Sunday’s Green Bay Packers game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the fourth-ever duel between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Here are the five best throws Rodgers has made in the first three games.
When the Packers and Buccaneers go head to head this weekend, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady won’t be competing directly against each other on the field, save for an unimaginable turn of events for someone’s roster.
But that pairing, two future Hall of Famers in the same game who are one win away from a trip to Super Bowl LV, is that dominant storyline for this year’s NFC Championship Game. It’s because we, as fans, care about quarterbacks. More specifically, we care about greatness.
Brady’s team has bested Rodgers’s team in two of the three meetings between their squads in history, with a Green Bay win over New England in 2014 followed by wins by New England and Tampa Bay in 2018 and 2020, respectively.
For the most part, Rodgers has always put on a show when facing Brady’s teams, with the exception of the Packers’ meltdown after the start of this year’s game. With the NFC Championship Game on tap this weekend, it’s time to take a look at the five best throws from Green Bay’s No. 12 in the series history for these two quarterbacks.
With a list only five items long, not everything from these three previous contests can be included, like this nifty touchdown pass to Davante Adams in 2018. Additionally, since we make our own rules, not all games need to be included, so this little number from Week 6 this year fell just short of qualifying. If your favorite didn’t make the list, let yours truly know on Twitter, or send your pick to Game On Wisconsin.
2014 – 1Q: Davante Adams, 45 yards
Late in the first quarter of the 2014 matchup between the Packers and Patriots, Davante Adams made the first major-impact play of maybe the best game of his rookie season.
From the very beginning, Adams’s pristine route running was on display. Here, he shakes cornerback Logan Ryan (26) with his patented release, getting free down the sideline after breaking outside. Rodgers simply waits for it to develop, that drops a picture-perfect dime right into Adams’s awaiting arms. You can’t ask for a better play here. The route and pass are both flawless. The touch on this ball is almost unbelievable, but Rodgers almost makes it look simple.
2014 – 1Q: Richard Rodgers, 32 yards, TD
After the big play to Davante, there was a first-quarter bomb from Rodgers to Rodgers to extend an early lead over the Patriots.
Richard Rodgers runs a deep vertical from the right end of the offensive line, angling left deep down the field. Safety Patrick Chung (23) faded right in the zone defense, which Richard easily counters with his angled stem to the left. With no safety help over the top to that side, he has plenty of separation.
Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, nearly stumbles out of his initial pump fake, but maintains his balance and keeps the deep threat alive. He calmly regains composure, sees a wide open tight end and fires this seed right on the money. It’s a perfect throw for 32 yards and the score.
2014 – 2Q: James Starks, 28 yards
The venerable James Starks checks in as the first of two passes to running backs in this Fave 5, catching a laser off the run from Rodgers.
Even if it doesn’t seem like the wheel route is open, remember that the wheel route is always open. Penetration up front forces Rodgers to roll right, and linebacker Rob Ninkovich (50) initially does a good job closing off Starks as an option. But if you get a running back isolated on a linebacker 28 yards down the field, the offense has the advantage.
Rodgers on the run has always been deadly, as evidenced here. He throws off platform at a tight angle, hitting Starks in the torso with a perfect spiral. There’s a high level of difficulty at play here, but Rodgers threads it in beautifully for a big gain.
2018 – 2Q, Jamaal Williams, 16 yards
Our second running back on the list, Jamaal Williams picked up a first down on the receiving end of an acrobatic act by Rodgers in 2018.
We see the quarterback break out of the pocket with his escape this time, narrowly slipping out of linebacker Dont’a Hightower’s (54) grasp. He sprints out left and keeps his eyes downfield as he approaches the sideline. Running the ball will just carry Rodgers out of bounds, so he extends the play and finds Williams, who sat down on his route and separated from linebacker Kyle Van Noy (53).
The escape is great, but tacking on an on-target throw on the move like this is special. NBC’s Cris Collinsworth made note during this game’s TV broadcast that Rodgers felt more comfortable going to his left than his right at this juncture, given his knee injury, and he absolutely looked comfortable here. Moving left, throwing across his body and on target for a solid completion; that’s sensational work.
2018 – 3Q: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, 51 yards
Let’s go deep again to wrap this list up.
There are few things in life more breathtakingly gorgeous that a perfectly thrown deep ball. Cornerback Jason McCourty (30) plays outside leverage on Marquez Valdes-Scantling after giving him plenty of room for his route stem, respecting MVS’s blazing speed. Subsequently, the deep post break by MVS gives Rodgers a wide-open target. Rodgers has enough time to load up this throw, even with a blitz pressuring him from his left. Everything from there is on point, from the quick and powerful release to the downfield accuracy.
That wasn’t even the only time this pair hooked up for a huge gain against New England in 2018. Later in the third quarter, Rodgers hit MVS for a 24-yard gain, then a 26-yard pickup just one play later.
He hasn’t been flawless when matched up against Tom Brady’s teams, but Aaron Rodgers has certainly put on a show in these marquee matchups. Considering how well he’s playing right now, expect more of the same in the the most high-profile quarterback battle of the postseason.