GREEN BAY – When Packers QB Aaron Rodgers won his first two NFL MVP awards in 2011 and 2014, there wasn't much doubt he'd be the choice.
There's very little doubt this time, either. Here's a rundown of some 2020 parallels to those previous two award-winning seasons.
Big plays galore: In both 2011 and '14, Rodgers threw nine touchdown passes of 40-plus yards. He didn't quite match that total in 2020, with six, but a closer look shows how close he came to actually beating it.
Rodgers had two other TD passes barely shy of 40 yards – they were from 39 and 36 – this past season, and back in Week 3 at New Orleans he twice hooked up with Allen Lazard on big plays that came up just short of the goal line. In the win over the Saints, Lazard had a 48-yard grab down to the 2-yard line, and a 72-yard reception to the 3. So close.
The raw numbers: Back in '11, Rodgers set the NFL single-season record for passer rating at 122.5, and he nearly equaled it this year at 121.5. In '14, he finished at 112.2, the third-highest rating of his career.
This year, he set personal bests (and new franchise records) with 48 TD passes, better than his 45 in '11 and 38 from '14, and by completing 70.7% of his throws (68.3 in '11, 65.6 in '14). His interception total of five in '20 was comparable (six in '11, five in '14) and his yardage total of 4,299 was actually his lowest of the three (4,643 in '11, 4,381 in '14).
Perhaps this stands out the most, though. This past year, Rodgers became the first QB to lead the league in passer rating, TD passes, completion percentage and interception percentage since Steve Young in 1992.
A jaw-dropping performance: Every MVP season has at least one of these, and for Rodgers in 2020 it was probably Week 1 at Minnesota. Coming off a productive but modest statistical season by his standards in 2019 (4,002 yards, 26 TDs, 95.4 rating), not many saw his blistering day against Mike Zimmer's defense in the opener coming.
Rodgers began the season going 32-of-44 for 364 yards with four TDs, no INTs and a 127.5 rating to torch a division rival, 43-34, and he was on his way.
To pick one jaw-dropper back in '11 isn't easy, but choosing the game at Minnesota again works as well as any. In the noisy Metrodome, Rodgers could seemingly do no wrong, going 24-of-30 for 335 yards with three TDs, no INTs and a season-best 146.5 rating in a 33-27 triumph that got the Packers to their bye week undefeated at 7-0.
In '14, the pick is another NFC North game, but this time Chicago, when Rodgers threw six TD passes – all in the first half – in a Week 10 blowout win over the Bears at home on a Sunday night. For the game, he threw for 315 yards on just 18 completions (in 27 attempts) and posted a 145.8 passer rating.
Rebounding from a clunker: Rodgers did it with aplomb each of these three seasons.
Back in '11, the Packers' 13-0 start ended at Kansas City in Rodgers' worst game of the year (17-of-35, 235 yards, one TD, no INTs, 80.1 rating). He came back seven days later to bury the Bears on Christmas night and clinch the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, going 21-of-29 for 283 yards with five TDs, no INTs and a 142.7 rating.
In '14, the Week 15 loss at Buffalo was a rough day (17-of-42, 185 yards, no TDs, two INTs, 34.3 rating), but he bounced back the following week to secure a playoff spot in a win at Tampa Bay (31-of-40, 318 yards, one TD, no INTs, 108.1 rating) despite injuring his calf.
This past season, the Week 6 outing at Tampa Bay was his worst statistically since that Buffalo game six years prior (16-of-35, 160 yards, no TDs, two INTs, 35.4 rating), but he turned right around a week later at Houston and got back on track (23-of-34, 283 yards, four TDs, no INTs, 132.4 rating).
Sealing the deal: Though no one can ever be certain, there's been a late-season performance each year that seemed to wrap up the MVP for Rodgers.
In Week 13 of '11, he capped a 369-yard, four-TD day at the Meadowlands by driving the offense into position for a Mason Crosby walk-off field goal that gave the Packers a 38-35 win and kept them undefeated at 12-0.
There were still four regular-season games left (Rodgers played in only three it turned out), but it was hard to see anybody else winning the award. Rodgers had a 125.3 passer rating on the season to that point, nearly three points higher than his eventual record-setting mark.
In '14, the award was more up in the air, until the regular-season finale at Lambeau Field against Detroit. The Packers needed a victory over the Lions to win the NFC North and secure a first-round playoff bye as the No. 2 seed. In the second quarter, Rodgers reinjured his calf on a short TD pass to Randall Cobb and headed to the locker room.
As he re-emerged from the tunnel during the third quarter, the Lambeau crowd serenaded him with chants of "M-V-P! M-V-P!" Despite the injury, he got back under center to lead the Packers to an important 30-20 victory, finishing 17-of-22 for 226 yards with two TDs for a 139.6 passer rating. The award was his.
This past year, it had to be Sunday Night Football in Week 16 on a snow-covered Lambeau in a runaway 40-14 victory. With another MVP candidate, Tennessee RB Derrick Henry, on the field that night, Rodgers by far shined brightest, throwing as many TD passes (four) as incompletions (21-of-25) for 231 yards and a 128.1 passer rating despite one interception.