Aaron Rodgers showed off his huge arm and pinpoint accuracy on Sunday with yet another perfect Hail Mary touchdown pass.
While Rodgers didn’t come into the league as the best deep-ball thrower, he’s mastered the skill, thanks, in part, to some creative scheming by the Packers.
In 2015, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky broke down Rodgers’ deep balls, reporting that Packers coach Mike McCarthy once decided that the traditional targets that Rodgers was using in deep-ball drills — “50-gallon-sized receptacles lined up on the goal line” — were no longer effective.
So, he and equipment manager Red Batty built a six-foot-tall metal ring with a net attached, tilted it at a 60-degree angle, and placed it in the end zone. Rodgers throws from 50 yards out and tries to bury the ball into the net.
He’s become quite good at it. Here it is in action at Packers training camp a few years ago:
A closer look at the target:
Packers quarterback coach Alex Van Pelt explained to Demovsky the 60-degree angle to ESPN:
“The trajectory of the throw makes the angles tougher for the defensive back. So if it’s a flat ball, he’s got a better chance of breaking it up. If it’s down the chimney, he’s got less chance of breaking it up. If it leaves the screen, then it’s got a better chance of coming down the chimney.”
This matches what Rodgers told ESPN’s Dan Graziano on Sunday after defeating the Giants. Rodgers said that the height and trajectory of his throws are planned. Against the Giants, his Hail Mary touchdown to Randall Cobb left the screen, then somehow came down behind a group of Giants defenders and found Cobb in the back of the end zone.
“The high arc is definitely by design. I want to make sure those guys get a chance to get down there and jump. The key is the offensive line giving you a little bit of time. So we just did a little roll to the right, and obviously backside was firm in the protection. By the time I get to the spot on the field where I want to throw it, I’m 100 per cent confident that the ball is going to be in a catchable spot. It’s just a matter of those guys getting in the right situation, and that’s how you draw it up.”
It looks like the training has paid off. Rodgers’ Hail Mary gave the Pakcers a 14-6 lead, and they never turned back. Rodgers gunned the Packers into the next round of the playoffs and will look to take down the Dallas Cowboys next week.
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