Between Tom Brady and Cam Newton throwing for 400-plus yards in back-to-back games, the surprise ascent of the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills, the equally surprising total collapse of the Philadelphia Eagles, and any number of other stories, is it safe to say that we've ignored Aaron Rodgers a bit? Oh, sure — we know that the Packers' quarterback is one of the two or three best at his position (were you to ask me, I'd say he's on top of the NFL's quarterback list right now), but it seems as if the word hasn't been out there as much about him this year.
It's a weird thing, and while many pundits would rather talk about a guy whose two pick-sixes cost his team a close game, or another guy who walks off the field before a play is even over, I'll stand over here and belabor the obvious — Aaron Rodgers isn't just having a great season; he's on pace to have one of the few all-time great quarterback campaigns.
Through four games, Rodgers has completed 73.0 percent of his passes, and lest you think he's just dinking-and-dunking his way to that kind of efficiency, take a look at his 9.4 average yards per attempt. When New Orleans' Drew Brees set the single-season completion percentage mark with 70.6 in 2008, his YPA was almost a yard per pass lower at 8.5.
And then, there was Sunday's 49-23 beatdown of the Denver Broncos, where Rodgers absolutely carved up their defense at a historic level by becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 400 yards, throw four touchdown passes, and run for two more touchdowns in a single game. The only Packers touchdown Rodgers wasn't directly responsible for was Charles Woodson's first-quarter pick six, and I wouldn't have been surprised if Rodgers was somehow involved in that, too.
Even in a 2011 season optimized for passing like never before, these are truly amazing numbers. Rodgers' value to his team is especially obvious this season, because he's also playing close to the edge with his own team's pass defense. Per Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Green Bay's defense is on pace to allow 5,372 net passing yards, which would easily break the record held by the 1995 Atlanta Falcons. Add in Green Bay's so-so running game, and everything's pretty much on Rodgers and his receivers at this point.
Not that Rodgers was happy about his own performance after the fact. "I think numbers can be misleading at times," he said. "I felt like the ball was coming out pretty good, but I didn't feel like my feel in the pocket was maybe where it had been in some other games earlier this season."
Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy, not a man given to hyperbole, disagreed. "Four touchdowns through the air and two rushing touchdowns, that's as fine a quarterback performance as I've been a part of, statistically."
Denver head coach John Fox, who had the misfortune of watching his defense get blown up by Rodgers, was certainly on board. "He is playing as well as any quarterback that I have seen, and this is my 23rd season."
Without question, celebrate Cam, Brady, the Lions, and the Bills. Without question, wonder why the Eagles are falling apart, what happened to the Vikings, and whether the Broncos will ever find a way to get Tim Tebow on the field. But let's not sleep on what may be the biggest story of the season when everything is wrapped up. Because if Rodgers keeps playing like this, he's got a pretty good shot at another championship belt.
- Aaron Rodgers