GREEN BAY, WIS. – Aaron Rodgers threw one errant pass in the first half Saturday. One out of 22 attempts, and the one misfire really wasn’t all that poorly thrown and could have been caught.
One of his passes was dropped, one he purposely threw away, leaving him with only one true incompletion in those 22 attempts.
Everything else was on the money, easy pickings.
Remember all the talk back in October about Rodgers being on the decline and no longer a pinpoint passer? Seems a little silly now, doesn’t it?
As evident by his evisceration of Mike Zimmer’s defense, Rodgers is perfectly fine and more than capable of shredding a quality NFL defense when healthy and in rhythm.
Rodgers accounted for five touchdowns in a 38-25 victory that officially eliminated the Vikings from playoff contention, to the delight of the Lambeau Field faithful.
Rodgers completed 28 of 38 passes for 347 yards and four touchdowns, with a 136.6 passer rating. He previously had not passed for 300 yards against a Zimmer-led Vikings defense.
Rodgers nearly reached that mark by halftime.
“We didn’t cover good enough,” safety Harrison Smith. “We didn’t do a lot of things good enough.”
They weren’t just awful in coverage. They also were boldly defiant. Zimmer revealed after the game that his plan called for Pro Bowl cornerback Xavier Rhodes to shadow receiver Jordy Nelson in coverage.
The defensive backs apparently had different ideas. Rhodes admitted that players decided during the week that they wanted to play sides and not have Rhodes follow Nelson because they had never done that in previous meetings.
The secondary defied orders until Zimmer and his staff addressed the situation at halftime.
“As the game went on, the coaches demanded and told me I need to follow him,” Rhodes said.
Amazing. From 5-0 to basically a revolt in an elimination game.
The damage was done by the time Rhodes started shadowing Nelson. Rodgers carved up the secondary in the first half with 268 yards passing and three touchdowns. Nelson caught seven passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns before halftime.
That should be a fun meeting next time Zimmer sits down with his defensive backs. Somebody has some explaining to do.
The defense has imploded and now players have stopped listening to their coach, a remarkable and alarming plunge for a unit that looked invincible early in the season.
“We just haven’t been showing what we’re capable of,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said.
Rodgers showed his stuff and it was vintage Rodgers, clinical in its precision. He fired lasers downfield to receivers. He kept plays alive in the pocket. He squeezed darts into tight windows. He posted a perfect passer rating in the first quarter (158.3).
Rodgers owned the Vikings before Zimmer’s arrival. Zimmer’s defenses have contained him far better, but this matchup was no contest, begging the question: What the heck has happened to that group?
It followed a no-show effort against the Indianapolis Colts last week by offering little resistance against the Packers.
“Penalties, not getting enough turnovers, allowing too many points, allowing second chances, not being great on third down … we just haven’t play good defense,” defensive end Brian Robison said.
The defense looks tired, perhaps a result of carrying the offense all season. The offense’s ineptitude has forced the defense to save the day over and over. Now the defense can’t hold up its end of the bargain.
Rodgers picked them apart and made it look effortless, almost like he was playing pitch and catch with his receivers in the backyard. On one play, he launched a deep pass off his back foot to Nelson, who was uncovered because Munnerlyn had fallen down. His tumble led to a 48-yard completion.
“I’m mad at myself about that play,” Munnerlyn said. “You can’t let that happen.”
Problem is, the Vikings weren’t much better when they stayed on their feet. Receivers ran wide open all over the field. Rodgers made it look easy.
“He just made plays and we didn’t,” Robison said.
And now the defense has a much larger issue to confront.