The latest prolific passing day for Aaron Rodgers began with a little discomfort.
Some three hours before kickoff at Lambeau Field against the Washington Redskins, the Green Bay quarterback was dealing with a stiff neck, the product really of not being able to sleep in his own bed.
“I just slept on it wrong I guess over at the hotel,” explained Rodgers. “It’s not the hotel’s fault.”
As a result, Rodgers received some unexpected treatment from the team chiropractor before the game. It did the trick just fine. By game’s end, the only pain in the neck anyone was talking about was the one Rodgers was to the Redskins’ pass defenders.
With four passing touchdowns and a team-record-tying 480 passing yards (on 34-of-42 passing), Rodgers was dialed in with his accuracy, exploiting the Redskins’ one-high safety looks and letting his receivers do the rest. It contributed heavily to the Packers jumping out to 31-0 lead by the third quarter and an eventual 38-20 victory in the home opener.
“He’s one of the best, if not the best in the league. He showed it today,” said Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who had two sacks in the game. “What really makes him good is the sync and synergy that he has with his receivers and that was on display today, unfortunately.”
For the second straight week, the Redskins’ defense was all but knocked out in the first half. Last Monday night, the Philadelphia Eagles and new coach Chip Kelly came to FedEx Field and rolled up 322 yards (on 53 plays) while building a 26-7 halftime lead. On Sunday, Rodgers alone threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns in the first half.
So, while Rodgers was only able to tie his former backup Matt Flynn for the team record in passing yards in a game, he did set a franchise record for passing yards in a half on 26-of-31 passing over the first 30 minutes.
“Aaron spoils you,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He makes it look easy. He was on point all day. I thought the communication, just all the little things just went right. But he did a great job distributing the football and I thought our perimeter did an outstanding job breaking tackles, extending plays and then generating a lot of big plays.”
At the outset, however, the Packers’ offense — which would finish the game with 580 total yards — short-circuited on a number of occasions. Over the first 17 offensive snaps, Rodgers was sacked three times and the offensive line was guilty of two penalties. But on the third offensive series, faced with a fourth-and-3, McCarthy passed on a 53-yard field goal attempt and Rodgers found Randall Cobb over the middle for a 35-yard catch-and-run touchdown to put the Packers up 10-0.
Rodgers and Cobb celebrate their touchdown
The Packers adjusted to the Redskins’ pressure up front by going to the quick passing game. They scored touchdowns on their next two drives and were headed for another score until James Jones fumbled reaching for the end zone. When Jones lost the ball, it hit the pylon turning the ball over by rule to the Redskins with just 9 seconds left in the first half.
For Jones, it was the lone sore spot on a career day. After being shut out for catches last week in San Francisco, he caught 11 passes (in 12 targets) for 178 yards.
“They played a lot of off coverage on us,” said Jones. “That was their game plan and we were able get some quick stuff off and get the ball in our hands to enable us to make some people miss and make some plays down the field. Today was just taking what the defense gave us and we were able to make some guys miss and turn an average play into a big one.”
Rodgers was quick to credit his playmakers for his big day only referring really to his accuracy and carrying out his responsibilities as the reasons for his success. Nonetheless, here are some of his other noteworthy accomplishments from the game:
— Becoming the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for 480-plus yards, four-plus touchdowns and zero interceptions, joining the Giants’ Y.A. Tittle (550/7/0 vs. Washington, Oct. 28, 1962).
— Becoming the first quarterback to throw for 335-plus yards and three-plus touchdowns in a first half since the Patriots’ Tom Brady did so in Week 6 of 2009.
— Setting a franchise record for completion percentage (81 percent) in a single game with 40-plus attempts.
— Matching a single-game career high with 34 completions (at Chicago, Sept. 27, 2010), which was just two completions behind the most in team history.
All in all, not bad for a guy that started the day with a stiff neck.
“I didn’t feel great before the game,” said Rodgers. “I’ve got to thank my guys in the training room – Dr. Zoelle for coming over and giving me an adjustment. Because I was hurting pretty bad. I wasn’t feeling great pre-game. But once the adrenaline started going, I just kind of got into a rhythm.”
“Aaron’s a special football player,” said McCarthy. “He’s at the point of his career where he’s about making other people better, pulling everybody up. It’s the ultimate team game. The quarterback position gives you the opportunity, particularly when you have a great one, to lift everybody up. And he definitely did that today.”
Rodgers’ 400-yard games:
— 480 yards (335 in the first half), 34 of 42 vs. Redskins, Sept. 15, 2013
— 423 yards (305 in the second half), at Arizona, Jan. 10, 2010*
— 408 yards (227 yards in the first half), 29 of 38 vs. Broncos, Oct. 2, 2011
— 404 yards (216 in the first half), 25 of 37 vs. Giants, Dec. 26, 2010
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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org