Super Bowl 2011: Aaron Rodgers' Performance Solidifies His Status As Elite QB
The world can finally breathe a sigh of relief as the most talked about Packers quarterback is no longer Brett Favre.
Aaron Rodgers carried his postseason dominance all the way to Dallas, finding seams in an impenetrable Steelers' defense to lead his Packers to a Super Bowl triumph. The 31-25 ousting of Pittsburgh marked just the third loss for the franchise in the big game.
Aaron Rodgers was sharp from start to finish, despite losing his old, reliable target in Donald Driver. He never got frustrated with the slew of drops from Jordy Nelson and James Jones.
Instead, he continued to feed his receivers and give them chances to make the big play. Rodgers was rightfully awarded the Super Bowl MVP, an award usually given to the winning team's QB.
The difference this year is that it was blatantly obvious that Rodgers earned it. No other player shined nearly as bright.
Aaron Rodgers can take a seat in the conversation with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Michael Vick as today's elite quarterbacks.
Let's review the intricacies that made Rodgers' performance as dominant as it was.
1. the Games Leading Up To the Super Bowl
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The Super Bowl can be the birthplace of a great quarterback.
With that in mind, it was more like Rodgers' 21st birthday.
Coming into the match-up in Dallas, Rodgers had already soared over Eagles, flew past Falcons and hunted down Bears. Not only did the Packers win all of their games, each provided another statement from Rodgers.
Against the Eagles: 18-for-27 for 180 yards and 3 TD's
Against the Falcons: 31-for-36 for 366 yards and 3 TD's, rushing TD
Against the Bears: 17-for-30 for 244 yards and 2 INT's, rushing TD
He was only brought down for five sacks in the three contests. Also, his stats against the Bears are less than impressive, but when the Packers needed a lift, they could still count on Rodgers to make a big throw.
Rodgers was the hottest player on the field before the Super Bowl, but would nerves get to him?
2. Silent Treatment
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Media Week came and went and the world heard little to nothing. With the Jets talking trash in previous rounds, the Packers could have done exactly the same.
The No. 6 seeded Packers were favored to win the Super Bowl. Microphones were jammed in the players faces but no cockiness was spilled.
Rodgers was asked endlessly about how this game could launch him onto a new level, but the calm QB just laughed it off. He knew that no amount of words would help him when February sixth came along.
Also, he probably figured it would not be a good idea to feed the Steelers' defense with motivation.
A wise choice.
3. First TD To Jordy Nelson
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Great coverage from William Gay could have caused an overthrow from Rodgers early in the game.
Instead, Rodgers delivered a perfectly thrown ball to Nelson, which he held on to for the touchdown.
In only his second drive of the game and 10th pass attempt, Rodgers was up to the challenge. The momentum carried over into the next drive when Nick Collins picked off Ben Roethlisberger and brought it all the way back for another day.
Subsequently, if Rodgers overthrew Nelson, the game could have looked completely different. Even if Rodgers was nervous, he didn't show it on this toss.
4. Rodgers Finds Jennings In the Middle
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This could have been the big moment for Troy Polamalu in Super Bowl XLV.
Instead, Greg Jennings managed to hang on to a frozen rope from Rodgers despite a jarring hit by the Defensive MVP. When Rodgers saw James Farrior would have to drop back in coverage on Jennings, he knew he might have a shot at it.
Ryan Clark was inches away, but wasn't quite quick enough as Rodgers put enough zip on the ball to get it there on time.
The rest was Jennings.
5. Third Quarter Woes
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Dropped passes and penalties highlighted the third quarter for the Packers. Green Bay was unable to get a first down in the 15-minute stanza.
Instead of trying to force a throw into difficult coverage, Rodgers remained calm and patient. He never yelled at a receiver or scolded a coach.
He chose to walk off the field with the same optimism and reserve each time.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock to end the third quarter, the Packers remained ahead.
For Rodgers, that's all that mattered.
6. In Jordy He Trusts
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Jordy Nelson had nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. If you missed the game, you may think that he played the perfect game.
For those of us who did watch, we know otherwise. Jordy (great first name, I'll use it) made his fair share of big plays and was open on many occasions.
Part of the reason he was able to always be in single coverage was his frequent drops. He muffed a few catches over the middle that could have extended drives for the Pack.
Rodgers sent the ball his way regardless of what happened on the previous play and it paid off. A big instance of the reward was Jordy's catch-and-run to the Pittsburgh two-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
Two plays later, Rodgers threw his third touchdown of the day, again to Jennings.
7. the Ultimate QB Comparison: Part 1
Roethlisberger's big mishap leads to a TD for Nick Collins
Ben Roethlisberger's stat line looked like this:
25-for-40 for 263 yards for and 2 TD's and 2 INT's
Aaron Rodgers boasted this stat line:
24-for-39 for 304 yards and 3 TD's
Beyond the numbers, Aaron Rodgers looked more settled in pressure situations and made the biggest throws of his career when called upon. Surprisingly, Roethlisberger utilized his legs better, rushing for 31 yards compared to -2 for Rodgers.
The key was that Rodgers never made a bad play. Yes, Roethlisberger's second pick wasn't necessarily a bad throw, more of a great play by Jarrett Bush.
But the first interception was a complete mishap. Roethlisberger lofted the ball deep in his own half of the field to Mike Wallace. Wallace never turned around and Nick Collins was right there to seize the opportunity.
Collins brought the ball all the way back to the house, making Big Ben's mistake that much more detrimental.
8. the Ultimate QB Comparison: Part 2
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With the Packers secondary falling like flies, Roethlisberger was not able to capitalize.
He didn't play a bad game, just didn't play at the level of Aaron Rodgers. Big Ben is now 2-1 in the Super Bowl and there is no saying how many more chances he'll get on the big stage.
Aaron Rodgers came in with less experience but played with more poise. He stayed strong in the pocket and let it all out on the field. He left the game 1-0.
At the end of the 2010 playoffs, Aaron Rodgers has Green Bay celebrating again.
Green and yellow, green and yellow...