Always dangerous Rodgers hardly struggling
Contrary to perceptions based on the Green Bay Packers' 1-2 start, quarterback Aaron Rodgers is not having a bad season.
Unless by "bad" you're talking about a 95.1 passer rating, which soars to 114.6 in the fourth quarter (seventh best in the NFL) and 102.4 on third downs (eighth in the league). The 95.1 seems low only when compared to Rodgers' NFL-best-of-all-time 104.6 career passer rating.
The Bears certainly aren't talking as if they believe there's been any drop in Rodgers' proficiency, especially in light of his 10-2 career record-2 against them in games he starts and finishes. Last season at Lambeau Field, Rodgers suffered a fractured collarbone on a sack by Shea McClellin on the first series in a game the Bears went on to win 27-20.
"You're not going to find a quarterback in the league that's going to pinpoint a ball better than Aaron Rodgers," said linebacker Lance Briggs, a veteran of 21 Bears-Packers games. "He can make any throw in the NFL, so that makes it tough. He's one of those guys that scrambles. Usually when a guy scrambles to his right or his left, their completion percentage goes down. His stays right around the same."
Rodgers may not have the depth of weapons he's had in the past, but he still has Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Nelson's 23 receptions for 351 yards are the most catches in franchise history in the first three games of a season. Cobb held a portion of the old record of 21, which he established last season. He has "only" 14 catches so far this year, but 3 have gone for touchdowns. No one else has more than 8 catches for the Packers, whose 1-2 start has some Packer backers reaching for the panic button.
Rodgers went on his radio show earlier this week and had a message for them.
"R-E-L-A-X," he told his audience Tuesday, assuring them that all was well.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was asked if he could relate to the situation.
"I don't know if I'd advise him to do that," Cutler said. "Sometimes that can backfire on you."
But that usually doesn't happen to Rodgers, as Cutler points out.
"He's still a heck of a player," the Bears' quarterback said of his counterpart. "He's taking care of the ball. Protection-wise they're having a few issues, I think. Against the Jets (a 31-24 Packers victory at Lambeau), we watched the film, and he's running around -- they're asking a lot of him to make plays outside the pocket and outside the structure of the play, which gets difficult at times."
Difficult for some quarterbacks, but Rodgers is one of the few who becomes more dangerous when he escapes because he can buy time for his receivers to lengthen their routes, creating longer gains than what was expected from the original play.
"He's certainly unique," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "He's different than the guys that we've played (this season) from the standpoint that he's got all the throws. He just has tremendous accuracy, tremendous quickness releasing the football.
"Plus he's got the ability to extend plays. He's extremely and unusually athletic. He has the mobility to go right or left and throw with great accuracy."
The Bears received some good and some not-so-good health news Thursday when strong safety Ryan Mundy (shoulder) went through a full practice and free safety Chris Conte (shoulder) practiced, although he was limited. But defensive end Jared Allen (illness) and tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) remained out. Allen is expected back Friday, but Ratliff is iffy at best.
The feeling at Halas Hall is that it will require everyone to contain Rodgers.
"You have to do a lot of things right, and everyone has to be on top of their game if you want to have any chance of trying to contain Aaron Rodgers," Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "He's a tremendous competitor, he can make every throw, he's got outstanding mobility, and he's got good players around him.
"It's going to be a tall task for us."
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