For the first time in the franchise’s history, the Green Bay Packers won a game in which they entered the fourth quarter down by at least 17 points. Shocker: Aaron Rodgers was the biggest reason for that, and it should come as no surprise that he gets our nod for the first Game Ball in the 24-23 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.
Here are a few players who deserve special attention for their performances in the opening game of the season.
QB Aaron Rodgers
Who else could get the top honor? Rodgers was hamstrung by an ugly offense and playcalling early on before suffering his ugly knee injury early in the second quarter, but his return jump-started that moribund unit and led to the comeback victory. Playing the second half essentially on one leg, he finished the day 20-for-30 with 286 yards and three touchdowns — one to each of his top three wide receivers and all of which came in the fourth quarter.
After the game, Rodgers told NBC’s Michelle Tafoya why he was so intent on returning to the game after halftime:
“It’s the Bear-Packer rivalry. It would have to take something really catastrophic injury-wise to keep me off the field in the second half. I went in the locker room, did all the tests ... I knew when I got back on the field in the second half, the adrenaline (would) start going, I’d be able to hang in there.”
He did much more than just hang in there. He led the Packers to one of the team’s most memorable victories in the last several years.
WR Randall Cobb
Cobb was responsible for the game’s biggest play, hauling in a pass from Rodgers over the middle on third-and-ten from the Packers’ 25-yard line and finding space to go the distance for a go-ahead, 75-yard touchdown. But that play was hardly Cobb’s only notable one in the game.
Not including that play, Cobb still caught eight more passes for 67 yards, and he also served as the team’s punt returner with Trevor Davis inactive. Cobb only returned one of Patrick O’Donnell’s four punts, but he did so for seven yards and he provided sure hands on fair catches as well.
All told, Cobb showed why he was the receiver the Packers kept instead of Jordy Nelson, as he served as Rodgers’ security blanket for much of the game.
OLB Nick Perry
This isn’t awarded for a full-game performance, Perry didn’t play a ton, as Reggie Gilbert took a number of snaps on the edge, but late in the game he effectively sealed the deal. After a Clay Matthews roughing the passer penalty wiped out a critical fourth-down stop with the Packers up 24-23, Perry came up with a strip-sack of Mitchell Trubisky on another essential fourth down, all but locking in a Packers victory. Perry had a total of five tackles, including that big play.
Honorable mention: RT Bryan Bulaga
Yes, I’m going there. Yes, Bulaga struggled to block Khalil Mack in the first half, particularly when DeShone Kizer took over for Rodgers in the second quarter. But after halftime, Bulaga largely kept Mack in check, as the superstar pass-rusher didn’t get much pressure on Rodgers at all in the final 30 minutes. Bulaga’s ability to hold up one-on-one during the Packers’ comeback was essential to the success of said comeback.