Packers vs. Falcons: Why Aaron Rodgers Makes the Packers Super Bowl Favorties
"Go Pack Go" chants flooded the Georgia Dome as the Green Bay Packers dismantled the top NFC seed Saturday night, making short work of the Atlanta Falcons, 48-21.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the man with the golden hand, throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns, highlighting the serious issues that withstand in the current Pro Bowl voting system after being snubbed two weeks ago.
Rodgers himself doesn't care, though.
All that matters to Green Bay right now is next week. And the one after that. The Packers have penciled in their date for next Sunday's NFC Championship Game, and are now waiting for an RSVP from either the Chicago Bears or the Seattle Seahawks.
That reply will be announced shortly.
In the meantime, here's a look at why No. 12 is destined to lead the Packers all the way this season, and if this weekend's performance against Atlanta was impressive enough, here's a reminder of what Rodgers is capable of in the next two games.
Aaron Rodgers Knows How It Feels to Lose
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After the Green Bay Packers lost to the Arizona Cardinals in thrilling fashion during the 2009 Wild Card game, Aaron Rodgers knows how it feels to lose.
Therefore, as sweet as the Packers latest run for glory is for Titletown, Rodgers and the new-look Packers know exactly how pivotal the NFC Championship Game is for Green Bay, after exiting the playoffs so early last year.
Perhaps it could be said that Green Bay have been conditioned for the unexpected, or it maybe it is easier to say that the Packers simply haven't reached their full potential yet in the NFL.
Whatever one it may be, Rodgers' early disappointments in his career have conditioned him for all areas of the game. And realistically, this is a factor that can guide a young quarterback along nicely as time progresses.
Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and even Peyton Manning were never accustomed to early questioning when their careers first began. After winning his first playoff game last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, Rodgers is now on a war path toward glory.
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Not every NFL quarterback can rely on consistency week in and week out. Aaron Rodgers on the other hand, well, he is one of the lucky ones.
During Green Bay's trip to Atlanta on Saturday, Rodgers completed 31 of his attempted 36 passes resulting in 366 yards and three touchdowns on the day. Needless to say, this is one of the main reasons for Green Bay's constant offensive motivation.
Speaking of motivation, the Packers have become famous recently for grinding teams out in all four quarters. In Week 8 against the New York Jets, Green Bay kept Rex Ryan's team scoreless through the game.
However, while this could be credited to the defense, the 170 yard offensive display from Rodgers won't be forgotten.
On his career, Rodgers has 1,038 of his 1,611 passes. These kind of statistics have made Rodgers a reliable quarterback, and a true game-winner when the Packers run game has been known to fall flat on its face.
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The biggest asset of Aaron Rodgers' game is by far the passing ability that Mike McCarthy's main man possesses.
During the 2010 regular season, Rodgers threw for 3,922 yards and 28 touchdowns, and although he did miss out on a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, Green Bay can find solitude in knowing that they have one of the best young quarterbacks in the entire NFL.
What makes the Packers special, is the fact that they have such a great receiving corps. With Greg Jennings and Donald Driver aging, Green Bay's upcoming stars will come from the likes of James Jones, Jordy Nelson and of course injured tight end Jermichael Finley.
After the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006, people have realized that a run game isn't everything.
The Packers have survived the past 19 weeks by sticking to the air, and with only one game remaining before the Super Bowl, Rodgers has been the main reason for Green Bay's deep postseason trip.
Maybe not this year, but Rodgers is set to rally both Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees in the coming seasons.
For now, a Super Bowl appearance rides on Rodgers' back, and judging by his overall performance in the postseason, the Packers chances are favorable.
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Aaron Rodgers may be strong in the pocket, but he is also fast and agile if not contained properly.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith found out the hard way on the weekend against Green Bay, seeing Rodgers rush for a dramatic seven-yard touchdown during the third quarter to add to the Packers demeaning scoreline.
On the season?
Rodgers has of course been great on the ground. With 356 yards and four touchdowns to acclaim to, Green Bay have partially made up for their poor run game this season, seeing as though they possess a quarterback who can get the job done out of the pocket.
In the weeks coming, the Packers may choose to keep Rodgers within his own confines, simply due to the risk that pops up with the Super Bowl so close.
Still, there is no need to send Rodgers out of the pocket right now. Rookie running back James Starks is on fire after a consecutive great performance, and with John Kuhn still powering his way through, Rodgers only needs to focus on the passing game.
