BOB McGINN

Rodgers’ per­for­mance against Seat­tle was one of QB’s worst of the sea­son

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Aaron Rodgers’ per­for­mance vs. the Sea­hawks was noth­ing to brag about.

Green Bay — If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 1,000 times.

You know, if the Green Bay Pack­ers aren’t care­ful, they’ll win only one Su­per Bowl with a fran­chise quar­ter­back like Aaron Rodgers just like they won just one with Brett Favre.

Favre’s 16-year run as the starter is an­cient his­tory now. Foot­ball’s statute of lim­i­ta­tions has ex­pired on that era.

Seven years in as the starter, Rodgers is at the very peak of his pow­ers.

Not sure about you, but I’m sick of the blame game for Green Bay’s over­time de­feat in Seat­tle.

One could iden­tify the head coach, the spe­cial-teams coach, the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and 15 or more of their play­ers and charge them all with gross neg­li­gence, dere­lic­tion of duty and other heinous acts against Pack­ers fans here, there and ev­ery­where. It was the loss that will never go away. The Pack­ers, a 7½-point un­der­dog, made a tremen­dous ef­fort at the NFL’s least wel­com­ing venue. Not many teams can go into Cen­tu­ryLink Field and all but dom­i­nate a tal­ented, well-coached team like the Sea­hawks for 57 min­utes, which the Pack­ers did.

You might want to vil­ify ev­ery­one that wore a green and gold uni­form or coach­ing parka in the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game. The truth is, the Pack­ers played their butts off to come as close as they did.

Yes, vic­tory slipped away from Green Bay at the end of reg­u­la­tion and in over­time, after Seat­tle won a coin toss to get the ball first. But when you watch and re-watch the tape there are count­less plays and de­ci­sions through­out the 63½ min­utes that might have re­sulted in a dif­fer­ent out­come.

To­day’s NFL is set up as a quar­ter­back’s game. He has the ball in his hands on ev­ery play. No one can af­fect the score­board like him.

The Pack­ers con­sider Rodgers to be the best quar­ter­back in the business. He’s con­sid­ered a shoo-in for his sec­ond most valu­able player award, and for good rea­son.

He had a great sea­son. More than any other per­son, he’s the rea­son the Pack­ers were play­ing in the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game.

Rodgers, how­ever, prob­a­bly played as poorly in Seat­tle as he has in any of his 11 play­off games. You can come up with any num­ber of ex­cuses why that was the case, but the fact re­mains it was one of his three or four worst per­for­mances of the sea­son and his team couldn’t over­come it.

The Pack­ers built their big lead be­cause of turnovers, de­fense, run game and, yes, spe­cial teams (Ma­son Crosby’s five field goals, Brad Jones’ forced fum­ble on a kick­off re­turn, Micah Hyde’s 29-yard punt re­turn).

Their pass­ing game, on the other hand, was all but null and void.

Great play­ers need to make great plays in big games like this, and Rodgers re­ally didn’t make any at all.

All the other blun­ders and bloop­ers that plagued the Pack­ers wouldn’t have mat­tered if their main man, their high­est-paid player and the face of their fran­chise would have stepped up and played up to his abil­ity.

We know what the Pack­ers do when Rodgers is ter­rific in the post­sea­son. They win the Su­per Bowl.

When Rodgers plays or­di­nary or worse, they’re elim­i­nated early.

In 2010, Rodgers was solid in rugged, low-scor­ing road games against Philadel­phia and Chicago and bril­liant against the Fal­cons in At­lanta and Pitts­burgh in the Su­per Bowl.

The Ge­or­gia Dome was about as loud as any venue could be early in that NFC di­vi­sional game four years ago. Im­pos­si­ble to hear or not, Rodgers spun away from four dead-to-rights sacks, looked to be three steps ahead of a blitz-crazy de­fense and hit 31 of 36 for a cool 366 and three scores.

