Both Quarterbacks Made Critics Relax

Not surprisingly, it's Tom Brady and the Patriots vs. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in a potential Super Bowl preview. Rodgers might be the best quarterback of today and Brady might be the best quarterback of the era. He's a "coach on the field," Dom Capers said. (Stew Milne/USA TODAY)

Aaron Rodgers didn’t quite predict this showdown of superpowers, but he’s probably not the slightest bit surprised that the Green Bay Packers will be hosting the New England Patriots in what could be a Super Bowl preview on Sunday.

After a 19-7 loss at Detroit in Week 3, Rodgers felt it necessary to tell Packers fans to “relax” following the team’s 1-2 start. Since then, the Packers are 7-1, with five of those wins coming by at least 21 points.

After a 41-14 loss at Kansas City in Week 4, the Patriots were 2-2. Patriots fans and national pundits alike thought the end was near for the Tom Brady-led dynasty.

Then the Patriots blasted the first-place Bengals 43-17. That was the start of a seven-game winning streak in which they’ve won five games by at least 22 points and scored at least 34 points six times.

“We’re on the way out, Brady’s getting too old,” Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on ESPN Wisconsin a couple days after the Packers crushed the Vikings 42-10 and the Patriots dismantled the Bengals.

“There’s some ridiculous knee-jerk reactions that get more publicity this year, for whatever reason, than the past. It could be the people saying them or it could be because people don’t have original thoughts, and if somebody says something, they want to jump on top of it and stand on the shoulders of another comment that might be valid or might now. I was happy for Tom because Tom’s a buddy. He had a great performance on Sunday night. I think Tom knows it’s always fun to kind of prove those people wrong when they start piling on and telling you you can’t play.”

Brady is arguably this generation’s best quarterback. Rodgers is arguably today’s best quarterback.

Just look at the stats.

Rodgers leads the NFL with a passer rating of 119.3. He also tops the charts with 8.65 yards per attempt, a touchdown rate of 8.8 percent and an interception rate of just 0.9 percent.

The last quarterback to lead the NFL in touchdown percentage and interception percentage? Brady, in 2010. This season, he is sixth in passer rating at 101.0 and fifth in touchdown and interception percentages (6.2 and 1.4, respectively).

Brady is a three-time Super Bowl champion, though he hasn’t hoisted the Lombardi Trophy since the 2004 season. Still, he’s the gold standard among quarterbacks because he’s always got the Patriots in the mix. They’ve played in the AFC Championship Game in each of the past three seasons, despite a who’s-that list of weapons in the passing game.

“They’re an excellent football team. We all know that,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said on Monday. “They’ve got a quarterback that’s done it for a long time. When you’re playing against these quarterbacks like Brady, it’s like having a coach on the field. Kind of like what Aaron does where he calls a lot of the game and has the flexibility to change things on the field. You have to be on top of your game in terms of the alignments, the disguise, those pre-snap reads, so hopefully you don’t let them get into a rhythm because he’s as good as there is.”

Brady isn’t a spring chicken anymore, having turned 37 back in training camp. Still, during the Patriots’ seven-game winning streak, he’s thrown 22 touchdown passes against four interceptions with at least 333 yards in four games. The Patriots are averaging a league-high 32.5 points per game for the season. That includes 34 points on Sunday against a Detroit defense that dominated the Packers earlier in the season.

It will be the ultimate test for Capers’ defense, which failed the previous “ultimate test” against Drew Brees and the Saints before the bye. As with Rodgers, Brady dominates the pre-snap chess game against most defensive coordinators because of his experience, intelligence and total command of the offense. Brady has seen every look — and beaten it.

“You have to be sharp,” Capers said. “There’s not a lot of margin for error when you’re going against a quarterback that’s done it for as long as he’s done it with the level of efficiency he’s done it with. There’s not many things he hasn’t seen. If those quarterbacks get a pre-snap read, you don’t disguise, they know where they’re going with the ball. They’re very efficient at getting the ball to the people they want to go to. The Patriots really mix it up. If you just look at them, they’ll throw to any receiver, they’ll run the ball at any point in time. During the course of the game, if they think you’re playing a lot of coverage packages, they’ll go to running the ball. And if they think you’re getting an extra guy down there to play the run, they’ll go to throwing it. They’ve got the ability to do both, and the guy can make the adjustments on the field.”

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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