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Free Head Exam: Green Bay Packers

After the Green Bay Packers' 33-27 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. I mentioned this earlier on Twitter, but it bears repeating. Amid Tebowmania and everything else, I hope everyone realizes how out of his mind Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing. As he enters the Packers' bye week, Rodgers sits atop the NFL rankings in passer rating, QBR, completion percentage (71.5), yards per attempt (9.9) and touchdown passes (20). He's thrown three interceptions, two of which were tipped passes, and he's been incredibly consistent as the first player in NFL history to have a passer rating of at least 110 in each of his first seven starts to open a season. Like any team, the Packers have some flaws. But a near-perfect quarterback can compensate for many of them, and that's what Rodgers has done in 2011.

  2. I didn't notice this play live, and I probably wouldn't have gone back to look at it were it not for a mention in Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column. But Packers tight end Andrew Quarless made what has to be the best play of his career with 11 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the second quarter. Quarless lined up in a trips formation on the left side of the line, moved into the slot, flattened Vikings defensive Jared Allen in pass protection and then took a few steps past the line of scrimmage. As Rodgers bought time by scrambling to his right, and Quarless turned upfield and got open for what turned out to be a 21-yard gain. Quarless has been mostly invisible this season upon the return of starter Jermichael Finley, and I wouldn't have guessed he could be so physical or play that aggressively. But it was a stunning display of versatility.

  3. Sunday brought two revelations about the Packers' safety situation. One was that former starter Nick Collins, who suffered a serious neck injury in Week 2 and will miss the season, hasn't given up on playing again. He was in the locker room after the game and said: "Hopefully things work out and I'll be ready for next season. But at same time, if doctors tell me I can't play, it is what it is. We're very upbeat and we feel like we have a great chance of coming back." The other is that the broken hand of current starter Morgan Burnett, and the protective club he is wearing as a result, is absolutely hindering his play. You could see it on a number of occasions in run support, most notably when he couldn't hold on to Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson during a 54-yard run in the third quarter. Obviously, Burnett isn't the first safety to miss an open-field tackle on Peterson. But he was in position to make the play and got his arms in the right spot. He just physically couldn't hold on.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

While we were paying attention to silly peripheral things like the Packers' Super Bowl championship, Mason Crosby has developed into one of the most reliable place-kickers in the game. I'm not sure how we missed it, but Crosby hasn't missed a kick since hitting the left upright on an attempt in Week 13 of last season. Since then, he has converted 21 consecutive kicks, including four in Sunday's game. One of them, a 58-yarder in the third quarter, set a Packers franchise record. I heard some mild grumbling from you this summer when the Packers re-signed Crosby to a five-year contract, but I think you're starting to get the picture now.