Nah, says Aaron Rodgers, the 36-year-old trying to fend off Father Time in the hot pursuit of finally becoming the multiple Super Bowl champion that critics demand of this future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
If you want to talk pressure heading into Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at San Francisco, well, look no further than the 49ers team that throttled Rodgers and his Packers 37-8 in prime time at Levi’s Stadium back on Nov. 24.
So says Rodgers, who emphasized his point by feigning uncertainty about Sunday’s point spread when the subject of pressure arose during his Wednesday news conference.
“I think if you look at this game, they’re definitely favored by what, 7½?” said Rodgers, looking to his right to check with Packers communications manager Tom Fanning.
“Is that right, Tom?”
Indeed, it is.
“So [the 49ers] obviously are expected to hold court and win,” Rodgers told reporters in Green Bay. “People know and are talking about how we played there the last time. So, I think if you look at pressure, the pressure is in a certain place. And we should be nice and loose.”
Nice try, Aaron.
The Vikings played the 7½-point underdog card last week. It didn’t work. The 49ers took that card and broke it over the Purple’s head in a 27-10 beatdown that saw Dalvin Cook stuffed, Kirk Cousins stomped and Kevin Stefanski sent to Cleveland on a 147-yard sour note.
No, Aaron, you are unlikely to get inside the heads of these San Francisco ruffians. Yes, you have won six in a row. But seven games ago, the 49ers held you to 104 yards passing, the second-lowest output in your career in games in which you have started and were healthy enough to finish.
The 49ers have the league’s No. 1 pass defense. And it’s not even close.
They surrendered 169.2 yards per game during the regular season. Last week, they held Cousins to 172.
“They got a lot of first-rounders who play like it,” Rodgers said when asked what makes the 49ers the most dominant pass defense. “They’re difference-makers.”
A black-and-blue Cousins would agree.
Five San Francisco linemen sacked Cousins six times last week. All five — Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford — are first-round draft picks. All but Ford were drafted by the 49ers.
Rodgers also praised middle linebacker Fred Warner as the on-field organizer who “kind of makes that thing go” and cornerback Richard Sherman as “one of the headiest players who has ever played that position.”
Don’t expect Rodgers to test Sherman’s area the way Cousins did while throwing a key interception last week. One of the greatest passers in NFL history, Rodgers also understands and accepts that rookie Packers coach Matt LaFleur is 14-3 in large part because this is a run-oriented team that’s playing its best defense in years.
During Green Bay’s current six-game winning streak, Rodgers has thrown for fewer than 244 yards five times, including 243 in last week’s divisional victory over Seattle. His two lowest completion percentages this season have come during the streak. So too have his two worst passer ratings, including a season-low 68.3 in the Week 16 victory at Minnesota.
“My job is different year to year,” he said. “[This year] it’s about being efficient and taking care of the football and making the right checks.”
This is Rodgers’ fourth NFC Championship Game as a starter. All on the road. He won at Chicago nine years ago and lost at Seattle five years ago and Atlanta three years ago.
Now, the Bay Area native heads back to San Francisco to face the team that bypassed him to select Alex Smith No. 1 overall 15 years ago.
“I usually dreamed about playing for the 49ers as a kid,” Rodgers said. “But obviously that thing passed a long time ago.”
Yet another reminder that the clock is ticking on one of the most decorated quarterbacks in NFL history. Rodgers has won two league MVPs. He has been named first-team All-Pro twice. He has been a Pro Bowl selection eight times. And he owns the best passer rating in league history.
But even he seems to sense a void that only one ring can’t fill.
“I hope we all remember why we’re doing this; it’s to win championships,” Rodgers said. “As someone who has won some of these individual awards, I’d definitely trade those for a couple more rings.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org