Breaking Down Aaron Rodgers' Form at the NFL's Midseason Mark

Brian Carriveau@@BrianCarriveauContributor IOctober 24, 2012

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron RodgersDavid Welker/Getty Images

Through the first five games of the season, when the Packers were saddled with a below-.500 record at 2-3, criticisms of Aaron Rodgers were beginning to build.

At that point in time, Rodgers wasn't performing at the same level as the player who won the NFL's MVP award a year prior, and the Packers were looking like a team that might not qualify for the playoffs.

Since that time, however, the Packers have put together back-to-back impressive wins, both on the road, and Rodgers has been on top of his game, perhaps playing better than anyone else in the league.

Part of the reason Rodgers' play has improved has been because of those around him, both players and coaches. As Bleacher Report's own Zach Kruse pointed out in a column earlier this week, Rodgers has been the beneficiary of better pass protection, increased production from his receiving corps and a more balanced offensive game plan devised by the coaching staff.

Those three aspects operate largely independent of Rodgers. Meanwhile, the purpose of this article is to look at items Rodgers primarily has control over, namely his accuracy and its effect on the Packers.

Connecting on the deep ball

The Packers may have gotten robbed in their loss to the Seahawks in Week 3, but their defeat at the hands of the Colts in Week 5 was demoralizing.

After blowing a 21-3 halftime lead, the Packers dropped to 2-3 and questions were popping up about an offense that was unstoppable a year ago but inconsistent in 2012.

For one, the Packers couldn't weren't hitting on deep balls at the same rate as they had in the past.

Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel touched on the issue in an article following the loss to the Colts:

Probably the biggest difference between 2009- '11 and this season for Rodgers through five games has been the lack of big plays. Green Bay had a 40-yard pass play in 10 of 16 regular-season games last season. This year? Only one.

As if echoing the same sentiment, Kruse approached the issue in a different manner, writing, "The 2011 offense produced 78 plays of 20 or more yards, including an NFC-high 70 from the passing game. This season, however, the Packers have just 10 total plays over 20 yards, or just over three a game."

Granted, part of the reason for Rodgers' inability to complete the long ball was the way opponents have been defending the Packers. Defensive backs have been jamming wide receivers at the line of scrimmage while frequently keeping two safeties back deep.

But in the Packers' past two victories, the Packers have started to connect on the big plays once again. Against the Texans, Rodgers completed two passes of more than 40 yards and three more greater than 20 while against the Rams, he found receivers open for gains of 52 and 39 yards, including his highlight-reel precision strike to Randall Cobb.

Keeping the chains moving

Following the loss to the Colts, Rodgers admitted the Packers' deficiencies in converting third downs into first downs.

On his weekly interview on the ESPN Radio affiliate in Milwaukee heard on 540 AM WAUK, Rodgers said, "We’ve just been inconsistent on third down. Last year we were up around 50 (percent). This year we are probably more in the 40 (percent) range."

To be specific, the Packers were converting on 39.7 percent of their third downs.

The impact of not converting on third down can be felt in time of possession. When the Packers are keeping the chains moving, they're also keeping the ball out of the hands of their opponents at the same time.

Once again, the Rodgers and the Packers have improved in this particular department, which wasn't exactly evident in the win over the Texans, but was clearly a prime factor in the win over the Rams when the Packers converted on nine-of-15 third downs (60 percent) and had possession of the football for nearly six minutes more than St. Louis.

Yards per attempt

Citing Kruse once again after the loss to the Colts: "Rodgers is averaging a career-low yards per attempt of just 6.48, a drop off from an NFL-high 9.25 a season ago."

Like all the other statistical categories examined so far, concern is dissipating about Rodgers' play in the wake of two consecutive wins.

The Packers quarterback simply has become more efficient. He's completing a high percentage of his passes (69.8 percent on the season), and—in fact—is only eclipsed among NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage by the Redskins' Robert Griffin III (70.4).

One result has been that Rodgers' average yards per attempt (7.6) has jumped more than a yard over the course of the past two games, which is still off pace from the 9.25 in 2011, but far more respectable than earlier in the season.

Limiting turnovers

It hasn't just been about limiting turnovers for Rodgers, it's been about eliminating them.

Through the first five games of the season, Rodgers had thrown four interceptions after tossing six all of last year. Furthermore, all four of his 2012 interceptions occurred in the second half.

Not only has Rodgers not thrown an interception during the Packers' current two-game winning streak, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 9-to-0.

It's becoming increasingly evident that any concerns about Rodgers' performance early in the season are fading fast, especially as they pertain to his throwing mechanics and accuracy. There's little to find fault with as Rodgers is leading the NFL with a 109.6 passer rating.

The difficulty lies in trying keep up the same high level of play Rodgers has demonstrated in the past two weeks. If he does, the Packers will be dangerous.


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