Rodgers Has Shown Ability To Get Hot Hand

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has spoken often this season about getting the offense into a rhythm, and staying in one.

For his part, Rodgers certainly has shown the ability to get the hot hand at times, putting together some impressive stretches of efficiency and point production over the last several weeks.

This past Sunday against Carolina was perhaps the best example of just how good Rodgers can be when he's in a rhythm.

He put together back-to-back touchdown drives in the first half during which he was a combined 9-of-11 passing. And then he got even hotter for a while in the second half, completing 11 straight throws as part of a 17-of-19 stretch over three possessions that produced two TDs and a field goal.

That level of efficiency is almost uncanny, and though no one can expect him to remain that productive for an entire game against NFL defenses, the fact that he can get rolling like that for more than just one drive at a time shows how much command he has of this offense in his first year as a starter.

"I think he has a real good grasp of what we're doing schematically, number one, and that's important," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "I think he's starting to develop some timing and anticipation with some of the receivers. That's a critical part of it as well. And then the guy is an accurate passer.

"I think when you add up those three things -- his knowledge of the system, his communication with his receivers, and his accuracy and arm strength -- you've got a chance, if you protect him well, to get something going and get something going consistently well."

Rodgers first showed his penchant for a hot streak back in Week 2 at Detroit. In the first half, he led three straight touchdown drives and completed 13-of-16 passes, including eight straight.

But in the last two months, he's had similar streaks against more formidable teams as well.

*Against Indianapolis, he finished the first half with a three-possession stretch during which he completed 13 in a row, and 14-of-15 overall, in leading the offense to two touchdowns and a missed field goal try. The streak of 13 straight completions ended only with a spike to stop the clock as time was winding down.

*Against Chicago, he had back-to-back drives in the second half during which he was 10-of-12, producing a touchdown and field goal.

*And against New Orleans, he had consecutive TD drives in the first half, completing 9-of-11, and even finishing the second scoring drive with a scramble of his own for the touchdown.

His most recent hot streaks, against the Bears, Saints and Panthers the past three weeks, have created the feeling that once Rodgers gets going, the offense might put up any number of points. Despite a 1-2 mark in these last three games, the offense has accounted for 90 points, or 30 per game.

Rodgers is certainly the catalyst, but it also comes down to everything else with the offense being in sync. Top receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver already make it look as though Rodgers has been their quarterback for years. Throw in solid pass protection, plus a reliable ground game to keep the defense honest (the Packers have averaged 151 yards on the ground the last three games), and it all contributes to Rodgers being able to hit his stride, even just a dozen starts into his career.

"We're very confident in his ability," Philbin said. "I think we've got some good weapons at his disposal. We like our receiving group, and we think our run-pass balance has been better the last month or so. We're making strides there.

"That leads you to believe, if you have some weapons and you've got a little bit of balance, you should be able to put points on the board. Clearly with his ability and potential, we certainly feel that way."

What Rodgers and the coaching staff would like to do now is get a hot hand right from the get-go. Over the last five games, the Packers haven't scored on their opening drive and have gone three-and-out four times. The other time, they got one first down before punting.

As productive as Rodgers and the offense have been lately, logic would dictate that the earlier in a game Rodgers can settle in, the greater the chance for even more production. The offense's last opening-drive score came on Oct. 19 against the Colts, a field goal.

"I feel like we have a great plan to start the game, and unfortunately we've been starting real slow, and it puts us in tough situations," Rodgers said. "We've proven at times this season if we do the things we feel we're capable of doing and execute the way we know we can, that we're a very talented team."

{sportsad300}Two throws the last two weeks illustrate the difference. On the third drive in New Orleans, with Rodgers having completed just two of his first five passes, he misfired on a deep seam route to Donald Lee when it appeared the tight end had some open space to work with.

Then last week against Carolina, in the midst of his 11 straight completions, Rodgers fit a hard throw through a very tight window to Lee on a crossing route, a key 16-yard pickup over the middle that helped lead to a touchdown.

Would the more difficult of the two throws have been completed if Rodgers hadn't found his rhythm? It's easy to argue no, though every hot streak has to start somewhere.

What is clear for Rodgers is that when things are clicking, they're definitely clicking.

"I think not it's unlike other guys in other sports, when you get in that groove," Philbin said. "Whether you're shooting 3's in basketball or you're up at the plate in baseball.

"I think the protection helps him maybe feel in that groove a little bit, and feel comfortable that, 'Hey, I've got the time to make the decisions. I don't have to rush, and I know my guys as the receivers will get open.' And he has confidence he can get them the ball."

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