GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers didn’t just come back. He brought the Green Bay Packers back with him.
In his own personal Willis Reed moment, the two-time NFL MVP added another chapter to the book of legend in Sunday night’s season opener against the Chicago Bears.
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This one might not rank up there in importance with his Super Bowl XLV MVP performance, the Hail Mary in Detroit or the sideline pass to Jared Cook in the divisional playoff game at Dallas.
But to the 2018 season, this 24-23 victory meant everything.
Down 10-0 when Rodgers hobbled off the field in the second quarter after Chicago Bears defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris fell on his left knee, and down 20-0 when he returned to start the second half, the Packers saw their fortunes turn when Lambeau public address announcer Bill Jartz exclaimed: “Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.”
At that moment, 9:09 p.m. local time, 54 minutes after Rodgers had trouble putting weight on his left leg, he ran back onto the field and the comeback began.
A field goal drive offered a modest start to the second half, and Rodgers only got better from there.
The Geronimo Allison drive — four catches including a 39-yarder for a touchdown — made it a game.
The Davante Adams drive — a 51-yard catch and run followed by a 12-yard touchdown catch — made it 20-17.
Just 3-of-7 for 13 yards when he was carted to the locker room, Rodgers completed 16 of his next 19 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
And then there was the Randall Cobb play. It wasn’t even a drive. After two incompletions, Rodgers threw a short pass to Cobb, who did the rest. He ran 64 yards after the catch for a 75-yard go-ahead touchdown with 2:13 left.
Rodgers’ post-injury final totals were a stunning 17-of-23 for 273 yards and three touchdowns, including one emphatic chuck out of bounds to run out the final seconds.
And just like that, Rodgers tied the largest comeback win of his NFL career, according to ESPN Stats & Information. It equaled the rally from down 20-0 in Week 13 of 2015 at Detroit — the Hail Mary game.
The return of Rodgers somehow turned around what had been shoddy pass protection, which contributed to Rodgers’ injury in the first place. It also seemingly transformed a defense that, in the first half, made Mike Pettine’s debut as defensive coordinator look much like Dom Capers’ finale last season.
But Rodgers wasn’t sacked in the second half, and Pettine’s unit allowed merely two second-half field goals.
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