Maybe it’s becoming one of Aaron Rodgers’ signature throws – full speed, on a line, right to the edge of the end zone.
Last season, probably the most eye-popping throw Rodgers made came in Atlanta during the regular season, when on fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line with a minute left and the Packers down by seven, he bought time with his feet and then rocketed the ball into an end zone crowded with defenders. He placed the ball, however, right along the sideline where only his guy – in this case, Jordy Nelson – could haul it in.
Last Sunday, Rodgers made a throw that reminded Head Coach Mike McCarthy of that Atlanta one. It didn’t involve the prior year’s do-or-die drama, but it was nearly as impressive.
Displaying plenty of patience against eight defenders in pass-coverage, and with solid protection in front of him, Rodgers found Donald Driver on the right edge of the end zone for a tip-toe touchdown that gave the Packers an eight-point lead over the Giants with 3:34 to go.
“A fabulous throw,” McCarthy said. “Buying time, being smart with his feet, he recognized the three-man rush … and then he throws a fastball with the accuracy that he has, just inside the pylon.
“I think that was clearly one of his statement throws.”
It was his 37th touchdown pass in an MVP season that has taken all the drama out of who’s winning the award. McCarthy marveled at Rodgers’ consistency this season, and he even joked that in the offensive staff meeting to discuss player grades from the Giants game, he wondered whether Quarterbacks Coach Tom Clements would credit Rodgers with a “winning performance” when his passer rating – at 106.2 – was below 110 for the first time all season.
“We all held our breath a little bit,” McCarthy said.
Just like the fans did on the pinpoint missile to Driver late in Sunday’s game.
“It’s fun when you’re throwing the ball the way you want to and you’re seeing the game a certain way,” Rodgers said. “It’s a lot of preparation and a lot of recall. As a quarterback, you need to have a good memory and be able to recall plays that might have happened a couple years ago in a game at a certain time.”
Or, in this case, a couple of days earlier in practice. Both Rodgers and receiver Greg Jennings recalled the Driver touchdown occurring in premonition-like fashion last Friday.
“We had the same kind of scramble drill, and the play lasted probably about five, six, seven, eight seconds or so,” Jennings said. “It was very similar to what took place in practice. Again, good throw, good catch.”
As routine as that type of pass is becoming for Rodgers, truth be told, he’s got a long list of them. The back-shoulder throw, the end-zone fade, the deep comeback.
He’s throwing them all with a combination of accuracy and as-needed velocity that, in many ways, is more impressive than the many record-breaking statistics he’s on pace to post by season’s end.
“That’s why you see us running our routes so hard and getting our head around, because we know where the ball is going to be – it’s going to be right where you can catch it,” tight end Jermichael Finley said.
“Some guys are not blessed with a quarterback like us. We’re pretty blessed here with one.”
Roster move: The Packers added a third quarterback to the active roster on Wednesday by signing Graham Harrell from the practice squad.
Harrell said his agent was having discussions with the Buffalo Bills, who were interested in signing him, but he ultimately chose to stay in Green Bay.
“I’m extremely happy here,” Harrell said. “The coaches are great, the organization is great. I have Aaron in front of me, which is obviously an advantage to learn under a guy like that. It’s just a great situation to be in.”
McCarthy declined to comment on any other teams’ interest in Harrell, but he said the plan all along was to have three quarterbacks on the active roster for the postseason. The Packers did the same thing last year, elevating Harrell prior to the New England game that Rodgers missed with a concussion. Harrell remained on the active roster the rest of the way.
Injury update: Cornerback Charles Woodson was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday as part of the post-concussion protocol, and McCarthy anticipates him being able to play on Sunday.
Inside linebackers A.J. Hawk (calf) and Desmond Bishop (calf) both sat out practice, and McCarthy said Hawk is farther along in his rehab than Bishop. He said Bishop would be “challenged to get on the field this week.”
Running back James Starks (knee/ankle) also did not practice. Additional coverage - Dec. 7