Aaron Rodgers added a new chapter to his legendary career on Sunday evening, defeating the Chicago Bears 24-23 after heroically returning from a left knee injury sustained in the second quarter.
The initial prognosis did not look good as Rodgers had to be carted to the locker room before halftime. Packers fans endured two drives led by DeShone Kizer. The first ended in a fumble while the second ended with a Khalil Mack interception that was returned for a touchdown.
With a 17-0 halftime deficit, the outlook was bleak both for the Packers chances at a fifth straight win against the Bears, and for the prospect of an entire Packers season without Rodgers on the field. No doubt visions of 2017 and sitting out the postseason flashed through the minds of fans, players and coaches. Then, it happened. Aaron Charles Rodgers came out of the tunnel and ran onto the field.
The Lambeau crowd let out cheers mixed with relief and hope. Like a general arriving at the front line with his troops, you could sense hope returning to the Packers’ sideline as the second half began. As Rodgers would say after the game, “I told the guys at halftime, ‘If you shut them out, we’re going to win.”
Rendered essentially immobile, Rodgers began to execute a retooled offensive game plan, comprised of the pistol and shotgun formation with a focus on quick throws. A third-and-14 conversion to Geronimo Allison late in the third quarter showcased the pain Rodgers endured throughout the second half. While barely able to put weight on his left leg as he followed through with his throwing motion, his arm strength still enabled him to find Allison in traffic for the crucial first down.
The third quarter ended with the Bears leading 20-3. What happened in the next fifteen minutes will surely become a part of Packers lore for years to come. To set the historical context, the Packers had trailed by 17 points or more a total of 111 times in their 100-year history. Their record in those games was 0-111. Let that sink in for a moment. Of all the legendary players to wear a Packers uniform, none of them have overcome a deficit of that size in the fourth quarter.
The comeback began in earnest with 14:06 left in the fourth quarter. Rodgers looked off the safety on the left side of the field and came back to Geronimo Allison for a perfectly thrown 39-yard touchdown to the back right corner of the end zone. Most NFL quarterbacks could not make that type of throw on two healthy legs.
The Packers defense forced a three-and-out on the next series. With the Packers offense back on the field, Rodgers found Davante Adams for a 51-yard gain down the left side. He finished the drive with a 12-yard touchdown strike to Adams. The Bears scored a field goal on their subsequent drive, setting the stage for Rodgers and the offense. The Packers were down by 6 points with 2:42 left to play. Facing third-and-10 on the first set of downs, Rodgers slide left in the pocket and found Cobb cutting right. Cobb discovered a wide-open field behind him and raced 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The Packers defense would seal the game with a fourth down sack on the ensuing drive.
The largest fourth quarter comeback in Packers history was complete, led by their hobbled hero. While numerous Packer players stepped up in the second half and contributed to the win, one man alone enabled the historic evening. Like watching Michael Jordan on the basketball court or Muhammed Ali in the ring, every Packer fan should sit back and enjoy watching a true legend performing at the highest levels of greatness.