EAGAN, Minn. – A month ago, Aaron Rodgers stretched across the plane of the end zone with the football in his left hand late in Green Bay’s 24-14 victory over NFC North rival Chicago. He celebrated with his signature “Discount Double Check” gesture before looking at some fans in the Soldier Field crowd and yelling: “I still own you!”
It would be hard to argue. Rodgers’ 22-5 record against the Bears is the third-best winning percentage (.815) by a quarterback against a single opponent since 1950, with a minimum of 25 starts, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
But there’s another measure of ownership that suggests Rodgers has been even more dominant over his next opponent. In 25 meetings against the Minnesota Vikings since becoming a starter in 2008, Rodgers has thrown 50 touchdowns to just seven interceptions, a 7.1 TD-to-INT ratio that is the best by any quarterback versus a single opponent ever, according to Elias.
The Vikings host the Packers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox).
Rodgers’ stats are even better against Mike Zimmer-led Vikings’ teams. Since 2014, Rodgers has thrown 24 touchdowns to three interceptions against Minnesota, which is a slightly better percentage than his career ratio, and he has found ways to rattle Zimmer’s defense in specific areas.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Rodgers has the highest touchdown percentage (5.9%) of any quarterback the Vikings have faced under Zimmer (Minnesota has allowed a 4.0% TD percentage to everyone else). And Rodgers has more big plays, averaging 9.5 completions per game that gain 10-plus yards, while the Vikings allow an average of 5.6 per game to everyone else.
The battle between Zimmer and Rodgers is one of the NFL’s most intriguing chess matches.
Every play is a fight for Zimmer where the difference between a well-timed blitz or getting burned by Rodgers’ ability to catch defenses with 12 men on the field could change the outcome of a game.
“Every time I play him, I feel that way,” Zimmer said. “You never want him to have the ball at the end of the game. I don’t think any coach in the league would say, ‘Oh, let’s give him the ball.’ So you’re fighting, scratching, the entire game.”
But Rodgers hasn’t always been on the winning end against Zimmer-coached teams. Since 2014, the Vikings are 6-7-1 against Green Bay, with two of those wins coming with Rodgers on the bench with a broken collarbone he suffered against Minnesota in 2017.
“Every time we play them, they present something new,” Rodgers said. “Helps that they have a lot of the same guys over the years --Harrison [Smith] and [Anthony] Barr and [Eric] Kendricks have been in that system for a long time now – so they can throw a number of different things at you, and they always have some special wrinkle off of stuff that they've done on tape or done against us in the past, so coach Zim is a great coach, and he always has something special for us.”
While Minnesota’s blitz rate is the same versus Rodgers (26%) as it is for the 31 other teams, the Vikings have played more man coverage against the Packers QB since 2016 (46% compared to 40%), and it’s been to the Vikings advantage. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Rodgers has a 54 QBR against Minnesota’s man coverage in that span, compared to a 70 QBR against the Vikings’ zone.
Rodgers enters Week 11 coming off the second win of his career in which he threw zero touchdowns and at least one interception in a 17-0 victory against Seattle. Green Bay’s offense is in a rut, ranking 20th in total offense (339.4 yards per game) and 19th in rushing (109.3 ypg) and it will be without star back Aaron Jones. The Packers are also 19th in passing (230.1 ypg), 19th in scoring (21.6 ppg) and 25th in red zone efficiency (53.9%).
But a down stretch for the Packers won’t make Minnesota’s challenge easier. Few quarterbacks snap the ball later on the play clock than Rodgers, making it difficult for a defense to change its look to confuse Rodgers before the play goes live. His ability to move around in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield (with an average of 2.64 seconds to throw) makes pressuring him even harder, though the Vikings are 3-1-1 when they’ve sacked him at least four times. And the Vikings lead the league with 3.2 sacks per game.
So is throwing a new wrinkle at Rodgers even possible -- or necessary -- after this many meetings?
“No, not really,” defensive coordinator Andre Patterson said. “Even though you’re trying to make sure that you don’t give away what you’re trying to do, in order to win, we’ve still got to do what our guys can do best. You can’t throw everything out the window and come up with a whole new scheme, and your players can’t go out there and execute it. You’re setting yourself up for failure.”
But as those who have faced him in Minnesota and elsewhere know, letting Rodgers have the ball with even the least amount of time on the clock can be deadly.
Zimmer stood on the sideline with his stomach in knots last October when the Vikings gave Rodgers the ball back with 47 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. The biggest sack of then-rookie D.J. Wonnum’s career ended Rodgers’ chance of spoiling Minnesota’s 28-22 win.
“You’ve got to defend every second on the entire clock,” said Patrick Peterson, who faced Rodgers while with the Arizona Cardinals and will suit up Sunday for the Vikings. “… He’s never out of the game.”
ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.