If Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ single-season statistics were comprised of the 16 starts he’s made against the Minnesota Vikings, he’d likely winning an MVP award.
In 16 games, he has posted a record of 11-5 (including 10-2 in the last 12 meetings). He has completed 352 of 512 passes (68.8 percent) for 4,250 yards with 35 touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 112.2. Nobody with more than 100 pass attempts has ever had a rating that high against the Vikings.
Suffice it to say, Rodgers is clearly going to be the key player the Vikings will need to contain, given the high level of success he has attained against the Vikings.
“He’s a dangerous player,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “How many times have seen him make a big play that you didn’t think was possible? Rodgers knows how to ball. When you go up against him, you had better pack a lunch because it’s going to be a long day for everybody.”
What makes Rodgers so dangerous isn’t just his accuracy. It’s his ability to extend plays. While many mobile quarterbacks run when the intended targets are covered or scramble for their lives when the pocket collapses, Rodgers has an innate ability to slide in the pocket, roll out and, when there is opening, run for significant gains.
But, what differentiates Rodgers is that, when he is on the move, until he gets past the line of scrimmage, he is always looking downfield and trying to complete a pass. Most quarterbacks have to get rid of the ball in approximately three or four seconds after the snap. With Rodgers, plays can last double that – however long he can avoid rushers and keep plays alive. More times than not, he not only can escape sacks, he creates big plays when he’s on the move, which makes life miserable for those on the back end of the defense.
“You just know when you play Rodgers that you’ve got to stay in coverage until you hear a whistle,” safety Andrew Sendejo said. “Sometimes that can seem like forever. It’s one of the things he does very well, but it’s something we’re used to because we play him twice a year. We know the deal coming into those games because you know he’s going to extend plays as long as he can.”
Even players on the other side of the ball watch in awe when they see some of the things Rodgers can accomplish. Running back Adrian Peterson, the best running back of his generation, has an admiration for what Rodgers has been able to accomplish, keeping the stability in the Packers franchise that began when Brett Favre came into his own.
Peterson was part of the 2009 season when Favre arrived in Minnesota and got the team as close to the Super Bowl as it had been in a decade and, when he watches Rodgers play, he sees a lot of the Favre fingerprints on him.
“His consistency and the passion he plays with,” Peterson said of what separates Rodgers from almost all other quarterbacks. “He had a great quarterback to groom him and to look up to in Brett Favre. Obviously, when you see Aaron Rodgers play, you see signs of Favre as well. He’s very elusive in how he runs. He’s able to run, sprint out and throw the ball on a dime. The way he celebrates (is the same). It’s obvious, I think it is, when you watch him play. The one thing that sticks out is the passion he plays with and the heart and desire he plays with. That’s all you can ask from any player at any position.”
For those who play up close to Rodgers at the snap, they have their work cut out for themselves. Not only do they have to pressure Rodgers, they need to mix it in with keeping him contained in the pocket. One mistake or one misstep can turn a potential sack into a touchdown.
Defensive end Everson Griffen said he appreciates getting sacks on Rodgers as much as any quarterback in the league because he knows how lethal he can be if he isn’t contained and trapped.
“Once Aaron Rodgers escapes the pocket, he’s deadly,” Griffen said. “We’ve got to keep him contained, but we’ve got to rush him at the same time. Our whole thing is to go out and play smart ball, contain Aaron Rodgers and make plays. He can throw the ball in any way – any angle, any direction, scrambling out of the pocket. He’s mobile, so it makes him that much more difficult to get.”
Mike Zimmer said Rodgers is the quarterback that is the most "game-planned" for in the NFL.
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Not having cornerback Xavier Rhodes is going to make a difficult situation even more of a concern, but the Vikings will be putting up strength on strength in Sunday night’s national TV matchup. One side will hold the dominant edge and the only question is whether it will be Rodgers or the Vikings defense committed to containing him.
“There’s only one Aaron Rodgers, man,” Munnerlyn said. “Every time you think you have him down, he does something you haven’t seen before. We’re going to have to be on our P’s and Q’s because, if you’re not, he takes advantage of it every time.”