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Aaron Rodgers is back

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

It took 14 games, but Aaron Rodgers has finally achieved a passer rating over 100. The Green Bay Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 34-27 largely due to the play of their quarterback, Rodgers.

While he did not throw for that many yards, Rodgers accumulated 205 passing yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 129.3. After almost a full season of underperforming, Rodgers now has a game he can look back on with pride.

Rodgers’ struggles last season were unprecedented for his career, but also not entirely surprising. After the Packers’ week seven bye week last year, Green Bay finished the season with a record of 4-6. The team was a mess ever since their loss against the Denver Broncos.

Rodgers did not play well at all for most of last season, but blame was able to be shifted off of the Hall of Fame bound quarterback due to injuries and a lack of a running game. A quarterback can only do so much to make his team win, and given the shape the rest of the team was in, Rodgers struggling made sense.

The Packers’ wide receivers were either hurt, couldn’t get open, or couldn’t catch a ball last year. Rodgers lost his favorite receiver for the season, Jordy Nelson due to an ACL tear. Randall Cobb proved that he is not a number one receiver and Davante Adams had massive trouble all season holding onto the ball. Combine that with injuries to the offensive line and running back Eddie Lacy suddenly too out of shape to be productive and it was a recipe for disaster.

In 2016, most of those issues are gone. The Packers’ offensive line is healthy and playing great, Nelson is back, and the rest of the wide receivers are healthy. Yet, the Packers offense struggled in their first two games of this season against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Minnesota Vikings. Everything pointed to Rodgers as the problem.

Looking back at the tape, Rodgers didn’t look like someone who has been named to the NFL’s All Fundamentals Team, twice. Rodgers’ mechanics and pocket presence were terrible. On many of his throws in the first two weeks, Rodgers was throwing primarily off of his back foot. His passes didn’t have the same zip as they usually do and was missing open receivers. He also would scramble out of the pocket when there was no pressure, usually resulting in a negative play.

It’s likely that these were bad habits formed during last season when Rodgers couldn’t rely on his receivers and offensive line and was forced to improvise on most plays. Rodgers said after the loss against the Vikings that he needed to play better and he did.

The difference in his mechanics from this game to his previous ones is like night and day. He seemingly gained confidence in the rest of his teams overnight. Rodgers stepped into his throws, threw with confidence, and maneuvered the pocket like his old self. Rodgers threw for four touchdowns in the first half against Detroit.

The problems aren’t entirely solved, however. The offense seemingly disappeared after halftime, scoring zero touchdowns in the second half. This allowed the Lions to climb their way back and make it a one possession game after being down by three possessions.

However, that may have more to do with the play calling than anything. The Packers ran the ball more during the second half and didn’t have the same aggression as they did in the first half.

Rodgers’ arm has always been amazing, even during this recent stretch of poor play. The problem with Rodgers was more mental than physical. Rodgers lost confidence in the rest of his team last season, and deservingly so.

Now that it’s 2016 and most of those problems are gone, Rodgers needed to regain his trust in his teammates and that seems to have happened. Rodgers will need to prove that the game against Detroit was not a mirage. That said, it looks like Rodgers is back. 

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