With One Big Game, Rodgers Back on Top

QB Aaron Rodgers (Scott Halleran/Getty)

Sacks in bunches. Uncharacteristic missed throws. Big passing plays missing in action. Elements on offense that dogged the Packers quarterback for the first five weeks of the season were reversed Sunday night against the Texans.

Aaron Rodgers, version 2011, appears to be back.

With a team record-tying six touchdown passes at Houston against the previously unbeaten Texans, the NFL's reigning MVP vaulted to the top of the quarterback hierarchy.

Headed into Week 7 games in the NFL, Rodgers leads the league in passer rating at 105.4, up seven spots from the previous week. He is also first in touchdown passes with 16, where he was previously tied for fifth in the league.

Statistics are only one measure, however. The eye-ball test is another. For Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers' offense, the first five weeks of the season resembled little of the gold standard set in 2011.

There were sacks coming in bunches like it was 2009 all over again. Eight allowed in Week 3 at Seattle and five allowed in Week 5 at Indianapolis were the most telling. Rodgers shared the blame with his offensive line.

Against the Texans, Rodgers was sacked just twice, in his words "stepping into one" and enduring the other on a "botched play to Jordy (Nelson)."

There were also uncharacteristic missed throws – not many, but more than usual for one of the league's most accurate passers.

Against the Texans, Rodgers posted his highest accuracy percentage on the road this season. According to statistics compiled by ProFootballFocus.com, Rodgers had an 82.4 percent accuracy rate factoring in four dropped passes, one throwaway and two batted passes.

And finally, there were few big passing plays of note. Rodgers was completing just more than two passes per game of 20 yards or more. His longest touchdown pass was 31 yards.

Against the Texans, Rodgers completed five plays of 20 yards or more. Four of his six touchdown passes went 41, 21, 48, and 18 yards.

Helping the cause was that Rodgers was hearing some of the criticism of his play and leadership and was taking it all in. He talked about it on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com on Tuesday and again on Wednesday in the locker room.

"I've always enjoyed that," said Rodgers of playing with a chip on his shoulder. "It's something that's fortunately been a part of my career since I was a young player and you've got to remember where you came from. That perspective has always helped me out at different times."

Quite expectedly, Rodgers was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after throwing for a season-high 338 yards and, of course, the six touchdowns. In the process, he became just the fourth quarterback in league history to throw for 330-plus yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in a game, joining a diverse group of Tom Brady, Mark Rypien, and Y.A. Tittle.

Rodgers had six combined touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) in a game against the Denver Broncos in 2011. Also last season, amidst setting the league passer rating record of 122.5, he threw for five touchdowns against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

"To throw six touchdowns, a lot of stuff has to come together," said Rodgers. "You have to kind of stall at times on your runs inside the red zone. That adds to it. You have to make the most of some opportunities, you have to have some guys break some tackles and some guys make some great catches, and you have to have the line protecting well enough to get off six passes."

Rodgers had all of that on Sunday night. And while the St. Louis Rams are consuming his focus this week, last week is in the back of his mind.

Asked how to keep the chip on his shoulder even after his big performance Rodgers said, "Just don't forget about what was said before last week."


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com

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