For now, Rodgers no longer missing
Green Bay — My 9-year old daughter is a jokester, a prankster and a future comedian all rolled into one.
She’s also a football aficionado.
So her worlds collided perfectly as she came home from school with this yarn last month.
“Dad, did you know there was a picture of Aaron Rodgers on my milk carton today,” she said.
“Really,” I asked. “Why was that?”
“Because he’s been missing all year,” she chuckled.
It was mid-October, and my little comic was right. Rodgers was in the midst of a 17-game funk dating back to 2015 in which his passer rating eclipsed 100.0 just once. His accuracy had disappeared. Frustration was sky high.
But it appears those milk cartons can be tossed in the trash. It appears the real Rodgers has been found.
And even though the Packers suffered a 33-32 loss in Atlanta on Sunday and fell to 4-3 on the year, the resurgence of their one-time MVP quarterback provides hope.
Over the last six quarters — two against Chicago and four vs. the Falcons — Rodgers has completed a whopping 75.0% of his passes (48 of 64). Rodgers had seven touchdowns in that time, no interceptions and a stellar quarterback rating of 128.5.
With no real threat of a running game, Rodgers also rushed for a team-high 60 yards against Atlanta. The only drawback was Rodgers again failed to rally the Packers late, something that has always been his kryptonite.
For fans who had grown used to Rodgers putting up video game-like numbers, it was almost as if the previous 18 games were a bad dream. And even though the Packers have dug themselves a hole in the NFC North and the conference overall, if Rodgers is back to being Rodgers, anything is certainly possible.
“I thought he played extremely well (Sunday),” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of Rodgers. “I can’t compliment him enough.
“I think he did a really good job of taking what they gave us. You break the game down into two halves, they played a zone in the first half and man in the second half. They tried to challenge us outside more. The three-man rush, he extended plays and extended plays and ran it for first downs, so that was very important.”
Maybe it took running backs dropping like flies to get Rodgers back on track. James Starks had knee surgery in mid-October, then a few days later, Eddie Lacy suffered an ankle injury that landed him on the injured reserve list.
Those injuries certainly put more on Rodgers’ already jam-packed plate.
On Sunday, receiver Randall Cobb missed the game with a hamstring injury, and receiver-turned-running back Ty Montgomery sat out with a kidney ailment. Just three days earlier, the Packers had released local boy and fan favorite Jared Abbrederis.
Once again, even more of the burden fell on Rodgers. And after throwing the ball 56 times against Chicago, Rodgers fired 38 passes against Atlanta. Over the last two weeks, Rodgers had a whopping 107 drop backs.
But it appears that’s what it took to wake the quarterback from his slumber. Because for the second straight game, Rodgers got the ball out quickly, his accuracy was much better, and he was firing darts through a suspect Atlanta secondary.
On the other end, youngsters Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis and Geronimo Allison all delivered when their numbers were called.
“Personally, I’m just really proud of those guys who made plays today,” Rodgers said. “We got Jordy (Nelson) going early with the big completion, but we had three touchdown passes — one each to Geroni- mo Allison, who wasn’t on the opening-day roster, to Trevor, who’s had limited opportunities, and Jeff Janis for the go-ahead touchdown. I’m just so proud of those guys and the way they battled.”
Rodgers will have to battle with a short deck for the foreseeable future. Green Bay will likely be shorthanded at running back a few more weeks until Starks returns. The running backs showed nothing in Atlanta, and Lacy could be done for the year.
The receiver position also remains in limbo. Hamstring injuries are again hitting the Packers like colds at a daycare center, leaving Cobb’s status up in the air. Green Bay will also be extremely cautious with Montgomery, who was emerging as a force as both a running back and a wideout.
But the great ones find ways to win when things are bleak. And if the Packers are going to have any chance of reversing course following a mediocre start, Rodgers will have to be consistently great once again.
“He’s the best quarterback in the game,” Packers center JC Tretter said. “Of course he can be great.”
Green Bay will need Rodgers at his best.
While it’s extremely early, the Packers are one of three teams tied for the No. 5 seed in the NFC. Green Bay has three conference losses, though, which could prove tough to overcome when tiebreakers come into play.
There’s certainly plenty of time left in the season for Green Bay to catch fire. The schedule is far from daunting. And the Packers should get healthier in the days ahead.
But nothing matters as much as Rodgers turning back the clock to 2009-’14. And the quarterback must make sure he doesn’t show up on any milk cartons again.
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers crosses the goal line on a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter of the Atlanta Falcons' 33-32 victory over the Packers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday.