Sports Aaron Rodgers Reminds NFC North Who Runs the Division
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To paraphrase the 1994 classic Airheads, “Who would win in a wrestling match, Aaron Rodgers or God?”
“Trick question, Aaron Rodgers is God.”
Rodgers’ one-legged performance Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field cemented his deity-like status. His mere presence gives the Green Bay Packers a chance to win every time he’s on the field, and the team’s latest miracle comeback win further proved it.
Green Bay trailed the Bears 20-3 entering the fourth quarter before securing a 24-23 victory behind the driving force that is Rodgers’ miraculous arm talent.
Rodgers threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns in what became a career-defining performance. Not only did the quarterback tie his personal record for the largest comeback in his career (20 points), according to ESPN Stats & Info, but he also broke the Packers’ franchise mark with a 17-point comeback in the fourth quarter, per Football Perspective.
The Packers’ future looked bleak after the 294-pound Roy Robertson-Harris crashed onto the quarterback’s left leg with 9:19 remaining in the second quarter. Rodgers hobbled off the field before requiring a cart to be taken into the locker room.
The 34-year-old’s expression seemed to signal something serious as he dejectedly rode toward the stadium’s inner sanctum.
Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press
“Felt something in it, was having a hard time putting weight on it,” the quarterback explained during a postgame interview on NBC (via CBS Sports’ Will Brinson). “Doc and I had a conversation in there. We did the tests. I told ’em I was coming back.”
Rodgers’ injury brought everything into focus for not just the Packers, but the entire NFC North.
As a team, Green Bay isn’t much without its leader. While this is already obvious, it became blatantly so when DeShone Kizer had to finish the first half of play and melted under the pressure applied by Chicago.
Halfway through the game, a new Monster of the Midway emerged. He doesn’t play middle linebacker like Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher, though. An outside linebacker is now the focal point of the Bears defense.
Khalil Mack’s monstrous debut as a member of the Chicago Bears left the kind of first impression that causes a fanbase to fall hopelessly in love, but it had its hopes dashed when he couldn’t deliver late in the contest.
Mack became the first player since 1982 (when sacks were first recorded) to register a sack, forced fumble, interception and a touchdown in one half, according to the NBC telecast. All came at Kizer’s expense.
What looked like a dominant performance became a footnote. Bears faithful can be excited about the team’s defensive potential, but Vic Fangio’s unit couldn’t slow the game’s most natural passer when he returned like a knight in shining armor for the second half.
Rodgers completed 17 of his 22 passes during the next four drives that resulted in all 24 points.
Some of Rodgers’ throws were simply ridiculous. The quarterback couldn’t plant his left leg yet still uncorked multiple eye-popping throws, including a spectacular 39-yard touchdown to Geronimo Allison from the opposite hash. Rodgers completed the pass with no lower body help; the throw was all arm, as seen below, courtesy of the NFL:
@AaronRodgers12 goin’ DEEEEEP. 🎯
📺: NBC https://t.co/cinPOMvOVP
Perfect passes are indefensible.
Even when the Bears attempted to disguise pressure packages, they didn’t affect Rodgers. According to ESPN, Chicago blitzed the Green Bay signal-caller twice before the final play of the game (a purposeful throwaway to run out the clock), and he burned the Bears for 126 yards and a touchdown in those instances.
The fear moving forward is whether Rodgers will have enough mobility to generate chunk plays outside of the offensive structure. The 14-year veteran’s greatest asset is his ability to create while rolling out.
Head coach and play-caller Mike McCarthy may have to take a different approach since the playground aspects of Rodgers game will likely be hampered in the coming weeks. The two-time MVP should still be able to work within the pocket, even though his entire skill set could be constrained.
A quick glimpse into the future shows a difficult upcoming matchup against the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday. The Vikings defense is as stingy as any in the league, but Rodgers has no plan to rest and recover.
“I’m playing next week,” he already confirmed on the NBC telecast (via the St. Paul Pioneer Press‘ Chris Tomasson).
So far, the NFL’s highest-paid player (on an annual basis) trumped the league’s highest-paid defender, despite Mack’s best efforts. The Bears may be a better squad than last year’s 5-11 squad, but the team still ranks third or fourth in the divisional pecking order.
What a game.
Highlights from the @packers and @chicagobears thriller! #CHIvsGB https://t.co/aDrGo6mBxh
The Detroit Lions don’t have any way to counter Rodgers, either, since Matt Patricia’s pass rush and defensive front are suspect. Plus, the Packers’ offensive tackles, David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, are arguably the game’s best duo.
It’s easy to rally around Rodgers. The talent around him is exceptional, especially the aforementioned offensive linemen, wide receiver Davante Adams and tight end Jimmy Graham. But it’s the belief in their quarterback that lifts their play.
“That was sick,” guard Lane Taylor said when asked about Rodgers’ comeback performance, per ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky.
Hope springs eternal with Rodgers, which should create mighty unease among the rest of the NFC North. In a quarterback-driven league, he’s the best of the best, even when he’s hobbled.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @brentsobleski.