Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns and ran two others in, as he led the undefeated Packers (4-0) to a 49-23 win over the Denver Broncos (1-3) on Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.
Here are five observations from the game:
1. He’s pretty good
It’s almost hard to put into words how well Rodgers played against the Broncos on Sunday, but let’s try our best: His 408 yards were four more than his previous career high of 404 against the Giants, which also marked the start of the Packers’ current 10-game winning streak. The six total touchdowns were a personal best. The four passing touchdowns tied a career high, and he became the first Packers’ quarterback to run for two touchdowns in a game since Brett Favre did it in 1995 against the Cowboys. He became the first quarterback in NFL history with 400 yards, four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in one game. If a ball that went off the hands of James Jones in the fourth quarter falls to the turf, Rodgers would have finished with a passer rating of 145.5. That would have been the second-best rating in a game in his career, behind only his 155.4 showing vs. Cleveland in ’09. Still, his 134.5 rating against the Broncos was his fifth-best career rating and will bump his NFL-leading rating in 2011 to 124.6. Peyton Manning has the NFL record for passer rating in a season at 121.1. Rodgers is on pace for 56 total touchdowns (48 passing, 8 rushing) and 5,300 passing yards in 2011.
Finally, take a look at Rodgers’ stat line during the Packers’ 10-game winning streak: 3,052 yards, 26 passing touchdowns, five interceptions, four rushing touchdowns and a passer rating of 117.6. Yeah, I think that Rodgers guy is pretty good.
2. Six pack
You didn’t really think I was done gushing over Rodgers’ performance on Sunday after one observation, did you? Not even close. Let’s break down his six touchdowns.
Rodgers to Nelson, 50 yards: It was a tremendous route by Jordy, as he ran past the cornerback and then got safety Brian Dawkins to turn his hips the wrong way. It was over at that point, but Rodgers put an absolutely perfect ball on Nelson for the score. He couldn’t have thrown it any better.
Rodgers run, 11 yards: I wasn’t thrilled that he got popped at the end of it, but Rodgers showed off his athleticism and vision on his first touchdown run. He recognized early that the Broncos were in a man defensive look and that the middle of the field had been vacated. It looked like a fairly easy run from there, but I’d guess that there’s only a handful of NFL quarterbacks who would have scored in that same situation.
Rodgers to Jennings, 17 yards: After running a near-perfect two minute drill, Rodgers capped off the drive by essentially stealing candy from a baby. Jennings, who lined up in the slot to the left of the formation, got a free release on his seam route and was wide open. There was nothing fancy about the route combination. Simple pitch and catch.
Rodgers run, 8 yards: Again, not many quarterbacks in this league could have turned this into a touchdown. His heady, second effort reach to the goal line as he was going down got him his second rushing score.
Rodgers to James Jones, 16 yards: Far and away the most special throw he made in this game. The window he fit that ball into on this play was so small that 99 percent of quarterbacks wouldn’t even consider attempting the pass. He put it right on the money after somewhat double clutching the throw in the pocket.
Rodgers to Donald Driver, 8 yards: Rodgers made red zone quarterbacking look easy on this play as he stepped up in the pocket and delivered a bullet against Denver’s zone. He put it where only Driver could catch it.
3. Guns A Blazin’
Sunday was an example of how Rodgers can use all of his weapons on offense to make this unit nearly unstoppable. Everyone got a piece of Rodgers’ historic day. Jennings caught seven passes for 103 yards, Nelson had five for 91, Jones three for 48, Randall Cobb two for 75, Driver three for 20, Jermichael Finley three for 28, and James Starks rushed for 63 yards and caught five passes for another 38. The top four receivers—Jennings, Nelson, Jones and Driver—all caught touchdowns. It says enough that an offensive weapon like Finley can be held to just 28 yards and the Packers still score 49 points.
There was such a balance on Sunday between all the weapons, and there isn’t a defense in the NFL that can match up with the Packers when Mike McCarthy throws them all at you at once. Somewhere, somehow Rodgers is going to find the mismatch and deliver that receiver the ball. I’m obviously too young to give a 100 percent assessment on the idea, but there hasn’t been a Packers offense in my life time that was as dominant as the one we’re seeing right now. Maybe that also stretches to the entire history of the Packers franchise. I’ll let you be the decider of that. But one thing is for sure: If Rodgers spreads the wealth and his receivers respond like they did on Sunday, more games with 40-plus points are going to follow—regardless of the defense they are playing.
4. Three-play stretch
Rodgers’ play gets the spotlight, and for good reason, but a three-play stretch really turned the tide of this game in the first half. With the score 3-0 and the Packers looking sluggish to start the game, Rodgers found Nelson for a 50-yard touchdown. That got the offense on track for the historic day they were about to produce. On the Broncos’ ensuing possession, Charles Woodson picked off Kyle Orton for a 30-yard touchdown. Orton’s throw was mind-boggling, but it marked Woodson’s 11th return for a touchdown in his Hall of Fame career. Following that score, the Packers rolled the dice and executed a perfect onside kick that Nelson recovered untouched. It looked identical to the onside kick that the Packers stunned the Patriots with to start the game last season. Mason Crosby absolutely has that play down. The Packers immediately took advantage, as Rodgers scored his first scoring touchdown. In a span of five minutes, the Packers went from down 3-0 to up 21-3. Unofficially, that stretch was the dagger in this game. The Broncos were in catchup mode from that point on.
5. Swiss cheese
It wasn’t all roses for the Packers, however. Now four games in, Green Bay has problems in the secondary and pass defense that need to get solved. They are getting almost zero pressure, and Dom Capers had to bring three linebackers in the second half to record the Packers one and only sack by Desmond Bishop.
Sam Shields has been a mystery to figure out through the first quarter of the season. He can’t tackle anything, but he hasn’t taken that step forward in year two in coverage either. The interception he made was a result of a bad throw and his tremendous make up speed. He was burnt badly on the play and even a remotely good throw gives the Broncos an easy touchdown. There also wasn’t much effort from Shields’ end on Eric Decker’s first touchdown catch. For a stretch, the Packers actually went to Jarrett Bush ahead of Shields in the nickel.
Orton also wasn’t afraid to pick on Tramon Williams Sunday. While Williams wasn’t solely on Brandon Lloyd, the majority of Lloyd’s eight-catch, 136-yard day came when Williams was covering him. It’s definitely something the Packers can correct, especially considering the talent in the secondary. But when push comes to shove, they need to be better against the pass. There’s no other way to put it.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2