgers, it’s just the one.
It’s been that type of season for Rodgers. One which has him at or near the top of the "if the season ended today" conversation to repeat as league MVP.
Since that interception in Seattle, Rodgers has thrown 15 consecutive touchdown passes. He put the weight of the team on his shoulders by telling everyone to "R-E-L-A-X" after a 1-2 start and has delivered in an efficient, turnover-free fashion that isn’t supposed to be possible for NFL quarterbacks.
Yet, Rodgers has been so extraordinary at different moments of his seven seasons as the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback that many around him haven’t seen this recent stretch as anything overly spectacular.
"I think Aaron is playing very, very well," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think he’s spoiled us. I’ve seen him play better."
Nelson hesitated briefly as he thought about whether he remembered Rodgers ever playing better.
"I think I’ve seen better," Nelson said. "I’ll just give it to him that way, yeah."
Rodgers’ performance during the 2010 postseason that concluded with him being Super Bowl XLV MVP is often mentioned among the best multiple-game runs of his career. Nelson pointed to all of the consistently elite-level work Rodgers did during the 2011 regular season, too.
"You look at the year we went 15-1, I mean, there’s games across the board our offense played better, and I think him, as well," Nelson said. "So, we need to get to that."
It was in that 2011 season that Rodgers averaged 309.5 passing yards per game. This season, he’s down to a career-low 236.5 passing yards per game. Green Bay’s points per game are also down from 35.0 that year to 26.8 this year. And, even though Rodgers’ 122.5 passer rating in 2011 was — and still is — an all-time NFL record, he’s down to 111.4 this season. However, even a 111.4 passer rating would be the eighth-best mark in league history if the season ended today.
"I just think one thing from the standard that he’s set and all the little things he’s done at a high level," McCarthy said. "He’s got a lot of good football in front of him. The way we’re taking care of the football, the big plays and timely plays — exceptional. No doubt about it."
No wide receiver in the league has been more a part of their quarterback’s game plan this season than Nelson has for Rodgers. Nelson leads the NFL in receiving yards and is second in both targets and catches. But he knows Rodgers quite well after working together the past seven seasons.
"I’m sure if you ask him, he could probably do things better," Nelson said. "I’d hope he would say that, knowing the type of guy he is."
Unsurprisingly, Nelson was right about Rodgers’ thoughts on the topic.
"I don’t think we’re on a roll yet," Rodgers said. "I think we’re playing OK. Scored enough points to win, but we’re still low in the league in yards per game, low in first down percentage, low in a lot of stats; yards per play, passing yards per game, rushing yards per game."
Having great expectations placed upon him seems perfectly fine with Rodgers.
"Yeah, he’s playing good football," Nelson said. "As an offense, I think we can play better, and he’s part of that."