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Blitz at your own risk
Not only did Aaron Rodgers set a single-season record for passer rating last season, but he almost set the record for best passer rating against the blitz.
Rodgers' mark of 131.4 ranked second in NFL history behind Peyton Manning's mark of 136.8 in 2004, according to STATS. With 11 touchdowns against two interceptions, Rodgers' blitz rating easily outdistanced Tom Brady (110.9) and Alex Smith (96.3) for league honors, and his 68.0 percent accuracy was better than Drew Brees (62.1) and Tom Brady (61.6). Rodgers' 12.0 yards per attempt against the blitz not only was best in the league but shattered the record set by Kurt Warner (9.83) in 1999.
"Where's my hot read and do we have it picked up?" Rodgers, in a Packer Report Magazine Cover Story last year, said of his most pertinent thoughts during the second or two before the ball is snapped. "Those are the two things that I'm asking myself. The majority of the time, I have a pretty good idea of where the stress points are in the protection. What I mean is where the potential areas that they can hit us where I've got to throw it hot. That's what I'm looking for first when I'm breaking the huddle. When I'm at the line of scrimmage the last 5 seconds, who's my quick throw and do we have it picked up?"
With his ability to beat the blitz mentally and physically with his strong arm and quick release, he's posted a NFL-high passer rating of 114.7 against the blitz over the last three seasons. He's No. 1 in yards per attempt (9.96) and third in touchdowns (33) over that span.
Against blitz-happy New Orleans last season, Rodgers destroyed the Saints with 14-of-18 accuracy for 207 yards and two touchdowns, good for a rating of 151.6. A month later at Atlanta, Rodgers completed 8-of-9 for 168 yards and a touchdown, good for a rating of 155.8.
Because of Rodgers' blitz-beating brilliance, teams known for blitzing generally shy away from attacking, former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said last year. Last season, he attempted 125 passes when blitzed. In 2010, he threw 167 passes against the blitz; in 2009, he threw 180 passes when blitzed.
"One critical measure of high-level play is the ability to execute versus the blitz," ESPN's Ron Jaworski said on Tuesday in crowning Rodgers as the game's top quarterback. "He was outstanding beating the man coverage that you primarily see with blitz. Again, a function of his accuracy, or as I've said many times, ball location. Rodgers also defeated the blitz with his movement and his extraordinary ability to throw on the run. No quarterback delivers on the move as well as Rodgers — velocity and accuracy."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.