The Hidden Stat Fueling Rodgers' Big Season

Touchdown passes? Low interception rate? Completion percentage? Yes, they are all contributing factors. But one overlooked stat is a big reason why Aaron Rodgers has separated himself from all the others.

The summation of Aaron Rodgers' talents and how they translate to statistics has led to one of the best 12-game stretches for any quarterback in any season.

With a passer rating of 125.3 headed into Sunday's game with the Raiders, the Green Bay Packers' quarterback is far and away leading the NFL and could top the single-season record of 121.4 set by the Colts' Peyton Manning in 2004.

While Rodgers' league-leading 37 touchdown passes, low interception total (just five), and his sterling completion percentage (70.6 percent) are all contributing factors, the statistic contributing the most, perhaps, to his uncommon separation from the other quarterbacks in the league is yards per pass attempt.

Lost among the more popular quarterback statistics, yards per attempt is one of the four components that make up the traditional passer rating formula. Along with interception percentage, the weight given to yards per attempt in the formula is greatest in magnitude followed by touchdown percentage and completion percentage.

Should Rodgers keep up his 9.4 yards-per-attempt pace, he would post the highest such mark in more than a decade. Kurt Warner, leading the "Greatest Show on Turf" in 2000, led the league at 9.9. The NFL record, set by Sid Luckman in 1943, is 10.9.

Rodgers has shown a rare combination of producing big play after big play while being extremely averse to risk, rivaled only maybe by the Patriots' Tom Brady in 2007. The same cannot be said for the best of the yards-per-attempt leaders during the Super Bowl era.

Warner, with the Rams in 2000, had 18 interceptions.

The Falcons' Chris Chandler – at 9.6 yards per attempt in 1998 – had 12 interceptions.

The Raiders' Ken Stabler - at 9.6 yards per attempt – had 17 interceptions in 1976.

And Packers' fans might remember Lynn Dickey's prolific 1983 season, where he put up 9.2 yards per attempt but had a whopping 29 interceptions.

Despite the high totals in interceptions, the latter three quarterbacks went on to post the highest single-season passer ratings of their careers in those seasons. And Manning, who had a career-high 9.2 yards per attempt in his record year in 2004, also threw 10 interceptions. Manning has posted just one other season of more than 8.0 yards per attempt in his 14 NFL seasons.

Nobody in 2011 has made the most of their opportunities like Rodgers, a statement reflected in the one category – of the 16 tallied on NFL.com for quarterbacks – where Rodgers ranks the lowest. At an average of 34 pass attempts per game, Rodgers is tied for 15th. By comparison, the two quarterbacks he is most often matched up against – the Saints' Drew Brees and Brady – are No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, with 41.3 and 38.2 attempts per game.

Despite the disparity, Rodgers is right on the tails of the leaders in passing yards (320.3 per game). His play-action passes have been most effective and his ball placement in throwing to a dynamic set of receivers has set a new standard for quarterback play.

"He has the ability to place the ball where it needs to be," said rookie Randall Cobb, who at 56.9 percent has the highest percentage of yards after the catch among all receivers on the team. "But we also have some playmakers on this team."

Cobb, along with James Jones (46.4 percent of his yards after the catch), Jordy Nelson (40.2 percent), and Greg Jennings (33.4 percent), gives the Packers four of the best run-after-catch receivers in the league. At 13.4 yards per catch, the Packers, like Rodgers in yards per pass attempt, have the league lead.


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


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