NFL

Super Bowl LVI: Joe Burrow's pursuit of Aaron Rodgers has Aaron Donald-shaped roadblock

By Sports Desk February 12, 2022

Aaron Rodgers' position as the NFL's premier quarterback was reaffirmed on Thursday when he was named MVP, but could Sunday be the start of Joe Burrow's journey to surpassing him?

The Los Angeles Rams may be in Burrow's immediate sights as he and the Cincinnati Bengals look to pull off the upset in Super Bowl LVI, but long term he is pursuing Rodgers in terms of individual greatness, with this season's MVP award the fourth in the Green Bay Packers star's remarkable career.

"He deserved it, he played great all year," Burrow said when asked about Rodgers on Friday.

"He's been the best player in the league, I don't know if I would say that, [he], Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady have kind of been battling for that the last five years. I'm chasing Aaron Rodgers to try to be the best, he's been doing it for a long time."

Burrow will equal Rodgers' number of Super Bowl wins should he lead the Bengals to victory over the Rams, Rodgers' career partially defined by frustration in the playoffs since the Packers' triumph in Super Bowl XLV in the 2010 season.

Trying to stop Burrow on Sunday will be a player who may well feel snubbed after missing out on a fourth Defensive Player of the Year award. Aaron Donald did not receive that honour, which instead went to Pittsburgh Steelers star T.J. Watt, despite a season in which he registered a stunt-adjusted pass rush win rate of 63.83 per cent.

That was not only the highest for all defenders with at least 100 one-on-one matchups, it was over 10 percentage points higher than his nearest challenger, Myles Garrett (53.56). 

Donald and his team-mates on the defensive line, including Von Miller and Leonard Floyd, took over the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter to help the Rams turn a 17-7 deficit into a victory.

So how will Burrow handle the challenge of facing a defensive front led by one of the all-time greats, who could not possibly need more motivation?

Burrow – whose average time to throw from the snap of the ball was 2.58 seconds, faster than the league average of 2.67 seconds (min. 200 attempts) – knows processing quickly will be crucial.

"In my opinion, they're [the Rams' pass rush] the best in the league at what they do, they get a lot of pressure on the quarterback, they get schemed to get a lot of one-on-one matchups," he added.

"So it's going to be partly on me to handle that pressure, get the ball out of my hands quickly and make plays when the opportunities are there."

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