The memeification of Aaron Rodgers’ struggles has officially begun | Aaron Rodgers

During Green Bay’s 15-9 loss to the (previously) one-win Detroit Lions on Sunday, the TV cameras happened to catch Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers angrily slamming down a phone on the sideline. This is not inherently interesting. Rodgers is far from being the only NFL player unable to hide frustration when playing badly. He’s not even the only future Hall of Fame quarterback to take his anger out on technology this season.

However, such is the nature of his season (which can pretty easily be described as his worst – more on that later), that this otherwise insignificant moment has already been turned into a meme. Sunday’s loss to lowly Detroit may represent a new rock bottom for the perennial contender Packers, but it wasn’t a surprise. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Packers had lost five of their last eight games, the worst start of the Rodgers era.

Before the season started, it wasn’t obvious that Rodgers was heading for his annus horribilis. Most pundits were high on him – after all, Rodgers had just won his second, consecutive MVP award – as well as the Packers, who were the sixth most-favoured team to win the Super Bowl. Despite such backing, however, there were areas of concern. Most glaringly, the Packers had traded All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams in the offseason, leaving Rodgers surrounded by mostly untested receivers.

With all of that in mind, it’s tempting to assume that the blame for the Packers’ poor performances falls on the shoulders of Rodgers’ inexperienced teammates – a dropped pass here, a poorly run route there. At some points in 2022, this has certainly been true. Against Detroit, however, there’s nobody to blame but Rodgers.

Detroit came into the game with the worst defense in the NFL, allowing opponents an average of 32.1 points per game (five points more than the second-worst defense in the league). Against such a normally porous defense, Rodgers threw a career-high three interceptions (all to rookies on the Detroit defense), including two in the end zone and one off the helmet of a member of the opposing team. These errors weren’t on the Packers receivers. Hence the 38-year-old taking out his frustration on a phone. Hence the online mockery.

Rodgers’ metamorphosis from man to meme is his own doing, at least partly. During his MVP run last year, much of the coverage of Rodgers focused on his extracurricular interests. Indeed, his fringe beliefs led to his being nicknamed ‘Q-Aaron.’

In 2022, Rodgers’ on-field play has begun to mirror his off-field pseudo-intellectuality – aimless and without merit. The Packers have lost five-straight and are now 3-6 – their worst start in the last 15 years – and are four wins behind the first-place Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North, a division they were expected to win with ease. Rodgers is the only person to start a game with two straight endzone interceptions in at least the last 20 years. Last month, Rodgers criticized his teammates, saying, “Guys who are making too many mistakes shouldn’t be playing.” Maybe it’s time he followed his own advice.

MVP of the week

Joe Mixon was a constant threat for the Bengals on Sunday afternoon.
Joe Mixon was a constant threat for the Bengals on Sunday afternoon. Photograph: Jeff Dean/AP

Joe Mixon, running back, Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals were up 35-0 at one point in their 42-21 win over the Carolina Panthers, revealing that the game was somehow even more of a blowout than the final score indicates. Perhaps surprisingly, the game’s hero was neither Joe Burrow nor Ja’Marr Chase. Instead, Mixon scored five touchdowns (four rushing and one receiving) in the game’s first three quarters, breaking the Bengals’ franchise single-game record for touchdowns by a single player.

Stat of the week

178. That’s how many rushing yards Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields tallied in his team’s 35-32 loss to the Miami Dolphins. If that seems like an uncommonly high number for a quarterback, that’s because it is – Fields just set the regular season record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game, an accolade held for nearly 20 years by Michael Vick. Though Fields’ efforts were ultimately in vain, the Bears offense appears to be in the capable hands (or, feet?) of their steadily improving second-year quarterback.

Quote of the week

He’s the best in the league, baby. He’s the most accurate in the league – know that.” Miami wide receiver Tyreek Hill on Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa.

Statistics support Hill’s high opinion of his quarterback. Tagovailoa already had the best passer rating in the NFL before Sunday’s game, and his performance in Miami’s 35-32 win over Chicago improved those already lofty numbers. He completed more than two-thirds of his pass attempts and, for the second week in a row, Tagovailoa threw for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns, while simultaneously avoiding any interceptions. Most impressively, Tagovailoa’s Dolphins remain undefeated this season when he plays a full game.

