By his own admission, Aaron Rodgers had a poor performance against Arizona.
Most teams would love their quarterback to perform that poorly.
It's not just Rodgers' otherworldly combination of arm strength, accuracy and release, it's all of the little things. Regardless of Rodgers' self-criticism, those things were evident against the Cardinals.
Arizona has a terrific and aggressive defense. A fired-up bunch, the Cardinals sacked Rodgers on the first play of the game and grabbed some early momentum when they held the Packers scoreless after Randall Cobb's 28-yard punt return set up the offense at the Arizona 20.
When the Packers took over at their 16 on the next possession, Rodgers threw a bucket of cold water on the Cardinals' early fire. With a first down at the 28, the Cardinals had the Packers' receivers covered. No worries. Rodgers spotted a gap in the Cardinals' front wall, expertly pump-faked and took off for a 25-yard run. Then, on third-and-8 at the Arizona 18, Rodgers fan for 9. That set up the first of Rodgers' four touchdown passes.
No doubt, Rodgers' prodigious numbers over his career have been built with a large helping hand from his receivers. That makes this year's productivity all the more impressive. Greg Jennings essentially has played 10 of a possible 36 quarters. Donald Driver is a shell of his former self. Jordy Nelson's missed the last two games. Jermichael Finley, inconsistent and playing hurt, seems to be an afterthought. The pass protection has been spotty and the running game mostly nonexistent. Through it all, Rodgers is producing and the Packers are winning, putting him on the short list of MVP candidates.
-- Aaron Rodgers: After a slow start, Rodgers has thrown 22 touchdown passes against three interceptions in the last six games. His touchdown total during that span is a whopping seven more than second-place Drew Brees. For the season, he's second in passer rating (107.4), first in touchdown passes (25) and second in touchdown-to-interception ratio (25 touchdowns vs. five interceptions). He's on pace for 44 touchdowns. Last season, his 45 touchdowns were fifth-most in NFL history. Grade: A.
-- Graham Harrell: His first NFL snap was a disaster, as he got tangled up with Jeff Saturday and botched the exchange with running back Cedric Benson against New Orleans. He handed off seven times at the end of a rout at Houston. Grade: Incomplete.
Number to note
251: Rodgers is 251 yards from reaching 20,000 career passing yards.
Aaron Rodgers: "It's always a grind for me. I put a lot of time into it, I care about it, I prepare to be successful every week. I'm going to be real critical of this game and try to find ways to do better. I don't like to make excuses about who's in there and who's not in there, but excited about the guys coming back and knowing that I need to play better in the second half of the season. You can't have the kind of missed throws that I had today and expect to be able to win consistently in those division games."
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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.