Something was a little off on Sunday afternoon. For one, Soldier Field wasn’t littered with snowflakes. But more importantly, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t quite his usual spirit-breaking self against the Chicago Bears.
After the Packers NFC Championship win on the weekend, Rodgers was the first to admit that he was a non-factor in Green Bay’s 21-14 victory. Dom Capers’ defense took on the role of Superman when the Super Bowl was on the line, as the Packers passing game stuttered and stalled on third down situations.
Consequently, every NFL fan was confused. How could a quarterback who threw only five incompletions in the week prior against the Atlanta Falcons, complete only two third down conversions eight days later?
Hold your horses folks, an answer has been discovered.
According to head coach Mike McCarthy, Rodgers was playing with an injured shoulder, following a hard knock during Green Bay’s first scoring drive. Rodgers decided to try his luck when rushing for the goal line, but was met with safety Danieal Manning – Rodgers came off second best.
Then things went from weird to wacky. Rodgers didn’t attempt his usual championship belt celebration, and instead underwent a few low-fives as he jogged toward the sideline to take an early seat.
In the game, the Packers passing game struggled. Rodgers played for just 244 yards and two interceptions, while also throwing some ugly balls to the likes of tight ends Andrew Quarless and Tom Crabtree.
That isn’t the Rodgers we all know.
Smiling or not, Green Bay’s star player was clearly in some pain. It’s a mild surprise that very few people questioned how healthy Rodgers was following the Packers early score, but of course Jay Cutler’s woes on the opposite end were enough to grasp the spotlight.
However, now the secret has been lifted. McCarthy let everybody including Green Bay’s Super Bowl XLV opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers; know that Rodgers is injured, although McCarthy didn’t express the severity of the strain.
Not to worry, though, Rodgers is more or less fine. At least for the time being.
The main concern for Rodgers right now is how severe the injury may become in a fortnight’s time. Two years ago Rodgers endured a shoulder injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008, but was fortunate enough not to miss any game time as a result.
Luck is again playing a factor.
But what happens when the likes of Troy Polamalu, LaMarr Woodley or James Harrison come crashing down on No.12?
Quite frankly the outcome is debatable, considering Rodgers is now regarded as the second quickest quarterback behind Philadelphia Eagles star, Michael Vick. Still, don’t let that deter you.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have recorded seven total sacks this postseason, reasonable numbers for only two weeks play. Dick LeBeau’s defense has been red hot in 2010, and after maintaining the top spot in defensive rush yards, the Packers must be wary of how vulnerable rookie runner James Starks is.
Secondly, moving Rodgers out of the pocket has both good and bad aspects. On one hand rolling out left or right would certainly open up the down field option with Greg Jennings, yet the threat of a third concussion is a worrying sign.
Then there is of course the final concern – adding salt to an already sore wound. To pull a wild example out of the hat, Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy experienced the very same fate a year ago in the BCS Title Game.
While McCoy never had a pre-existing injury, one hard knock and an unlucky collision with an offensive lineman’s helmet, resulted in game-over for Mack Browns most prized possession.
Green Bay simply can’t afford that.
Rodgers was forced to undergo a few collisions on Sunday against the Bears, one of which was a helmet to helmet hit thanks to defensive end Julius Peppers. No fine has been issued just yet, but with a bloody lip and a rattled head; expect Roger Goodell to dish out some dough.
To wrap it up, tackle Chad Clifton put it best when saying told reporters on Monday what he thought of his team’s chances under Rodgers.
“You look at number 12 and what he has been able to do during the course of the playoffs, and even before, he’s playing unbelievable football and we’re being productive running the ball as well. So with the talent we have and the receiver position, and the way we’re running the ball, I think that’s a credit to us”
Clifton is right in all areas. With a banged up quarterback awaiting the doctors’ orders, though, the Packers must ensure that Rodgers is in tip-top shape come two weeks’ time in Dallas.
Ryan Cook is an Australian author for Acme Packing Company, and a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also a guest writer on PackerChatters, and a contributing writer to Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Sports Haze.