By Eric Goska
|Credit: NFL Replay|
Aaron Rodgers continues to be a difference-maker.
The Packers’ quarterback fired four touchdown passes without an interception in Green Bay’s 34-17 romp over the 49ers Thursday. In doing so, Rodgers joined an elite group that allows only the very best into its fold.
Rodgers connected with Davante Adams on a 36-yard scoring pass on Green Bay’s opening drive. He floated a 1-yarder to tight end Marcedes Lewis as the Packers went up 14-3 midway through the second quarter.
Rodgers then found Marquez Valdes-Scantling from 52 yards out with just under two minutes remaining in the half. He got score No. 4 by again collaborating with Valdes-Scantling, this time on a 1-yard toss in the third period.
For Rodgers, it was the 18th time he has fired three or more TD passes in the first half of a regular-season game. The team is 17-1 when he does so.
Yes, Rodgers's impressive display came against a San Francisco team that had a slew of injuries. But Green Bay has played down to the level of its opponent before.
“It’s easy to dismiss kind of what they’ve done (the Packers’ offense) because of the fact that the 49ers offensively are so short-handed,” said Fox game analyst Troy Aikman in the fourth quarter. “That’s not really the case (with the 49ers’ defense).
“Yes, they (the 49ers) have the pass rushers that are gone and I understand that, but this has been a defense that’s played pretty good and they’re not bad in the secondary. They’re pretty decent. But the Packers have gotten after them.”
Rodgers led the charge. He didn't stop until Green Bay was comfortably ahead 34-3 with six minutes, 15 seconds to play.
The 16-year veteran completed 25 of 31 passes for 305 yards. He compiled a passer rating of 147.2.
Rodgers has now thrown 388 TD passes in the regular season. He has been picked off 86 times.
That’s 302 more scoring passes than interceptions.
Only two other quarterbacks have scaled that mountain: Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Both have played longer than Green Bay's triggerman, and neither got there as quickly.
This author has written about TD-INT differentials before. Rodgers got to plus-100 against the Colts in 2012 on his 2,283rd pass attempt, more than 1,000 passes quicker than second-place Brady. He was better than 1,500 passes ahead of Brady (4,141 to 5,666) when he went plus-200 against the Lions in 2016.
Even at that, those who cover this game seemingly prefer to utilize the TD-INT ratio to illustrate how proficient a quarterback is in this regard. Going that route, Ed Rubbert’s lifetime mark of 4.0 compares favorably with Rodgers 4.51.
You tell me who Ed Rubbert was.
No, to truly appreciate the magnitude of what Rodgers, Brees, and Brady have accomplished, it’s best to invoke the differential. The sheer size of the chasm these men have carved out reveals just how truly special they are.
Brady, at plus-378 (561-183), is the all-time leader. Brees is second at plus-320 (560-240).
Brady arrived at plus-300 in his 236th regular-season game. Brees rang the bell in his 272nd.
Rodgers has played in 189 contests.
Watching No. 12 rack up so many TD passes and so few interceptions over the years has been a pleasure. Explaining just how he does it is outside the scope of this column.
We can say this: Only 11 times has the turnover-averse quarterback thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in a game. Brady's been there 31 times. Brees, 50.
Maybe even more impressive: Rodgers has thrown at least three TD passes and no picks on 52 occasions. That’s third-best all-time behind, you guessed it, Brady (60) and Brees (54).
This season alone, Rodgers has had six such games. At that pace, he will easily break his personal best (8) set in 2014.
With his TD pass to Adams, Rodgers broke the franchise record for most first-quarter scoring passes in team history. It was the 94th for Rodgers, one more than previous record-holder Brett Favre. In Green Bay’s 28-22 loss to Minnesota, Rodgers (99) moved ahead of Favre (98) for most TD passes in the fourth quarter.
Brady, Brees, and Rodgers are the only quarterbacks in NFL history to have produced touchdown-to-interception differentials of 300 or more. Listed below is a snapshot of where each QB stood (TDs to INTs) when hitting or surpassing 100, 200, and 300.
Differential Tom Brady Drew Brees Aaron Rodgers
+100 185-82 224-124 142-42
+200 318-118 390-188 270-69
+300 453-152 537-237 388-86