Packers in Philly: Aaron Rodgers' record
January, 6, 2011
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Morry GashAaron Rodgers has played well in close games, but still seeks his first playoff win as a starting QB.The sun will rise Sunday morning in Philadelphia.
Perched high in a tree, a bird will sing.
Someone will pour melted cheese on grilled meat.
And Aaron Rodgers' playoff record will be discussed.
As inevitable as the sun rising and cheese-steak consumption, Rodgers' lack of a playoff victory (in one opportunity) will hang over the Green Bay Packers' wild-card playoff game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. You'll hear how no quarterback can be considered great until he takes his team on a playoff run. No doubt, someone will mention that Rodgers has an 0-1 postseason record, a 2-13 record in games decided by four points or less and then leave out most everything else that has happened in between.
I have no idea how Rodgers will play Sunday against the Eagles, or whether he will have a direct impact on whether the Packers advance to the divisional round. But I look forward to the day when this issue is no longer relevant, because it's one case in which the numbers don't tell a full story. In fact, I would argue Rodgers has already put together some would-be iconic moments over the past two seasons that have been rendered moot by events that, at best, were minimally under his control.
Rodgers plays in a bottom-line business ruled by clichéd standards, however, and so even he agreed this week that playoff victories are a part of any elite quarterback's resume.
"I think it's important," Rodgers told reporters in Green Bay. "I think the greatest quarterbacks are remembered for winning big games, but it's not all about the quarterback. Great teams win games, and then the quarterbacks on those great teams are often remembered as being great quarterbacks. We want to win. Every time we take the field we want to win. It's important to win. That's why we play the game. And eventually, if you want to be remembered as a great player, you've got to win in the playoffs."
In his only postseason appearance, Rodgers brought the Packers back from a 24-point third-quarter deficit against the Arizona Cardinals last year. He threw four touchdown passes over the final 23 minutes of regulation, finishing with a career-high 423 passing yards in one of the wildest playoff games in recent memory.
Two turnovers played a key role in the Packers' eventual 51-45 overtime loss, and they tend to dominate discussion of Rodgers' performance in that game. One was a first-pass interception that came after a receiver ran the wrong route. The other was a fumble against a Cardinals blitz in overtime, one that linebacker Karlos Dansby scooped up and returned 17 yards for the winning score.
Did Rodgers lose that game for the Packers? I suggest they wouldn't have made it to overtime without him.
"Everyone on this team, we think he is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL for sure," linebacker A.J. Hawk said on ESPN Radio. "... You can't really knock that playoff thing on him. Last year, we as a defense didn't do our job. I think we gave up 51 points and he put up  for us. You can't really put that on him at all. He gave us a chance to even be in the game."
There have been a number of similarly lost performances. In addition to the Cardinals game, I can think of at least three other moments that should belie any notion that Rodgers doesn't function well in close and/or stressful games:
- Week 15 of the 2009 season: Rodgers led the Packers to 22 points in the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, bringing them back from a 10-point deficit and building a 36-30 lead with 2 minutes, 6 seconds left to play. But the Steelers' offense scored on the game's final play for a 37-36 victory. Rodgers finished the game with 383 passing yards and accounted for four touchdowns.
- Week 6 of 2010: Down 20-13 to the Miami Dolphins late in the fourth quarter, the Packers drove 69 yards in 12 plays over the final 5:07 to tie the score. Rodgers converted two fourth downs on the drive, including an audibled 1-yard touchdown dive on fourth-and-goal. In overtime, however, Rodgers was sacked at the end of the Packers' only possession, and the Dolphins took over for the eventual winning drive.
- Week 12 of 2010: As we chronicled at the time, Rodgers took the Packers on an epic 16-play, 90-yard drive to tie a tight game against the Atlanta Falcons. The final play was a fourth-down touchdown pass to receiver Jordy Nelson with 56 seconds remaining. The Falcons, however, won after a face-mask penalty on the ensuing kickoff put them close to field-goal range.
"We've put together some good fourth-quarter drives this season, I think," Rodgers said recently.
I'm sure some of you will consider this an over-the-top defense of a player who, fair or otherwise, has not yet taken his team to the heights expected from an elite quarterback. And I'm the first to admit, as we discussed last Sunday, that Rodgers and the entire Packers offense has fallen short of the expectations most of us had for this season.
But if anything, I believe Rodgers is as equipped as any quarterback in the NFC playoffs to handle the pressure he will face Sunday. Take a look at chart accompanying this post. Since he became the Packers' starter in 2008, Rodgers has more dropbacks in a tie game than any NFL quarterback. He has a better rating in those situations than all but the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning.
I realize this is an incomplete analysis of how quarterbacks perform in close situations, but part of the reason Rodgers has a 2-13 record in close games is that he has participated in so many of them. In more than a few, Rodgers was the primary reason they were even close. I'm sure he would be the first to admit the Packers could have won more of them, but it's silly to allow a convenient cliché to cloud reality.