Dick Le­Beau’s “Bl­itzburgh” de­fense blitzed an in­cred­i­ble 59% in the Su­per Bowl, floor­ing Rodgers 11 times. Still, he kept look­ing off Troy Po­la­malu, fir­ing bul­lets to Greg Jen­nings and shak­ing off six dropped passes that had a com­bined catch point of 100 yards.

In my 2012 book, I ranked it the fifth-best per­for­mance by a quar­ter­back in the his­tory of the Su­per Bowl.

Largely be­cause Rodgers de­vel­oped into a stel­lar player, the Pack­ers have been a play­off team six sea­sons in a row. Again, largely be­cause of him, they’ve been a le­git­i­mate con­tender for the Lom­bardi Trophy all six times.

Again, we can cite chap­ter and verse from the five elim­i­na­tion games quar­ter­backed by Rodgers why the Pack­ers fell short. Trump­ing it all is the fact the game re­volves around the quar­ter­back, and the Pack­ers’ quar­ter­back was out­played in all five of those games.

Rodgers opened his first play­off start with prob­a­bly the worst decision he made that en­tire 2009 sea­son, the

Great play­ers need to make great plays in big games.

in­ter­cep­tion back inside that set up a quick touch­down for Ari­zona. After a woe­ful first quar­ter, he was all-world lead­ing seven straight scor­ing drives, match­ing Kurt Warner strike for strike.

On the first play of over­time, Jen­nings was 50 yards down­field 3 or 4 yards be­hind safety An­trel Rolle, who was play­ing on a bad wheel. In­stead of be­com­ing the game-win­ning 80-yard touch­down, the pass from Rodgers was badly over­thrown.

Two plays later, Rodgers blew a read, didn’t see a slot blitz, fum­bled and Kar­los Dansby ran it in. Ball game.

The Pack­ers were try­ing to re­peat as Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons in Jan­uary 2012 when Rodgers turned in one of the two poor­est out­ings of his MVP sea­son against the Gi­ants at Lam­beau Field.

He threw in­com­plete on 20 of 46 passes (six were dropped), didn’t have a com­ple­tion longer than 21 yards and turned the ball over twice.

The next Jan­uary at Can­dle­stick Park, Rodgers lacked the pa­tience to beat the 49ers’ con­ser­va­tive two-shell de­fense and threw a bad in­ter­cep­tion.

Last year, in his sec­ond game back from a bro­ken col­lar­bone, Rodgers was in­de­ci­sive in the first half at Lam­beau Field against another two-shell look co­or­di­nated by San Francisco’s Vic Fan­gio. He could find noth­ing avail­able down­field and was at least par­tially re­spon­si­ble for three of his four sacks.

Out in Seat­tle, Rodgers was af­forded some of the finest pro­tec­tion any quar­ter­back has en­joyed in a long time against a de­fense jus­ti­fi­ably re­garded as one of the best in any era.

It was like one of those shoot­ing-gallery games in which Rodgers waits and waits and waits un­til a re­ceiver comes free and he puts the ball on him.

For the third game in a row the Pack­ers went right down the field on their open­ing pos­ses­sion. Then, from the 29, Rodgers threw be­hind Da­vante Adams on a slant, was for­tu­nate not to be in­ter­cepted on a shot play to Jordy Nel­son and was in­ter­cepted by Richard Sher­man on an end-zone throw to Adams that was late and un­der­thrown.

Ear­lier, Rodgers had Nel­son a step be­hind By­ron Maxwell at the Seat­tle 22 but the long pass was over­thrown.

The in­com­ple­tion on what should have been an easy 6-yard TD is more on Nel­son, who tripped at the top of the route. Still, the throw could have been slightly bet­ter.

A great throw to Adams on a free play would have re­sulted in a 33-yard TD. That was over­thrown, too. Ran­dall Cobb was wide open sprint­ing across the mid­dle for a prob­a­ble 36-yard TD but the pass was a tad high and he couldn’t han­dle it.