Strength In The Pocket
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Comparing Aaron Rodgers to Michael Vick is a debate that surely rage on for the upcoming years. If Rodgers' performance against Atlanta is anything to base off, though, Green Bay really do have a fast quarterback to rely on.
Amongst Rodgers' great red-zone stats, are his quick-footed ways, that have also placed him in some hot water this season.
Against both the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions this season, Rodgers was knocked out cold in two of Green Bay's defeats, meaning some worrying times for Packer fans.
Away from the concerns, Rodgers is also a very strong passer in the pocket. During numerous occasions on Saturday night, many of the Falcons defensive stars tried their hand at grounding Rodgers, but they were unsuccessful throughout many stages of the game.
Defensive end John Abraham regrets mimicking the championship-belt celebration right now, mind you.
In comparison to last year, Rodgers has come nowhere near his career-high 50 sacks of 2009. This year, Rodgers has only hit the turf 31 times, a true compliment of Ted Thompson's persistent drafting toward the offensive line.
Rodgers is strong, he's extremely mobile, and while he may not be as fast as Vick, he can easily make a throw on the run when the opportunity presents itself.
The "Down Field" Threat
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One of Aaron Rodgers' biggest reasons for success is his passing ability, which allows him to escape just about every situation with a completion.
Given Green Bay's serious receiver threats, the Packers have become well known for their wide field play, thanks to the likes of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and more recently, Andrew Quarless.
Against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night, head coach Mike Smith found out just how many lethal combinations the Packers can muster up.
Following a wobbly week prior against the Philadelphia Eagles, wide receiver James Jones made up for his crucial dropped pass, catching two difficult passes and also posting a touchdown on the board.
It is this type of play that always makes the Packer offense a threat.
Aside from the receivers themselves, though, Green Bay are also well known for their downfield play, which normally results in a completion to Donald Driver up the middle...or in other cases a deep lob to Greg Jennings.
So far this season, both Jennings and Driver have accumulated a combined 1,830 yards and 16 touchdowns...brilliant statistics for two of the leagues veteran receivers.
It's fair to say that without a wide spread of talent both fast, tall and athletic, Rodgers may not be the same quarterback he is right now. Still, Green Bay's threat in all areas of the field makes them a serious contender with one game remaining before the Super Bowl.
The Red Zone
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Green Bay's red-zone statistics have been brilliant since Aaron Rodgers took over from Brett Favre in 2008. Most importantly, though, the Packers continue to pile on points when short-yardage situations confronts them.
2010 has been another prime example of how accurate Rodgers has been in the red zone. Only throwing one interception in 170 attempted passes, Rodgers' 12 touchdowns has been one of the underrated statistics of the Packers season.
Once again, it is easy to credit this factor to the wide receivers. But keep in mind that Rodgers is one of few quarterbacks who rarely tries to force a pass, and is more often than not content with taking a sack rather than turning the ball over.
On Saturday against Atlanta, Rodgers was on fire when it came to intruding into Falcons territory. Picking each corner of the end zone by targeting both Jordy Nelson and John Kuhn, Rodgers felt the luxury of very little pressure from Mike Smith's defense.
It isn't a lost cause, but if you want to stop Rodgers, pressure him on a three-man rush. The Falcons kicked the Divisional Round off in this fashion, yet somehow decided to take their foot off the gas as time went on.
Rodgers will kill any team in the red zone due to his vision down the field. Shifting safeties from left to right, the Packers have successfully sought the benefits from Rodgers' precision all year long.
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The theme of the Divisional Round has been turnovers. Both the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons killed their chances during the second half of play, mainly thanks to costly fumbles and interceptions during crucial moments.
This isn't part of the Packers repertoire.
2009 saw Aaron Rodgers throw seven interceptions through 16 games, one of the league's best performances last year.
Unfortunately, 2010 hasn't been quite so pretty for Rodgers, although his 11 interceptions in 2010 is still a considerable achievement.
Interceptions aside, the area where Rodgers really shines is fumbles. This season the Packers star quarterback has only fumbled the ball four times, and luckily enough has only seen one of these turnovers recovered by the opposing team.
Therefore, it's fair to say that Rodgers didn't pick up Brett Favre's turnover issues.
No, Rodgers is one of the most sure-handed quarterbacks in the league. As already mentioned he rarely takes chances, and for a young quarterback that has only been in the starting role for three years, this is the trait of a veteran quarterback.
There is no doubt that Rodgers will be tested in the next two weeks, especially if Green Bay are to make the Super Bowl. Turnovers however, aren't to be expected.