BOMBS AWAYIn a high school practice, Aaron Rodgers once threw a ball 75 yards. Mastering the precision of his deep ball, however, was a different story. As he says: "It's something I struggled with. I always had a strong arm and just wanted to zip everything." He has no such problems now. Here, the QB takes us inside the art of throwing a bomb. By ROB DEMOVSKY
"The first thing you're looking at: What's the relationship between the WR and the DB? If he's even or on top, you feel good about the throw. You just have to hold the safety. If [the WR] is getting squeezed, then you're not going that way. You're looking for him to be in a position where he's giving you room for error on the sideline."
"When I'm out there, you just have to react. That's why you work on those throws. When you're in the moment, you can't think to yourself, 'How do I get this to go 47 yards and be 2 yards inside the sideline?' You just have to listen to your body and remember what the elements are and what your wrist snap does to the football."
"I've spent years trying to time up my drops with my throws. You learn to listen to your feet and trust your positions. On a deep throw, you're going to have more weight on your back leg because you're lifting your shoulder up to get some arc on the throw. You're picking a spot and letting your muscle memory take over."
"If you have a situation where the middle safety could be an issue, then you usually have to throw it with a tad lower trajectory. If it's a situation where the safety is not an issue -- say it's a Cover 4 look, or a look where maybe the wideout is running up on the safety against Cover 2 -- then you can put a little air under it."
"Touch is more important than arm strength. You want to really allow the receiver to run underneath the throw. It'll give you a little margin for error if you undershoot it a bit. You want the point of the ball to come down, because if you put enough on it and spin it enough, it's going to be very catchable."
"At this point, I'm looking up at the ball and hoping it's a perfect throw. You're looking from the ball to the receiver's gait, back to the ball and back to his gait. It feels like it's in slow motion sometimes. It's agonizing, like the ball is in the air forever."
TOUGHER THAN IT LOOKSThe trouble with diagramming one of Rodgers' deep balls? It's hard to single out the best one. His play-by-play this season reads like a book of burnt secondaries: 59-yarder vs. Carolina, 70-yarder vs. New Orleans, 73-yarder vs. Chicago. Then there's the 66-yarder vs. Minnesota in Week 5 that is notable for making the not-so-easy look routine. BY FIELD YATES
On the surface, there's no reason the Vikings should have any trouble defending this look. Cover 2 is the perfect defense to prevent vertical passes, and Green Bay opts to use max protection (eight blockers), leaving just two wide receivers for the defense to cover.
At this point, safety Harrison Smith is actually in ideal position vs. wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Trouble is, Nelson runs the perfect route, jabbing out before breaking back in on a post route. After Smith gets turned around, Rodgers has the opening he needs.
With just four Vikings rushing, all Rodgers has to do is slightly sidestep an oncoming rusher to get a clean pocket. The result is all too predictable: Rodgers delivers the perfect throw -- covering a cool 55 yards in the air -- and Nelson waltzes into the end zone untouched.