Both prolific passers put on terrific performances in the past two weeks, and one of last season’s most contentious topics of debate is starting to become relevant once again. Both passers were incredible in their recent outings, but one was slightly more impressive.
Rodgers torched the Houston Texans last Sunday by completing 24-of-37 passes for 338 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions, while the Green Bay Packers handed Houston its first loss of the season.
This week, Brees was fantastic and he connected on 27-of-37 passes for 377 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, and the New Orleans Saints squeaked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now, Rodgers leads the NFL with 19 touchdown passes this season and Brees is second with 18. Each player recorded their season-high for passer rating in these games.
While both quarterbacks had superb performances in these games, they did so under vastly different circumstances.
Brees threw his lone interception on the first drive of the game, and the Buccaneers jumped out to a 14-0 lead. Tampa Bay scored touchdowns on their first three offensive possessions.
But Brees showed the courage and leadership that has characterized his career as he put the team on his back. Starting late in the first quarter, he led four consecutive drives that were all 72 yards or longer, and all ended in touchdown passes.
In addition, Brees did not have All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham to throw to, and completed all four TD passes to different receivers.
However, Brees was unable to continue his success into the second half. He completed seven of the 12 passes he attempted for 64 yards and did not add to his touchdown total.
Rodgers, in contrast, set the tone early against the Texans and relentlessly continued the offensive onslaught. He had at least one touchdown pass in each quarter, and he was playing without Pro-Bowl wide receiver Greg Jennings.
After throwing two touchdown passes in the first quarter, Arian Foster pulled the Texans within seven points at the beginning of the second period. Rodgers answered right back with his third touchdown pass of the half, and Houston was unable to make the contest a one-possession game from there on out.
The raw stats should earn both of these elite passers a significant amount of praise, but the two quarterbacks made entirely different statements in these games.
Brees proved that regardless of how the slow the Saints start in a game, or how awful the defense looks at any given point, he is still capable of reeling off four touchdowns on four drives and single-handedly keeping New Orleans in the game.
Rodgers put to rest all storylines about the Packers’ struggles. He dismantled an undefeated team, emphatically showing that Green Bay is still a championship contender.
What Rodgers proved is vastly more important.
Brees seems doomed to continue to put up impressive stats on a deeply flawed team that will require epic performances from its quarterback each and every week in order to win games.
Rodgers, however, let the league know that the Packers, at their best, are nearly unstoppable. At the end of the season, his performance will be looked at as the game in which the Packers reminded the NFL that they are a threat to win the Super Bowl as they prepare for their fourth consecutive trip to the postseason.
Brees' game against the Bucs will be remembered simply as another game in which he willed the Saints to victory in a mediocre season that would have been a catastrophe without his strong-willed leadership.
In the end, Rodgers showed he is an MVP candidate on a team with a shot to win a title, while Brees can only claim to be the most reliable and productive player on team that appears unable to fully overcome all the turmoil from the offseason.