GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The difference in Aaron Rodgers can be found in his completion percentage … and his yards per game … and his passer rating … and his touchdown-to-interception ratio … and even in his scrambling.
Yes, the Green Bay Packers quarterback appears to be back in a groove amidst what coach Mike McCarthy called “ridiculous scrutiny” that had just about every NFL analyst and expert weighing in on his struggles.
It might all be tied to Rodgers’ completion percentage, which less than a month ago stood last among all statistically qualified quarterbacks at 56.1 percent. In the last three games, however, Rodgers is back in his rightful place among the league’s most accurate passers. Buoyed by the short-passing game coach Mike McCarthy employed to help get the offense out of its funk, Rodgers has connected on 72.1 percent of his passes (98 of 136) in the last three games with eight touchdowns and one interception.
In that same stretch, he’s averaged 288.7 yards per game (compared with 219 in his first four games) while his passer rating of 87.7 in the first four games jumped to 105.1 in the last three. He also had the best game running the ball of his career last Sunday at Atlanta.
“There was a lot of talk outside the building about some of the issues -- perceived issues,” Rodgers said this week. “A lot of white noise. I just stuck with the preparation that got me here. We’ve done a good job. Some of the injuries, it’s made us be even a little bit more creative because we’ve had to come up with way to put guys in position to be successful. We’ve been a lot more efficient in the passing game the last couple weeks than we had before that.”
At some point, perhaps Rodgers can get his yards per attempt back up, too. He’s at 6.33 for the season, 29th among all quarterbacks, and that number hasn't improved much during this recent stretch despite a 58-yard deep ball against the Falcons to Jordy Nelson. Perhaps that will come Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Indianapolis Colts, who come in ranked 30th in passing yards allowed.
"The expectations are always so high, obviously, so when you play average football when you’re a great player for spurts at a time, then obviously the questions come out,” Packers quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt said. “The fact is he’s a great player, and you’re going to see a lot of greatness more than you’re going to see mediocrity and average [play].”
“I think so,” Van Pelt said. “More chances to get out of the funk or whatever he was in earlier in the season. To come out and I think we’ve had 98 completions in three games now, I think, yeah, you’re seeing what we’re expecting to see from Aaron right now.”
And, according to another offensive assistant coach, it was bound to happen eventually.
“Even though maybe the percentage wasn’t as high as it has been,” said Packers associate head coach/offense Tom Clements, “you had to believe it was going to turn, because he’s too good and the receivers are too good.”
The most telling thing about Rodgers’ play of late can’t be found in his numbers but rather in something he said when asked about his approach, especially when playing with a variety of new receivers (he threw touchdown passes in Atlanta last week to three different players who had never caught one before in the regular season).
“You’ve got to embrace the guys you’ve got and feel confident with them and let it loose,” Rodgers said. “That’s what I did last week was trust those guys to make the plays.”