GREEN BAY — Aaron Rodgers wanted to aim his throw at Aaron Jones’ outside shoulder. That’s how the play worked in practice during the week. Now, early in Sunday’s first quarter, the running back corner route was being brought into a game.
Only problem was the Oakland Raiders had the corner covered. When Jones broke his route outside, the way he was instructed, Rodgers didn’t have a throwing window.
So the Green Bay Packers quarterback improvised.
“I felt like to throw it within the boundary would’ve been too flat,” Rodgers explained, “and a guy was on him. So I just tried to put it up.”
Rodgers put it toward his running back’s inside shoulder. He dropped it over Raiders linebacker Nicholas Morrow’s head, yet still inside cornerback Gareon Conley, a perfect throw that, no, coach Matt LaFleur didn’t script.
When Jones caught Sunday afternoon’s opening touchdown pass, making a remarkable adjustment and securing the football as he fell to the field, it seemed like something special might be brewing. Jones, running wide open through the Detroit Lions secondary, dropped a sure touchdown six days earlier. The degree of difficulty here was infinitely higher.
Even still, nobody could have guessed just how special the Packers’ two-time MVP quarterback’s day would become.
Rodgers accounted for as many touchdowns as he had incompletions during the Packers’ 42-24 rout of the Raiders, a win that improved their record to 6-1 and positioned them firmly in the NFC’s early conversation for home-field advantage. He had a season-high 429 passing yards, just the ninth time in his career he has exceeded 400 in a game. His five touchdown passes — he added a 3-yard rushing touchdown — to five different receivers was one behind his career high, and only the fifth time he has done that in his career.
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Then, there’s this: Rodgers’ 158.3 rating, the maximum value a quarterback can achieve, was the first time in Packers history a quarterback has had a perfect mark in a single game. Rodgers broke his own single-game franchise record of 155.4, which he set at the Cleveland Browns in 2009.
“That’s some legendary stuff,” outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith said.
What does a perfect passer rating look like in the box score? How about a 25-for-31 completion clip, 13.8 yards per pass, and six total touchdowns. Rodgers became only the second quarterback in NFL history to have at least 400 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and no interceptions in a single game, joining former Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien.
The afternoon might have started imperfectly, with Rodgers forced to make an adjustment on his first touchdown throw. By day’s end, it was as close to perfection as any quarterback has reached in NFL history.
“I still don’t understand how they put that rating together,” Rodgers said, smirking and perhaps, considering his football intelligence, presenting a little humility, “but it does sound pretty good.”
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