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Monday, January 17, 2011
Context in judging Aaron Rodgers' night

By Kevin Seifert

Early Sunday morning, I suggested that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers produced one of the best performances of a generation in a 48-21 rout of the Atlanta Falcons. Before we get pulled in to the Epicenter of Humanity, I wanted to offer some further context and background to that claim.

First up: Our friends over at Football Outsiders, who use their own methods for evaluating performances -- essentially determining the extent to which a player achieves above the league average for such circumstances. By that measure, Rodgers' performance was the fourth-best playoff game by a quarterback over the past 18 seasons.

(Earlier: Rodgers' Week 16 performance against the New York Giants was the 11th-best regular-season performance over that same span. Bill Barnwell provides further details on Saturday night's game in an ESPN Insider piece.)

Second, we've already noted that Rodgers' 86.1 completion percentage was the fifth-best mark in NFL postseason history. But as the chart shows, it was the second-best among quarterbacks who also threw for at least 300 yards. It's an important distinction because it combined efficiency with proficiency. Downfield passes, which gain more yards, are usually less likely to be completed.


Finally, Rodgers is now one of three quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to produce a game with these parameters: At least 300 yards passing, at least 80 percent completions, at least three touchdowns and no interceptions. Here is the full list:


These facts and figures provide some footing for what seemed visually evident Saturday night. It's true that the Falcons were playing without nickelback Brian Williams. But I'm leery of attaching too much significance to the absence of a nickelback, and the Falcons were still managing a decent pass rush. Remember, they sacked Rodgers twice and he spun away from at least four other near-sacks.

Given the stage and the circumstances, and adding in a tough 7-yard run for a touchdown in the third quarter, it was as complete a performance as I've seen in person. Sometimes the adrenaline of a live event can impair judgment, but I don't think that happened in this case.