Following the 2014 season, Aaron Rodgers won his second MVP award. At that point, he ranked third in NFL history with a career completion rate of 65.8 percent.
Through five weeks of the NFL season, Rodgers has completed 56.1 percent of his passes. That is the worst among 31 qualifying quarterbacks. As a byproduct, he’s also 28th in yards per attempt.
“You catch the ball, you throw it a little more accurately and, you know, don’t throw it away as much. Maybe I should start taking some more sacks,” said Rodgers, trying to downplay the ugly and unimaginable stat.
“No, you know what, I’ve got to be more accurate, and I will,” he continued. “We’ve got to make the most of the opportunities on 50-50 balls and the balls we should catch and complete.”
After completing at least 70 percent of his passes six times in 2014, Rodgers started last season by completing 78.3 percent at Chicago and 75.8 percent vs. Seattle. Since then, the numbers are startling:
— Rodgers hasn’t completed 70 percent of his passes since — a streak of 20 consecutive games, including playoffs.
— Along with the Chicago and Seattle games, Rodgers was accurate vs. Kansas City (68.6 percent) and San Francisco (68.8 percent) in the third and fourth games. He hasn’t matched those numbers in any of the last 18 games over the last calendar year (and one day), with six games of better than 60 percent compared to 12 games of less than 60 percent. That includes three of the four games at less than 60 percent this season.
“Completion percentage is really a complexion of all your components in your passing game,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “To me, there's two ways to throw the football — you either drop back and throw it or you do it off the action game. We're able to get into more action passes last week, created some more downfield throws. So, you look at that and how it fits the run game this week. But, at the end of the day, we're trying to play more players in the perimeter group. Last week was our first real attempt at that, so we'll see how this week shakes out with game-planning. But we need to spend a little more time on the passing game then we've had in the past and we're doing that particularly in our meeting structure.”
That meant an additional 15 minutes of meetings, McCarthy said, “to make sure we’re cleaning up” some of the issues.
As McCarthy said, a quarterback’s stats reflect the efficiency of the entire passing game. The pass blocking has been exemplary, so the offensive line hasn’t been the issue. While Jordy Nelson had two key drops against the Giants, drops haven’t been an issue. According to STATS, the Packers have only five. That’s right in the middle of the pack.
Incorporating Nelson, who didn’t play in the preseason, has been paramount to start the season. Nelson has been targeted 40 times — just eight players have been targeted more on a per-game basis — and only 21 of those have been completed. Tight end Jared Cook, who was expected to be a key part of the offense, has missed most of the last two games with a high-ankle sprain. Last year, running backs James Starks and Eddie Lacy combined for 63 receptions. This year, they’ve combined for nine — a pace of 36.
“We have a job to do of creating separation and getting open,” Nelson said. “So, we try to make it as easy as possible on Aaron; I'm sure he does the same for us. Sometimes we've got to make plays, and sometimes we've just got to make the easy play. So, it's all part of it, just being in rhythm and timing, and everyone doing their job gets that accomplished.”
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.