Drew Brees can already see Aaron Rodgers making his way to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Brees isn’t scared of his competition or paralyzed by his gaudy statistics. But Brees knows that when a quarterback like that comes to town, he needs to be prepared to load up for a shootout.
“You know how sharp he’s going to be, you know you have to be at your best,” Brees said. “You don’t have to be perfect, but, man, everything is magnified in a game like this. Just to be extremely sharp, just execute very, very well. You know what to expect.”
If the Green Bay Packers show up as the same team they’ve been the past few weeks, then Brees and the Saints can expect something nearing perfection — the kinds of things that only exist in video games.
It’s difficult to find anything in Rodgers’ numbers to pick apart. He’s completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 1,674 yards with 18 touchdowns and one interception. In fact, since being intercepted by Seattle’s Bryon Maxwell in the third quarter of a Week 1 loss, he’s thrown 192 passes without an interception.
At his current clip, Rodgers is on pace to throw 41 touchdowns and two interceptions. While it might seem unlikely for him to continue on this pace, if he manages to do so, Rodgers would finish with the lowest interception rate in NFL history.
He’s having that kind of season. So, when Saints coach Sean Payton was asked if Rodgers is as locked in as anyone he’s seen, all he could do is shake his head and gush about the Packers quarterback.
“He’s playing outstanding football,” Payton said. “His location, his command of the offense, he’s got exceptional awareness, he’s great at getting them in and out of plays. Obviously they get in an up-tempo system and they’re able to get a look at the defense and get a look at the advantage place. But, man, he does a lot of things outstanding. He’s having one of those seasons and you can see the play of everyone around him in these last four weeks — it’s been pretty impressive.”
There’s a reason everyone locks in on the last four weeks when discussing the Packers. Things did not look this good after Green Bay lost two of its first three games against Seattle and Detroit, which led to Rodgers telling the fan base that everyone needed to relax.
Since then, he’s been a different player and the Packers a different team. They’ve won each of their past four contests, and Rodgers has elevated his play to a point where he’s now chasing history. He’s completed 70 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns during that span, twice posting a quarterback rating in excess of 150.
In Sunday’s 38-17 thrashing of the Carolina Panthers, Rodgers had a perfect passer rating until he threw an incompletion, his third and final one of the game, with 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
He’s pure dangerous. That’s all you can say about Aaron Rodgers,” safety Kenny Vaccaro. “I have the utmost respect for this guy, the way he competes, his accuracy, his arm talent, his mobility — everything is checked off.”
What about his leadership?
“I said everything is checked off,” Vaccaro said. “He said relax and they haven’t lost a game since. That’s leadership right there.”
It’s going to be a tough task for the Saints Sunday night. New Orleans currently ranks 28th in passing defense, with 271 yards allowed per game, and has allowed 7.7 yards per attempt, placing it 24th in the NFL.
The Saints were in the midst of one of their better performances against the Detroit Lions, who were playing without wide receiver Calvin Johnson, last week, but things fell apart in the fourth quarter when Golden Tate beat Corey White for a 73-yard touchdown.
Still, even tough New Orleans believes things are trending in the right direction, New Orleans is taking nothing for granted this week.
The cornerbacks know they’ll have their hands full with Rodgers’ various targets, including Jordy Nelson, who is second in the league with 712 receiving yards, and Randall Cobb.
“He’s puts stress on you. He’s a top quarterback in this league,” Vaccaro said. “He scrambles. Sometimes you just got to get there with the rush because he’s going to do magnificent things.”
The goal now is that Rodgers will not do too many magnificent things against the Saints. If they do, and fall to 2-5, messages of “relax” will not be enough to sooth the fan base.
But the defense believes it has what it takes to slow down Rodgers and his gang of receiver and still accomplish what it set out to accomplish before the season started.
“If it’s not (achievable), why are we having this interview?” Vaccaro said.