The race for this year’s NFL Most Valuable Player award officially ended on a chilly, snowy night in Green Bay. It concluded as Aaron Rodgers tossed touchdown pass after touchdown pass and the Packers torched the Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football. Before that point, Rodgers was running neck and neck with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes for that honor. After this latest performance, it’s hard to see how Rodgers doesn’t deserve it just a little bit more.
The Packers answered plenty of questions during their 40-14 win over Tennessee, the most obvious being whether they could sustain their steadily building momentum as the postseason approaches. They’ve got their clutches on the top seed in the NFC playoffs at the moment, and they seem determined not to let it slip away. That has plenty to do with how their future Hall of Fame quarterback has been playing. The longer this season goes on, the more we’re reminded of what has made Rodgers so special in the first place.
The Packers now stand at 12-3, with a season finale at Chicago left on their regular-season schedule. Their dreams of hoisting a Lombardi Trophy at some point in the near future have plenty to do with their quarterback’s excellence.
“It was a solid game,” said Rodgers after completing 21-of-24 passes for 231 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. “I felt good about the performance of our offense. I felt like I was in a pretty good rhythm all day. Similar to last week, I felt like we were running the ball so well that I just had to be patient.”
Rodgers is this year’s MVP for one simple reason: He’s done more with less. Mahomes has produced another monster season with the assistance of the best tight end in football, the best deep threat in football and an assortment of other speedy playmakers at his disposal. The Chiefs have so much talent that they’ve struggled to find touches for three-time Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell. That depth makes life much easier for Mahomes when he steps under center.
Rodgers, on the other hand, has elevated the play of those around him. He surely has his own Pro Bowlers — most notably running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams — and rookie A.J. Dillion made quite an impression against Tennessee (124 rushing yards and two touchdowns). However, few people had heard of targets like Robert Tonyan, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling until Rodgers started dropping dimes on them. There’s a reason why so many people were lamenting the Packers’ decision to not add more weapons to this roster during the offseason.
It turns out Green Bay’s front office had it right. They thought they could bet on the future (by using a first-round pick on quarterback Jordan Love) and rely on Rodgers to lead them in the present. Now that Rodgers has thrown 44 touchdown passes and only five interceptions this season, he’s made it even harder for his bosses to see an optimal window for getting Love onto the field. At 37, he’s put together a season just one year after many skeptics were openly wondering about his impending decline.
That type of brilliance can’t be dismissed.
“Being around him the past seven years has definitely allowed me to really know what being a true competitor really is,” Adams said. “Everybody knows that I hold myself to a crazy high standard and it’s been like that for a long time. But to be in a situation where I come in and see a guy who’s been balling out as long as he has and not be satisfied with the success he has … being with that guy has allowed me to know what true greatness is.”
The Titans saw firsthand what Adams was referencing. Rodgers threw three of his touchdown passes in the first half. He connected with Adams (11 receptions, 142 yards and three touchdowns) early and often. When the Titans started to rally — they closed the deficit to 19-14 after falling behind 19-0 — Rodgers calmly kept Tennessee at arm’s length by engineering timely scoring drives.