Rodgers continues to make Georgia Dome his playground
ATLANTA — The question brought a grin to the face of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"You like playing in this building?" I asked him.
"I do, yes," he said.
Short. Sweet. Candid. And so true.
The building is the Georgia Dome, home of the Atlanta Falcons. May as well call it the Rodgers Dome. He lights it up better than any damn stadium lighting, and he doesn't use up electricity. Instead, he supplies it.
Rodgers threw for 396 yards and two touchdowns Sunday night to lead the undefeated Packers to a 25-14 victory over the Falcons. In three games over the course of the past two seasons, Rodgers has thrown for 1,106 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions against the Falcons.
You think he likes the building?
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This one wasn't nearly as pretty as the 366-yard, three-touchdown dissection of the Falcons in last year's playoff upset. That one had only five passes hit the ground and he wasn't sacked. This one saw him get sacked four times and get hit several more times.
He opened the game without his starting right tackle. He ended it also without his starting left tackle. Both had injuries that forced adjustments, and led to the Falcons getting to Rodgers.
Atlanta led 14-0 early in the second quarter and led 14-6 at the half. The Packers had trouble getting into a groove.
Rodgers described the game as "choppy."
So they went in at halftime and regrouped.
"No panic," Rodgers said.
Why would they panic? They have the current best quarterback in the NFL.
That includes you, Mr. Brady.
They call Rodgers "A-Rod." Unlike the original, this one can come through in the clutch.
He showed that in the playoff run last season.
He reminded us of it again in the second half against the Falcons. After throwing for 97 yards in the first half, Rodgers threw for 299 in the second, including both touchdowns.
The first was vintage Rodgers, an ear-level shot that whizzes by a defender's fingers into the arms of one of his own.
Trailing 14-9, Rodgers called for a vertical route by receiver James Jones.
"It was all-go for me," Jones said.
Jones beat Brent Grimes with an inside move and Rodgers fired the laser down the seam into his hands for a 70-yard touchdown pass and the lead.
I swear I could hear that thing whizzing from the press box. Nobody, and I mean nobody, throws a harder pass than Rodgers.
CBSSports.com Grades Green Bay Packers A After Atlanta came out and quickly put 14 points on the board without a peep from the Packers, Green Bay proceeded to pick apart the Falcons in every facet of the game. Green Bay's defense shut down Matt Ryan and any rushing attack imaginable. Aaron Rodgers threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. Atlanta Falcons D Atlanta, both offensively and defensively, did everything right in the first quarter and a half, but lost its way after that. Once the wheels came off the bus, Atlanta's play got uncharacteristically sloppy and there was a level of malaise on the sideline that kept the team from any kind of comeback attempt. By Knox BardeenRapidReports Correspondent
"There's sometimes those passes get on you quicker than you think," Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. "But we adjust. We catch them all the time in practice."
Rodgers followed that up with another shot for a score, this one a 29-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings on a crossing route.
The Packers defense, which struggled early, did the rest, shutting out the Falcons in the second half.
For the season, Rodgers had thrown for 1,721 yards, with 14 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. He's completing nearly 72 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 122.9. What's really scary: His yards-per-attempt is a career-best 9.6, which tells you the Packers are even more explosive than the group that won the Super Bowl.
The return of tight end Jermichael Finley from injury and the improvement of Nelson have really helped make the Packers even tougher to defend. Rodgers completed passes to 12 different players against the Falcons, which shows he'll throw to anybody if they are open.
Aside from the big arm, the things that make Rodgers great are his feel for who might come open, his ability to escape pressure and a willingness to throw into the middle of the field.
The last one might sound simple, but you'd be surprised as to how many quarterbacks are afraid to attack the middle. That's the area where mistakes are made, but it can also be a fertile ground for big plays. The great ones, like Rodgers, mine it successfully for those big plays.
I've been at the Rodgers Dome for all three of his games against the Falcons. When he threw for 366 and three touchdowns to beat the Falcons here, I thought that to be one of those best passing games I saw live.
This one wasn't as good, but that's because we've come to expect it from Rodgers. So he threw for 396 yards and two scores. Ho-hum.
"He always gets into a groove," Nelson said. "We've seen it plenty of times. It just took a little longer this time."
I told Nelson that Rodgers likes the building.
"We all do," he said.
Rodgers is on pace for 5,507 passing yards and 45 touchdowns. The former would be an NFL record. Get used to it.
This guy is going to break a lot of records.
I never thought I'd say this, but neither Tom Brady nor the injured Peyton Manning can stake a claim as the best in the NFL right now.
That goes to the guy who calls the Georgia Dome his home — A-Rod, the non-choking one.