Rodgers' Game Still On The Rise

Much like the team as a whole, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing his best football heading into the biggest game to date on the 2009 schedule, Sunday’s home tilt with the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre. Strangely, though, Rodgers is getting more recognition for his impressive play from outside the building than within it. - More Press Release: Rodgers Named NFC Offensive Player Of Month

Much like the team as a whole, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing his best football heading into the biggest game to date on the 2009 schedule, Sunday's home tilt with the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre.

Strangely, though, Rodgers is getting more recognition for his impressive play from outside the building than within it.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy joked on Wednesday that Rodgers hasn't even received a game ball from the coaching staff yet, despite the fact that he was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month for October. The slight, though not intentional by any means, is a reflection of both Rodgers' consistency and the expectations created by his solid first season as a starter in '08.

"I think we need to take a closer look at how we're judging him," McCarthy said, behind a chuckle and a smile. "He's a young man, he's talented, he works hard, and he deserves everything that he accomplishes. He's just doing a really good job of running the offense and I can't say enough about that.

"Based on him not getting a game ball, I guess he's not playing good enough yet."

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course. Rodgers' three-game run in October (the Packers had a bye in Week 5) to earn the monthly recognition included 70 completions in 94 attempts (74.5 percent) for 988 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.

More importantly, the Packers and Rodgers bounced back from the loss at Minnesota to open the month and won their last two games convincingly, with Rodgers posting a career-high and franchise-record 155.4 pass-efficiency rating last Sunday in Cleveland.

That performance lifted Rodgers to No. 2 in the league this season in passer rating at 110.8, behind only Indianapolis' Peyton Manning (114.5). His rating on third downs (142.6) is best in the league, and in the fourth quarter (118.4), it's third. Never afraid to take a shot deep if it's there, Rodgers' eight completions of at least 40 yards rank tied for first in the league, while his interception percentage (1.1) is third lowest.

Asked if he feels he's playing the best football of his young career right now, Rodgers said on Wednesday he hadn't given it much thought. He believes, and hopes, it's simply part of the natural progression in his development, whereby increased efficiency comes as he continues to gain experience.

"I still feel like my best is in front of me, and I'm always looking for ways to improve and being very critical of the way I've been playing," Rodgers said. "As a quarterback, you have to strive for that perfect game, and it's never really attainable because there's always a couple of things you're going to lie in bed at night and think about. But last week was one of the better games I've played.

"Now, if you ask Tom Clements, my quarterback coach, he'd say it's for one reason, and that's because I've been disciplined the last couple of weeks and playing within the offense and making good decisions, and he's exactly right."

Dating back to the St. Louis game in Week 3, Rodgers has posted four consecutive games with a passer rating above 110.0, making him the only quarterback in franchise history to accomplish that other than Bart Starr.

Included in that streak was the one loss in October against the same team Rodgers will face Sunday, the Vikings. He absorbed eight sacks and overcame several difficult down-and-distance situations to still throw for a career-best 384 yards, an effort the Minnesota defense noticed, to be sure.

"As far as rattling him, he might have been a little quick to try to escape out of the pocket, but I thought he did a pretty good job of holding in there and getting the ball downfield," said Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who had 4½ of those eight sacks. "He still threw for a ton of yards on us, so we have to clean that up."

The Packers plan to clean up their protection against the Vikings this time around, too. Allen will be lined up across from either veteran Chad Clifton or rookie T.J. Lang on Sunday and not converted guard Daryn Colledge, which was the matchup for most of the first meeting, on Oct. 5 at the Metrodome. How that affects Allen's impact will be watched closely.

Having taken 25 sacks through the first five games, Rodgers wasn't sacked once by the Browns, his first sack-free game of the season. A combination of better protection and more timely decisions to release the ball or tuck it and run (four carries, 23 yards) factored into that.

{sportsad300}"(The linemen) need to carry over the same kind of confidence they had against Cleveland into this game and hopefully be able to give me some time," Rodgers said. "Personally, I need to get the ball out of my hands as quickly as possible, get the ball to our playmakers, and let them do their job."

With all the attention on Favre's return to Lambeau Field, Rodgers continues to concentrate on his job first and foremost. Asked for his opinions on some Favre-related topics, Rodgers expressed that he's not concerned with how Favre is received by the Lambeau crowd, nor what it will be like to see Favre in another uniform inside his old home stadium.

"Personally I'm focused on my preparation and that doesn't change," he said. "I think I kind of have blinders on in a sense because my week is already planned out for me.

"We're regimented with our schedule. Wednesday, I talk to you guys, go home and watch film. Thursday, practice, go home and watch film. Friday is a half day, go home and relax, still watching film. Saturday, come in and talk about the game plan, and then Sunday here we go. That's how I stay focused."

Focused on winning, of course, and not awards, whether they be external or internal. As far as whether or not a game ball is coming his way anytime soon, Rodgers said the best part about getting a game ball in the locker room after a game is it would unmistakably represent his primary goal.

"It means you've won," he said.

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