Through the first half of the 2011 season, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing the quarterback position about as well as it can be played.
One thing that I noticed while watching the Vikings game, both live and during subsequent viewings, is how amazingly accurate Rodgers was on some of his throws early on. I mean, absolutely stone-cold laser sharp.
What’s interesting to note, however, is how Rodgers becomes almost gun shy late in the game playing with a lead.
This is not necessarily a bad thing.
Look at this throw to Jennings in the first quarter. It’s hard to find a tighter window for a quarterback to fit a ball into – but Rodgers does it and makes it look almost effortless.
Here’s a better look at the coverage Rodgers is throwing into:
Later on in the first half, Rodgers makes this throw to Jennings.
Here’s a another look at just how close the margin for error is on this throw:
Now fast forward to the second half.
On a number of occasions, Rodgers goes back to pass and seemingly finds no one open, forcing him to either take a sack, escape the pocket or make a throw that isn’t going to be caught in the direction of a receiver in order to escape a grounding call.
While for fans this can be frustrating to watch, Rodgers is just being smart with the football. Up by two scores in a hostile road environment, there’s no need to press the issue, so Rodgers will take a sack rather than throw into the same tight windows he was throwing into earlier in the game.
When watching it live, I assumed the Vikings had made a dramatic switch in their defensive gameplan during the second half, but watching both the television broadcast and some of the coaches film, that really isn’t the case. Rodgers just doesn’t pull the trigger on the close stuff in the second half and the offense ends up stalling more as a result.
Rodgers was self-critical after the game, saying “There might have been a couple of times when I held on to the ball too long.” In reality, he should be commended for playing such smart football. It’s a rare thing when an athlete with all the ability in the world makes the decision of inaction over action. (Packers fans recently spent a good part of 16 years watching mostly the exact opposite) But Rodgers is a rare athlete and competitor, one who is using not only his brawn – but his brains.