Rodgers shows off can­non af­ter knee in­jury

Packer Plus - - NEWS - Ryan Wood Green Bay Press-Gazette

Green Bay — Aaron Rodgers didn’t need to jog. He had one healthy leg, and plenty of time to make it to the side­line be­fore the start of Sun­day’s sec­ond half.

But be­fore ex­it­ing the tun­nel, there was some­thing the Green Bay Pack­ers quar­ter­back for­got to do. Deep in­side Lam­beau Field, Rodgers put his swollen left knee through all sorts of tests. First, the Pack­ers needed to know their fran­chise quar­ter­back hadn’t torn his ACL. (Yes, there was a time Sun­day night when their sea­son ap­peared to be on the fritz.) Con­vinced they’d avoided the worst, Rodgers could re­turn.

Mid­way to the side­line, Rodgers re­mem­bered that through all the twists and turns and tests of his left knee, he skipped over one cru­cial de­tail.

Rodgers hadn’t shown Dr. Pat McKen­zie he could move faster than a walk.

“I re­al­ized,” Rodgers said, “I prob­a­bly should jog. I was think­ing about walk­ing from the tun­nel out all the way to the side­line, but I fig­ured I might as well jog a lit­tle bit to let Doc McKen­zie know I could do that, be­cause I hadn’t done that yet in the bow­els of the sta­dium.”

He couldn’t move any faster than that shuf­fling jog, but on this night Aaron Rodgers didn’t need to. For all the traits that made him one of the great­est quar­ter­backs ever – the ath­leti­cism, the field vi­sion, the hold-all-grudges com­pet­i­tive­ness – there’s po­ten­tially an even greater skill that can be over­looked.

The two-time MVP has a can­non for a right arm, and on Sun­day night he used it to turn the bor­der­line im­pos­si­ble into re­al­ity, lead­ing a 24-23 come­back against the ri­val Chicago Bears that will be re­mem­bered long af­ter Rodgers re­tires.

Rodgers, who fin­ished 20 of 30 for 286 yards, three touch­downs and no in­ter­cep­tions, added an­other chap­ter to his long, suc­cess­ful his­tory against the Bears. The come­back will join the 2010 NFC Cham­pi­onship Game, and the fourth-and-eight touch­down to Ran­dall Cobb that clinched the NFC North in 2013.

“This will def­i­nitely go down as one of my fa­vorite mem­o­ries,” Rodgers said, “es­pe­cially in this ri­valry. But we’ve had some fun ones in the ri­valry.”

Rodgers shouldn’t be able to sur­prise any­more, not on the back nine of a ca­reer filled with stun­ning mo­ments, but Sun­day night was un­ex­pected. The Pack­ers were left for dead 30 min­utes into their sea­son. They trailed 17-0 af­ter Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack em­phat­i­cally stamped what had be­come his per­sonal show­case, re­turn­ing a DeShone Kizer in­ter­cep­tion 27 yards for a touch­down with 56 sec­onds left in the sec­ond quar­ter. Boos chased the Pack­ers into their locker room at half­time.

Rodgers in­duced a roar from the crowd of 78,282 as he emerged from the tun­nel for the third quar­ter.

“When I got the ova­tion,” Rodgers ex­plained, “at that point, I said, ‘We might as well win this thing.’ ”

In hind­sight, Rodgers said he felt good about his team’s chances as soon as he was cleared to play. He may have been the only one. The Bears got pos­ses­sion to start the sec­ond half, and they drove 60 yards in 12 plays, a me­thod­i­cal pos­ses­sion that ended with a 33-yard field goal.

Down 20-0, the Pack­ers’ deficit was on the fringe of what could be po­ten­tially over­come in one half. Aside from Rodgers, no­body in the Pack­ers locker room has seen as much foot­ball as tight end Marcedes Lewis. How bleak did things look at 20-0? “In this league?” Lewis shot back. Pre­cisely. In this league, teams don’t come back from 20-0.

“I ain’t seen noth­ing like that,” Lewis said. He wasn’t the only one. “That was sick,” left guard Lane Tay­lor said, shak­ing his head.

Rodgers looked up at that 20-0 on the scoreboard with 9:14 left in the third quar­ter, and he pro­cessed his team’s hole dif­fer­ently than just about any­one else. It was de­duced to sim­ple arith­metic. “Seven times three,” Rodgers said. “We have to score three touch­downs, stop ‘em three times.” Then he willed it to hap­pen, but not with­out mak­ing things a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult.

The Pack­ers re­sponded to the Bears’ field goal with one of their own. It was their first points, but it took 12 plays and 5:37 on the clock. Rodgers al­most caught the Bears with too many play­ers on the field be­fore a third-and-9 from just out- side the red zone, but it wasn’t called.

His pass over the mid­dle to tight end Jimmy Gra­ham was in­com­plete, forc­ing the Pack­ers to set­tle for a 42-yard field goal. The points felt like a fail­ure, leav­ing the Pack­ers down 20-3 with 3:37 left in the third quar­ter. They still trailed three pos­ses­sions. “I got a lit­tle ticked off,” Rodgers said. “… Be­cause I knew we still had to score three times.”

A ticked-off Rodgers is usu­ally good, and Sun­day was no dif­fer­ent.

On the Pack­ers' next pos­ses­sion, Rodgers hit re­ceiver Geron­imo Al­li­son for a 37-yard touch­down against Bears cor­ner­back Kyle Fuller – but the of­fi­cial yardage doesn’t give the play jus­tice. Rodgers dropped back 10 yards to the Bears’ 47, then un­leashed a mis­sile from the left hash to the op­po­site cor­ner of the end zone. It was all arm, Rodgers barely step­ping into the throw.

How’d Rodgers heave the foot­ball that far on one leg?

“I don’t know,” Al­li­son said, shak­ing his head. “I don’t know.”

Next, Rodgers found Da­vante Adams alone in the left flat. Adams made Bears cor­ner­back Prince Amuka­mara miss in the open field, but it was an­other all-arm throw from Rodgers, who couldn’t pick up yards with his legs when the pocket split open up the mid­dle.

It took only 26 sec­onds for the Pack­ers to get their third straight touch­down. Rodgers threaded a pass past Bears safety Ed­die Jack­son, who cheated un­derneath re­ceiver Ran­dall Cobb. Jack­son laid out for the ball but missed, giv­ing Cobb open space in the mid­dle of the field. Cobb fin­ished his 75-yard catch-and-run cut­ting in­side Ty Mont­gomery’s block at the goal line, scor­ing the win­ning touch­down.

“Noth­ing’s easy in this busi­ness,” Rodgers said. “But the fa­mil­iar­ity, him kind of stop­ping his route there. Once I saw him put his foot in the ground and move back to the left, I knew that was where the ball had to go.”

Rodgers fol­lowed Cobb be­hind the play, arms ex­tended over his head, in­dex fin­gers pointed in the air. He took his time, walk­ing. No need to jog.

His work was com­plete.

MARK HOFF­MAN / JOUR­NAL SEN­TINEL

Pack­ers quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers cel­e­brates with Lane Tay­lor af­ter Rodgers’ 75-yard touch­down pass to Ran­dall Cobb.

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