When a team wins a game by a score of 33-28, one has to expect that the best performances by both teams will come on the offensive side of the ball. When a game is won in the fashion that the Green Bay Packers earned victory yesterday over the Chicago Bears, that becomes the case even more strongly.
Two of our game ball nominees this week spent the better part of the season watching from the sidelines as the Packers tried to stay afloat, only to return and make a massive impact on the game that decided the NFC North on Sunday. Here are those players who we feel deserve special recognition this week.
QB Aaron Rodgers
Yes, the first half started in rather ugly fashion, with two interceptions on the Packers' first two drives. Yes, the first one was entirely on Rodgers, and yes, the second one was a throw that was behind Jordy Nelson and therefore difficult to catch.
The thing is, moving the ball was not an issue. And once Rodgers settled down and got into a rhythm, good things happened. His leadership in the huddle and command of the offense were evident by his tendency to change plays at the line of scrimmage. Rodgers and Nelson were on the same page almost constantly after the first quarter, and the QB's final touchdown drive at the end of the game was a thing of beauty. To be sure, the Packers don't win that game without Rodgers under center.
WR Jordy Nelson
Nelson's stat line speaks for itself: 10 catches on 16 targets for 161 yards. However, it doesn't even express just how good he was in the second half. Five of Nelson's catches moved the chains on a third- or fourth-down opportunity, and he was equally adept running deep crosses and short hitches. As a security blanket for Rodgers, there's nobody better, and Nelson's performance kept the Packers alive in critical moments.
WR Randall Cobb
What Nelson did to keep drives alive, Cobb did to end them. Despite playing just 37 of the Packers' 78 snaps, Cobb made his mark both receiving and blocking on screen passes. Cobb was targeted just twice on the day, but both throws were receptions and both went for touchdowns, including the 48-yarder to put the Packers on top for good.
CB Sam Shields
I have to nominate someone on a defense that gave up 28 points, and Shields is my top option. He helped keep Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall limited when he was in coverage on the two, allowing just one reception (a 37-yarder by Marshall where Shields just barely mis-timed his leap) on three targets. Shields also recorded an interception on the final play to seal the victory for the Packers.
CB Jarrett Bush
The much-maligned Bush had a great day in his 11 snaps on defense, breaking up a pass early, but was excellent on special teams. Bush recovered a fumbled punt by Micah Hyde in the second quarter, and also forced a fumble out of Devin Hester on a return later in the game to go along with two special-teams tackles and a third on defense.
LT David Bakhtiari, WR Jarrett Boykin, RB James Starks
Bakhtiari threw a shutout against Julius Peppers in pass protection, Boykin was one of two players (including Rodgers) who actually thought to pick up the football on Rodgers' fumble, and Starks added a great burst to the running game with Eddie Lacy hobbling.
There you have our nominees for the game ball. Who gets your vote? Let us know in the comments and the poll below.