On first down from the Seat­tle 33, Cobb was cor­rect hook­ing up on his op­tion route that the un­hur­ried Rodgers threw out­side for his sec­ond pick.

In the third quar­ter, Rodgers stepped funny on a sec­ond-down screen to Ed­die Lacy that promised to be a long gainer. It’s like Rodgers in­stantly fell apart, bailed and missed the sim­ple 10-yard throw and, after he held the ball too long (4.4 seconds) for a third-down sack, out trot­ted the punt team.

As the Pack­ers’ four-minute of­fense pro­ceeded, Rod- gers went to a flanked An­drew Quar­less on third and 4 against line­backer cov­er­age. He re­ally wasn’t open, Quar­less’ route wasn’t great and the pass was bro­ken up; Adams might have been a bet­ter choice on the other side.

Rodgers fi­nally came alive on two 15-yard com­ple­tions and a 12-yard scram­ble to the Seat­tle 36. Thir­ty­five seconds re­mained.

As Rodgers ex­tended right, he ges­tured to­ward Lacy as if to say, “Peel off down­field.” As soon as Lacy turned to do so, Rodgers flipped the ball in­com­plete where he had just been.

Seat­tle blitzed six on sec­ond down, and Rodgers tried a back-shoul­der fade on the side­line to Richard Rodgers, who is hardly a back-shoul­der re­ceiver. On the other side, Adams was wide open.

Rodgers did make a su­perb toss to Nel­son from an odd an­gle on the next play as he was get­ting hit, giv­ing Crosby a shorter at­tempt by 7 yards.

How much was Rodgers limited by his calf in­jury? You could see he felt trapped inside the pocket at times, and the Sea­hawks cover ini­tially ex­tremely well.

Rodgers did have the ca­pac­ity to run fast and ex­tend plays to his heart’s con­tent in the Sept. 4 de­feat at Cen­tu­ryLink Field. He was equally in­ef­fec­tive that night, too.

His coun­ter­part, Rus­sell Wilson, was hor­ren­dous un­til the fi­nal 18 plays. Not fazed the least by his nu­mer­ous mis­fires, Wilson then made a se­ries of ex­tra­or­di­nary plays with his arm and his legs to tie the score.

In over­time, Wilson rain­bowed two per­fect 35-yard bombs, the pre­ci­sion of which hadn’t been seen from Rodgers all af­ter­noon. There’s not much more im­por­tant in the win­ning equa­tion than pass­ing ac­cu­racy in the clutch.

In Rodgers’ six post-sea­son vic­to­ries, his passer rat­ing of 111.8 is 38.4 points higher than the op­pos­ing quar­ter­backs.

In his five de­feats, Rodgers’ rat­ing of 89.4 is 9.1 points lower than the op­po­si­tion. Warner, Eli Man­ning, Colin Kaeper­nick (twice) and Wilson also have com­bined to out­rush him, 314-130.

If this trend con­tin­ues, Rodgers will run the risk of hav­ing a foot­ball epi­taph along the lines of Pey­ton Man­ning, a one-time Su­per Bowl win­ner with a play­off record of 11-13 and a play­off passer rat­ing of 88.5.

It isn’t a ques­tion if Rodgers pos­sesses the right stuff. His his­tory tells us that he does.

But, un­til Rodgers brings that to bear against the big boys in the post­sea­son again, he won’t win another Su­per Bowl no mat­ter what Ted Thomp­son does, Mike McCarthy does or any­body else in Green Bay does.

MARK HOFF­MAN / MHOFFMAN@JOUR­NALSEN­TINEL.COM

Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers played a great game against the At­lanta Fal­cons in 2011. The Pack­ers won, 25-14.

JOUR­NAL SENTINEL FILES

In Su­per Bowl XLV, Green Bay Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers was solid de­spite be­ing sacked 11 times.

KRISTYNA WENTZ-GRAFF FOR PACKER PLUS

Aaron Rodgers walks away after a missed pass in the fourth quar­ter of the the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game.

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