For nearly a year, Green Bay Packers fans waited with patient enthusiasm to see No. 12 step back onto the field for the first time. Following last year’s devastating collarbone injury in week six against the Vikings that left Aaron Rodgers sidelined for the remainder of the 2017 season, Mike McCarthy opted to sit the quarterback for almost the entire month of August, playing him for just four snaps in the second preseason game against the Steelers.
Resting Rodgers was the safe bet, because after all protecting the franchise player at all costs is always the goal. So when the Chicago Bears announced they had traded for Khalil Mack, the best pass rusher and most explosive defensive player in the league, a major curveball had been thrown in the Packer’s week one plans. Protecting the franchise player at all costs had just become ten times more difficult.
As often happens in the season opener, the Packers struggled to find their footing in the first quarter against Chicago on Sunday night. Aside from the defense that was already struggling to contain Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the offensive line was being completely overpowered by a Bears front featuring the newly-acquired Mack. On several snaps, Mack bull-rushed Bryan Bulaga, who looked wholly unable to keep up, right into the pocket, forcing Aaron Rodgers to get the ball out quickly under pressure.
Then, down 10-0 and with just over nine minutes left in the second quarter, Bears DE Roy Robertston-Harris rushed right past Corey Linsley for a shot at Rodgers just as Mack was once again able to overpower Bulaga for hit of his own. Aaron Rodgers was down again, this time grabbing his knee and taking him out of the game. For the rest of the second quarter and the entire halftime break, it was looking like there was a possibility that Rodgers’ season was over just as it was getting started.
But as Rodgers often does, he shocked everyone watching when he jogged out of the tunnel to start the second half. What ensued in the remaining two quarters of the Sunday night primetime game against the NFC North rival Chicago Bears on the anniversary of the Packers 100th season is nothing short of a miracle.
With a twenty point deficit, Aaron Rodgers went 20/30 for 286 passing yards and three touchdowns — all on one leg — to win the game 24-23 making it the Packers largest 4th quarter comeback since 1940. Aaron Rodgers worked an absolute miracle, to put it lightly.
On that note, these are the five decisive plays by Aaron Rodgers (in chronological order) in the second half that brought the Packers one of the most historic wins in franchise history.
- Aaron Rodgers hit a 15-yard dime over the middle to Geronimo Allison, who ran a perfect route on 3rd and 14 with 1:26 left in the 3rd quarter. With pristine protection from the line, that pass set up a first down that was followed by another 10-yard first-down pass to Allison on the next play.
2. Rodgers threw it up to find Allison once again, this time for a 39-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone with 14:10 to go in the 4th quarter. Allison was in one-on-one coverage with Kyle Fuller who had struggled all night.
3. After a quick three and out from the Bears. Rodgers was back on the field and hit Davante Adams for a huge 51-yard gain on 2nd and 10.
4. With just under nine and a half minutes left in the 4th quarter, Rodgers slung it out to Davante Adams again who ran it right into the end zone, putting the Packers within three points of the Bears.
5. The Packers defense had another big stop on 3rd and 1 with the Bears just an earshot from the end zone to hold Chicago to a field goal. With 2:29 left to play on a 3rd and 10, Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for the definitive 75-yard touchdown pass, giving the Packers the win.
Sunday night’s win over Chicago was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Hobbled on one leg, Aaron Rodgers led the packers to the second-largest comeback in franchise history at Lambeau Field. For the players and for the fans, the way he stepped up and led Green Bay to a victory is something no one will ever soon forget.