RODGERS SIM­PLY RE­MARK­ABLE

Pack­ers quar­ter­back reaf­firms great­ness in come­back win over Bears in Week 1

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - JOHN KRYK [email protected] Twit­ter.com/JohnKryk

Khalil Mack, who got a US$141mil­lion con­tract ex­ten­sion a week or so ago and may be the NFL’s best de­fen­sive player, was stun­ningly ef­fec­tive in the first half of his first game as a mem­ber of the Chicago Bears Sun­day night.

But Aaron Rodgers, who got a $134-mil­lion con­tract ex­ten­sion with the Green Bay Pack­ers a week or so ago and may be the NFL’s best of­fen­sive player, out­did Mack.

Rodgers per­formed even bet­ter in the sec­ond half, jump­ing off the med­i­cal-ex­am­in­ing ta­ble in the Pack­ers’ locker-room and en­gi­neer­ing an NFL come­back for the ages, cul­mi­nat­ing in Green Bay’s 24-23 vic­tory.

Think mar­quee play­ers don’t im­pact games in the NFL? You bet your life they do.

If you hap­pened to turn off this game at half­time, you missed a vin­tage Rodgers per­for­mance that turned a 20-point deficit into a fan­tas­tic win for the home­town Pack­ers.

Those hero­ics were nec­es­sary be­cause of Mack’s dom­i­nance, be­com­ing the first player since he did it him­self as a mem­ber of the Oak­land Raiders two years ago to record a sack, in­ter­cep­tion, forced fum­ble, fum­ble re­cov­ery and a de­fen­sive touch­down in the same game.

Mack’s play in the sec­ond quar­ter had the up­start Bears up 17-0 at the half.

Chicago made it 20-0 af­ter the open­ing pos­ses­sion of the sec­ond half, only to see Rodgers im­plau­si­bly trot back onto the field and play maybe the best half of his ca­reer in ral­ly­ing the Pack­ers to a be­lief-de­fy­ing win.

This af­ter the two-time MVP col­lapsed to the field in pain with a left knee in­jury in the sec­ond quar­ter. He had to be helped to the side­line and carted to the locker-room.

An hour-plus later, Rodgers had thrown three fourth-quar­ter touch­down passes to flip all nar­ra­tives: a 39-yarder to Geron­imo Al­li­son, a 12-yarder to Da­vante Adams and an ad libbed medi­umdepth pass to Ran­dall Cobb, who turned on the jets for a 75-yard go-ahead TD with 2:13 left, which stood as the win­ning score.

All this while Rodgers seemed un­able to put much pres­sure on his lead left leg as he threw, and de­spite the fact his con­sid­er­ably swollen, still painful knee started stiff­en­ing in that de­ci­sive fourth quar­ter. Rodgers had to mod­ify his de­liv­ery, re­ly­ing even more on his strong, un­can­nily ac­cu­rate arm. He couldn’t even take a snap from un­der cen­tre be­cause he couldn’t drop back. Ev­ery play had to be run from the pis­tol or gun.

And yet Rodgers still carved up the Bears’ pass de­fence, while some­how nul­li­fy­ing Mack and a fe­ro­cious, al­beit tir­ing, Chicago pass rush with quick passes.

“(It’s) just a re­minder to the squad that a be­lief in each other is so very im­por­tant to sus­tain­ing suc­cess,” Rodgers said.

“Feed­ing off the en­ergy and mo­men­tum. I’ve talked with our guys on the staff at times about whether they be­lieve in mo­men­tum in a game. And I do. Guys picked it up. We made some plays on de­fence, made some stops.”

As NBC’s Michele Tafoya in­ter­viewed the 34-year-old mo­ments af­ter the head-shak­ing spec­ta­cle ended at Lam­beau Field, Rodgers ap­peared to tear up, big time, as both the emo­tion of the mo­ment and size of his ac­com­plish­ment ap­peared to en­gulf him. Later, Rodgers summed it up. “This will be one I’ll def­i­nitely smile about in 10 years.”

Pitts­burgh WR An­to­nio Brown tied Torry Holt for the sec­ond­fewest games (116) needed to reach 10,000 ca­reer re­ceiv­ing yards in their tie with Cleve­land … Washington RB Adrian Peter­son be­came the sev­enth NFLer to amass 12,000 rush­ing yards and 100 rush­ing TDs … Who led Week 1 in rush­ing through Sun­day? Le’Veon Bell’s re­place­ment in Pitts­burgh, James Con­ner, with 135 yards against the Browns … Tampa Bay tem­po­rary start­ing QB Ryan Fitz­patrick led all NFL passers through Sun­day in passer rat­ing (156.3) … This is who Saquon Barkley is, so get used to it. The New York Gi­ants RB had a daz­zling 68-yard TD run ver­sus Jack­sonville. Be­sides that, he ran 17 times for 38 yards.

Only the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers could amass 541 yards of of­fence and 33 first downs and also av­er­age a whop­ping 7.4 yards per snap and turn it over only once, yet lose by 10 at home to Kansas City. Dropped balls, con­tin­u­ing hor­ri­ble spe­cial teams and leaky de­fence were to blame. There’s al­ways some­thing — or some things, to be more pre­cise — that keep the Charg­ers from win­ning enough to be good, let alone great.

Lastly, there’s this. Buf­falo trailed Baltimore 26-0 at half­time. Green Bay trailed Chicago 20-0 early in the third. The Bills lost 47-3. The Pack­ers won 24-23. Once and for all, peo­ple, quar­ter­back­ing in the NFL trumps all other fac­tors as to whether you win or lose.

MIKE ROEMER/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Green Bay quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers leaves the field sur­rounded by pho­tog­ra­phers af­ter his fourth quar­ter hero­ics led the Pack­ers to a 24-23 win over the Chicago Bears Sun­day.

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