Video of the week

For the last three years, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan has maintained a second gig as the owner of All Elite Wrestling (AEW). In Sunday’s 27-20 loss to Khan’s Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Rock Ya-Sin appeared to be auditioning for a second career in the AEW.

In the second quarter of the Raiders’ 27-20 loss to the Jaguars, Las Vegas’ Rock Ya-Sin lifted Jacksonville’s Marvin Jones off his feet before flipping the wide receiver onto his helmet using what can only be described as suplex. Ya-Sin, who was a high school wrestler before a coach steered him toward football, has body slammed NFL opponents before. No penalty was called on the play, and Jones appeared to be uninjured, but in a league under scrutiny for its controversial concussion protocols, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the future legality of tackles like those made by Rock (or should we say “The Rock”) Ya-Sin.

Elsewhere around the league

Patrick Mahomes was in the thick of it on Sunday night
Patrick Mahomes was in the thick of it on Sunday night. Photograph: Ed Zurga/AP

— The Tennessee Titans pushed the Kansas City Chiefs all the way to overtime on Sunday Night Football before Patrick Mahomes (of course) led his team to a 20-17 victory. With Ryan Tannehill absent due to an ankle injury, the Titans were reliant on the ever-excellent Derrick Henry, who rushed for 115 yards. The Chiefs weren’t quite as reliant on the rush – Mahomes threw the ball 68 times, just two attempts off the NFL single-game record. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 63 yards on the ground to go with his 446 yards through the air. They still look like one of the favorites for the Super Bowl.

— The Los Angeles Chargers looked like they would blow yet another game due to a late error when Austin Ekeler fumbled in the final minute with the score tied at 17-17.

Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Ta’Quon Graham duly picked up the ball and rumbled down the field seemingly to set up a game-winning field goal for the Falcons. But then the Falcons out-Chargered the Chargers as Graham inexplicably dropped the ball. The Chargers recovered and moments later Cameron Dicker kicked the game-winner. Although, it should be noted, the Falcons have previous experience of this type of thing.

— Tom Brady continued to add to his long list of career milestones. In his team’s much-needed win over the reigning champion Los Angeles Rams, Brady became the first player in history to pass for 100,000 yards in his career. Moreover, Brady showed his old cool with a last-minute touchdown drive that won the game and moved the Buccaneers to a (shared) lead of the NFC South. There may be another opportunity to witness Brady’s playoff magic again after all.

— The New York Jets are no joke. Currently second place in the NFL’s toughest division (every team in the AFC East is currently over .500), the Jets overcame dazzling runs from Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (and a bizarre delay owing to a malfunction with the above-field sky-cam) to eke out a 20-17 statement win against a Buffalo team who are a favorite to win the Super Bowl this year. Zach Wilson managed to stay interception-free and the Jets’ excellent defense did the rest, with cornerback Sauce Gardner – who picked off Allen and broke up a last-minute Hail Mary – once again staking his claim for defensive rookie of the year.

— Who had the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings leading their respective divisions at this stage of the season? Geno Smith and Kenneth Walker III were excellent again for the Seahawks, who moved to 6-3 after their 31-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, who must be at least thinking about moving on from Kliff Kingsbury. The Vikings, meanwhile, are a surprising 7-1 and firmly in control of the NFC North after their 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders. First-year head coach Kevin O’Connell is having a very impressive debut year in Minnesota, where he has been reunited with Kirk Cousins after their time in Washington together.

— Las Vegas Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson made both of his field goal attempts in the Raiders’ loss to Jacksonville to continue his league-best streak of 41 consecutive field goals made. Carlson is now just three field goals away from equalling all-time leading scorer Adam Vinatieri’s regular season record of 44. Meanwhile, Davante Adams isn’t having a much better time than Rodgers since leaving Green Bay. The Raiders blew a 17-point lead for the third time this season, and are now 2-6. “If we played for a shitty team, then it’s one thing. But that’s not what it is,” said Adams after the game.

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