Rodgers looks like NFL’s scariest quarterback

ATLANTA – When Green Bay’s decimation of NFC top seed Atlanta was all but over, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers(notes) could’ve flashed a grin to enjoy the moment.

But along the way there was only intensity. Oozing, angry, driven focus – the kind of stuff that happens when a great athlete has talent intersect desire.

Such as early in the fourth quarter, when Rodgers unleashed another one of his rocket passes toward wide receiver Greg Jennings(notes), who failed to catch it after slipping on the Georgia Dome turf.

“I should have known he was doing something special because he was a little perturbed on a couple of the throws he had,” Jennings said after the Packers’ 48-21 thrashing of the Falcons in the second round of the NFC playoffs Saturday night. “On the one I slipped down on along the sideline … He was a little perturbed.”

Rodgers gave Jennings a silent message.

“It was a look, it was everything. It was, ‘Come on man, we gotta make that play,’ ” Jennings said.

The score was 42-21 at the time of the icy exchange.

“That’s the mindset he has right now and when you have a guy leading your team who’s like that, boy, it’s scary,” Jennings said.

Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards, three touchdowns and a rushing score. That performance was beyond a clinic. It was like a four-part lecture series on how to dissect an opponent, complete with a power-point presentation. In his ability to avoid sacks, elude pressure and throw accurate passes, Rodgers looked like a morphed combination of Dan Marino, John Elway and Joe Montana.

Yeah, he was that good. So good that this performance ranked with the best of his predecessor, Brett Favre(notes), particularly when you consider this game was on the road. Afterward, wide receiver Donald Driver(notes) seemed to put an exclamation point on the notion that while Rodgers doesn’t have a Super Bowl victory, he is every bit as good as Favre was as a Packer.

“I’m just going to say this right here: The man was awesome, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the game,” Driver said. “You gotta give the man credit now. He came into a hostile environment and got it done when a lot of people were doubting him.”

Rodgers has now sent the Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles heading south for the offseason in the span of seven days. He was so good Saturday that Green Bay could be a rare road favorite at either Chicago or Seattle next week in the NFC championship game.

“Our big dog played good and all the little puppies rolled around him,” said Driver, one of four receivers with at least 75 receiving yards.

Aaron Rodgers showed off some fancy footwork Saturday, which included a 7-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
(Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

For his part, Rodgers couldn’t hide his pleasure. A reporter found a private moment to tell Rodgers, “Dude, that was ridiculous.” Rodgers responded with a devilish grin and said, “That was fun.”

Later, he admitted the same in his postgame news conference.

“It was a special night,” Rodgers said, one of four times he used that phrase. “We kind of did what we wanted to do. We wanted to attack the middle of the field early. Once they started taking that away, [we went] to work the routes outside. …

“Yeah, this probably was my best performance. In the stage we were on and the importance of this game, yeah, it was a good night.”

For the rest of the NFL, it may be a nightmare. Rodgers was so good, avoiding at least five sacks with his combination of quick steps in the pocket, sprints or his version of the Elway spin, that Jennings could barely contain being a fan.

“There were a couple of times I could have caused a delay of game because I was telling him, ‘Man, that was a great play. That was the way to extend the play and make something happen.’ But that’s what he brings to the table,” Jennings said.

This was a beating of fearsome proportion, the kind that should make the rest of the NFL take notice. Rodgers was just short of perfect as Green Bay sprinted to a 42-14 lead. Rodgers completed 27 of his first 31 passes for 330 yards, three touchdown passes and the rushing score. In the process, Rodgers made counterpart Matt Ryan(notes) look like one of the kids competing in the halftime “Punt, Pass and Kick” contest.

Rodgers said Saturday was his finest game as a Packer.
(John David Mercer/US Presswire)

In some respects, this was to be expected by anyone who has studied these teams. The Falcons reached this point by going 6-2 in games decided by fewer than six points. Atlanta has only two serious impact players in Ryan and wide receiver Roddy White(notes). Sadly, Ryan played like a 6-year-old in the deep end of the pool who just realized he can’t touch the bottom. His two interceptions (both by Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams(notes)) came late in the first half. The first by Williams was in the end zone, taking away a possible score. The next one turned a possible field goal by the Falcons into a 70-yard touchdown return for a 28-14 lead at half.

“No question, those two interceptions came at key times that could have really changed the game,” Williams said, matter of factly.

Green Bay has at least six guys who can change the game, such as Jennings, Driver, defensive tackle B.J. Raji(notes), cornerback Charles Woodson(notes) and linebacker Clay Matthews(notes). Williams is closing on that fast with three interceptions in two playoff games.

None are playing better than Rodgers, who is like a man on a crusade to claim his place among the franchise’s greats. Yeah, that place right alongside Favre and Bart Starr.

For anyone who thinks Rodgers doesn’t possess every bit as much talent as Favre, you simply don’t get it. Of course, there’s still the matter of a Super Bowl ring.

Based on Saturday, Rodgers seems only a couple of weeks away right now.

Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Jan 16, 2011