Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will be in Bears’ way for a while
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org September 25, 2011 10:32PM
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws downfield in the second quarter during the Chicago Bears loss to the Green Bay Packers 27-17 Sunday September 25, 2011 at Soldier Field in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: November 11, 2011 2:03PM
Here’s the bad news, Chicago: Aaron Rodgers is less beaten up than Jay Cutler, more victorious than Jay Cutler, younger than Jay Cutler, better than Jay Cutler.
So how’s your future lookin’, Bears?
Rodgers, the 27-year-old Green Bay Packers quarterback (Cutler is 28), led his team to a 27-17 win Sunday over the bumbling Bears at Soldier Field, and that may have been the good news.
The bad is that this Rodgers kid beat the Bears in the NFC Championship Game last season, led the Packers to the Super Bowl title in February, has beaten the Bears six of the eight times he has started and may only be getting better.
Who put the Bears and Packers in the same division, anyway?
Sadly, Rodgers is a young 27, having whittled twigs on the Green Bay sideline for his first three years in the league, nodding off as Father Time himself, Brett Favre, took all the starts.
Cutler, on the other hand, is a dog that has been hit with the frying pan a few too many times. In his five years-and-change career, he has been sacked 157 times, including five times last postseason and 14 times in three games this September.
Rodgers, on the other hand, has been sacked 129 times in his seven seasons and only five times this season.
Enough of the health thing.
How about the talent thing?
Cutler has an amazing arm and good mobility, even if his brain is sometimes suspect.
But Rodgers looks like a Hall of Famer in the making.
In fact, at this rate, it’s hard to say he’s not a first-ballot guy, somebody up there with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
He had terrific stats: 28-for-38 for 297 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, with a quarterback rating of 111.4.
That’s a superior rating, by the way, but it’s his worst of 2011. He had a 132.1 in the Packers’ opening-night win against the Saints and a 119.9 in last week’s victory against the Panthers.
But the most important thing about Rodgers is the way he gets to where he gets.
‘‘He’s a very good in-pocket player, and he does a great job transitioning to an out-of-pocket player,’’ Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
That’s coach-ese for saying the man is nimble, can scramble and has eyes in the back of his head. As well as a laser arm and great awareness.
All that became obvious on a simple — or simple-seeming — play late in the fourth quarter. Yes, Rodgers already had thrown three outstanding touchdown passes to tight end Jermichael Finley, and this pass play would only go for 11 yards to wideout Greg Jennings. But it secured a critical first down, helping take about two minutes off the clock, and it came at the end of some athleticism, decision-making and fundamental skills that few quarterbacks in the NFL can muster.
What happened was Rodgers dropped back, felt the immediate pressure from both sides, felt the pocket collapsing, blindly pirouetted to the right, where he somehow knew there would be no more attackers, rolled out further into the flat and threw a strike to Jennings.
It’s hard to say how many other quarterbacks in the NFL would have been sacked for a big loss. But it’s safe to say most.
Cutler played fairly well, though a couple of bad passes made you wonder if throwing off the back foot is the only way he does it anymore.
And, as everyone saw, the Bears’ offensive line makes a sieve look water-tight.
Still, while the Bears are figuring out ways to reinvent that caveman thing known as the run and asking what else they must fix on this suddenly inept offense, the Packers are rolling along.
‘‘Yes, I’m definitely more comfortable,’’ Rodgers said when asked if he felt things were easier this season than last. Remember, he won the Super Bowl last season.
And of the roll-out ability, Rodgers added, ‘‘Part of it is instinctive, but I think I have to give my quarterback coach Tom Clements some credit. I’ve been with him six years, and he’s a big reason for my success. We work on stuff like that all the time.’’
An intimidating enemy
Because, let’s be clear again, the Bears have to beat the Packers routinely if they expect to get anywhere.
‘‘Mature, confident quarterback’’ is how the Packers’ media guide begins its description of Rodgers. Which also is a tad heartbreaking. Because I’m pretty sure the Bears’ media guide will never start out that way about Cutler. Not that it’s Jay’s fault. He’s trying.
It’s just that Rodgers’ career passer rating of nearly 100 ranks No. 1 in NFL history for anybody with a minimum of 1,500 passing attempts. And he now has over 1,700.
There’s the enemy, Bears fans.
Deal with it.