For most of his two seasons in the NFL, the outside perspective on Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers has centered on all the things he’s not:
He’s not fast.
He’s not explosive
He’s not Jermichael Finley.
Rodgers, however, has been as-advertised following a three-year career at Cal:
Highlighted by his 61-yard catch of the game-winning Hail Mary on Thursday at Detroit, Rodgers caught eight passes for 146 yards and one touchdown. That yardage total ranks second among all tight ends this season, behind the 147 yards by the Saints’ Ben Watson vs. the Giants in November. Of the 27 eight-catch games by a tight end this season, only Rodgers and Carolina’s Greg Olsen (8-for-8 vs. Seattle in October) caught every pass thrown their way.
“Before the Hail Mary, Richard had a heck of a football game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday. “He needed that and we needed that. We need more production in the passing game. And that was a big night for Richard.”
That’s an understatement. Dating to at least 1960, Rodgers’ yardage total is the most ever by a Packers tight end in a regular-season game. Only Finley (twice), Bubba Franks (once), Jackie Harris (once) and Paul Coffman (once), who all had nine-catch games, caught more passes in a game.
Before Thursday night, Rodgers was having a quietly solid season season, with his 40 catches ranking second on the team. However, he was averaging only 7.3 yards per catch with a season-long play of 25 yards. Against the Lions, Rodgers was responsible for five of the six longest plays of the game: the Hail Mary, a 40-yard pickup on pass interference, two 26-yard gains and a 19-yard reception. The two 26-yard receptions set up touchdowns and, of course, the 61-yarder won the game.
“I never expect to get separation,” Rodgers said matter-of-factly after the game. “I always expect to be covered. Aaron’s the best quarterback and he puts the ball where it needs to be.”
With 48 receptions, Rodgers is in position to set the franchise record for most catches in a season by tight end, the 61 by Finley in 2012. Among all tight ends in the NFL, Rodgers is tied for 11th in receptions and tied for fourth with six touchdowns.
While Rodgers never will have that coveted stretch-the-field speed or Finley’s ability to routinely take a 1-yard pass and turn it into a gain of 10, Rodgers is tied for the second-fewest drops (one) and ranks fifth in catch percentage (73.8) among the 30 tight ends with at least 23 receptions, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
“He’s got good hands,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said when discussing the Hail Mary after the game.
Richard Rodgers, as is his nature, took it all in stride after the game. What was different for a player who never had more than 58 receiving yards in a game?
“Nothing, really,” he said. “I do this every week. I run my same routes and Aaron decided to find me this week and I made the most of it.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.