The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots will meet Sunday night in Foxborough, but all anybody will be talking about before, during and after the game is the meeting of two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, New England’s Tom Brady and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
Because the Patriots and Packers play only once every four years, the two star quarterbacks have only faced each other once thus far despite the fact that Brady has been in the NFL since 2000 and Rodgers since 2005. That came in 2014 when Rodgers threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Packers past the Patriots 26-21 at Lambeau Field. It was a great game that went back and forth and gave both quarterbacks a chance to showcase their skills.
The two most memorable plays from that game for Rodgers were a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson with time running out in the first half that gave the Packers a 23-14 lead and a key third down completion to Randall Cobb in the closing minutes that kept Brady from getting back on the field and clinched the win for Green Bay.
Brady is considered the greatest quarterback of all time by many. If you judge greatness by championships, he is certainly the best QB of the modern era. Brady has won five Super Bowls and was named MVP of the NFL’s showcase game three times. He is also a three-time NFL MVP. At age 41, Brady continues to defy Father Time by playing at an elite level.
Rodgers is considered the best quarterback by many observers as well. He has the highest QB rating of any qualified passer in NFL history. Rodgers was the MVP of Super Bowl XLV and is a two-time league Most Valuable Player. The Packers qualified for the playoffs eight straight seasons and the streak only ended last season when Rodgers missed most of the season due to injury.
Both Brady and Rodgers overcame early career snubs to reach the top of their field. Brady was not drafted until the sixth round, the 199th overall pick in 2000. He took over as the starter in New England after Drew Bledsoe was injured during the 2001 season and led the Patriots to a Super Bowl title. He has not relinquished the starting job since and has led the Patriots to one of the league’s great dynasties.
Meanwhile, Rodgers was expecting to be the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft but that honor went to Alex Smith. Rodgers fell all the way to the 24th selection where the Packers eagerly grabbed him. He then sat on the bench for three seasons behind Hall of Famer Brett Favre before finally getting a chance to start in 2008 when he quickly established himself as an elite quarterback.
Both players are driven, detail-oriented, intense and determined. Both quarterbacks are not afraid to call out their receivers when they don’t run the right route or their backs when they don’t pick up the right blitzer in pass protection. Both Brady and Rodgers make their receivers earn their trust before they will throw them the ball regularly and both are masters of the two-minute drill and have pulled off many late-game comebacks.
Both players also have earned the respect of their opponents. “Tommy’s been at the top of his game for a long, long time,” Rodgers told the press during a conference call this week. “I’ve always been a big fan of his. Just the stuff he does on the field is phenomenal and then to see him, as he’s gotten older in his career, continue to reinvent himself year after year and play at a high level every single season, obviously winning the championships, he’s a phenomenal player. But he’s a pioneer as far as taking care of his body and rewriting the longevity books for players of his caliber.”
Meanwhile, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is very impressed with Rodgers. “He’s a great player. He does everything well. He reads coverages well, very accurate throwing the ball,” Belichick said during his conference call with the media. “He’s got a great touch down the field, short, intermediate. They get a lot of catch-and-run plays. A lot of that is because of his great accuracy. He puts the ball right on the receiver and doesn’t have to break stride and can just keep running with it. Very mobile in the pocket, extends plays, really good vision down the field, uses the cadence well, is a good situational player. I mean, he’s one of the great quarterbacks in the National Football League; no question about it.”
Unlike Brady and Peyton Manning or John Elway and Dan Marino, these two greats rarely get to face each other on the field. So, fans will have a chance to savor this rare event on Sunday night. Regardless of who wins this second matchup, one thing is certain: fans watching this game will be treated to a duel between two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time who are both at or near the top of their games. It should be quite a show for fans of the game of football to watch.