GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — For the Green Bay Packers, Sunday’s playoff game against the New York Giants brings up not-so-fond memories of Brett Favre’s interception in overtime that led to an NFC title game loss four years ago.
With Aaron Rodgers under center for the Packers ever since, that deflating feeling of watching a quarterback give away the game with a bad decision or wild throw remains just that — a memory.
Much is made of the idea that Rodgers had three years on the bench behind Favre to learn how to play quarterback in the NFL. For all of Favre’s brilliant plays and big moments, wide receiver Greg Jennings thinks it’s possible that Rodgers spent some of that time learning what not to do.
“It’s like, ‘I’m not going to do that when I get in that position,'” Jennings said. “Without him ever even saying that, you know that crosses your mind: ‘I’m going to make that play when I get my opportunity. I’m not going to make THAT play when I get my chance.'”
Rodgers doesn’t trace his distaste for turnovers back to that frigid NFC championship game against the Giants — “That game, I was just trying to stay warm most of the time,” he joked — or any other moment he spent behind Favre.
Instead, Rodgers said it goes back to his days at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, Calif..
“I mean, that’s No. 1, it really is — really going back to my freshman year of high school, when I actually threw more interceptions than touchdowns,” Rodgers said. “Just making a conscious decision to be smart with the football. Since then, I haven’t had any of those years.”
Four years into his tenure as the Packers’ starter, Rodgers has established himself as an elite quarterback, a Super Bowl MVP who can make all the throws, dodge pressure with his feet and generally light up scoreboards.
His most impressive trait might be his uncanny knack for avoiding big mistakes.
In 502 passing attempts this season, Rodgers completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,643 yards with 45 touchdowns and six — six! — interceptions.
“His decision-making is second to none,” Jennings said. “He’s so smart and he’s so aware of the situation, down and distance, where we are in the game, what play he needs to try to make — and what play, ‘Hmm, I don’t need to try to force this.'”
After watching Rodgers march the Packers to a game-winning field goal in a 38-35 victory on Dec. 4, the Giants know what they’re in for Sunday.
“He has great velocity on the ball, he has great accuracy and good vision,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. “He sees people from the corner of his eye. He moves the ball around and has large contributions from a whole bunch of players so the distribution of the ball is handled very, very well.”
With winter finally making an appearance in Green Bay this week, Rodgers said he doesn’t expect cold or snow to hurt his game.
“I don’t know what everybody else is feeling, I’m kind of hoping for 10 or 15 degrees on Sunday,” Rodgers said.
The weather had been unseasonably pleasant in Green Bay this week, with a record high of 51 degrees Wednesday.
“I was telling a couple of the rookies, particularly the ones from the South, this is the best day you’ll see in the next six months so you better suck it all in,” McCarthy said then.
That changed in a hurry Thursday as a snowstorm swept across the Midwest, reminding everyone that it’s January.
“We’ve been in the bad weather before,” Jennings said. “We’ve performed well in the bad weather. It’s just all about execution.”
The forecast for Sunday calls for temperatures in the low 30s. But the one thing that can really set a quarterback back, high winds, aren’t expected. McCarthy said he expects winds between 6 mph and 8 mph on Sunday.
Backup Matt Flynn recently showed that huge offensive numbers are possible even in the wind, throwing for a franchise-record 480 yards and six touchdowns despite 20-mph winds in the Packers’ regular-season finale against Detroit. Jennings was impressed by Flynn’s performance in that game, and figures Rodgers might be even more effective in bad weather.
“No disrespect to Matt in any way, Matt is going to be a phenomenal quarterback, he is a great quarterback, but Aaron, he has a couple years on Matt,” Jennings said. “He can do some things special.”
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