Rodgers comes back strong for Packers
Late in the first half, the Packers looked to be in dire straits, with the Lions starting to rally and quarterback Aaron Rodgers hobbled by an injury. After winning the NFC North each of the last three years, their streak looked to be in jeopardy.
In the second quarter, Rodgers found Randall Cobb for a touchdown play but tweaked his left leg — which he also hurt last week — and was carted off the field to the locker room just before halftime.
"I was worried about the severity of the injury and my ability to walk off the field at that point," Rodgers said, "but once I got back in the locker room, I was actually watching the game on the TV with some heat on my calf, thinking about if I could finagle myself to go back in the game."
The 14-point lead was cut in half after Calvin Johnson's touchdown catch late in the second quarter. After Rodgers' injury, backup quarterback Matt Flynn played the last drive of the half and the momentum looked to be swinging in the Lions' direction.
But after the Lions tied it in the third quarter and the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds and gave the Packers the ball at their 40-yard line, they were back in business. Rodgers, who didn't play the first series of the second half, started warming up and was ready for the second possession.
Rodgers led a seven-play drive for 60 yards and ended it with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cobb for a 21-14 advantage. Rodgers completed both of his passes on the drive — both to Cobb, including a 29-yarder — and settled the ship.
In the fourth quarter, the Lambeau fans saluted Rodgers with chants of "MVP! MVP!" as the game wound down.
"To come back after the calf injury, and to perform on a limited game plan and to play at a level that he continues to play, I thought was extraordinary," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It was clearly an MVP performance — another MVP performance — by Aaron Rodgers."
Rodgers set the Packers up for another scoring opportunity on their next drive, getting to the Lions' 34, but a 52-yard field-goal attempt was blocked, keeping the lead at seven. With the next possession, Rodgers cashed in for another touchdown, getting across on a 1-yard sneak. It was unclear whether Rodgers had crossed the plane, but a review upheld the call on the field and the Packers had a 28-14 lead with 8:45 left.
Rodgers finished the game 17-of-22 for 226 yards and two touchdowns, with a 139.6 passer rating. He started 0-of-3 in the first quarter and the Lions looked to be on the way to exorcising their demons at Lambeau — having not won in Wisconsin since 1991 — but Rodgers snapped back into rhythm and thwarted the comeback attempt.
Because of the injury, Rodgers missed the last drive of the first half and the first drive of the second — which was the Packers' only three-and-out series of the game. With so much on the line, including a first-round bye next week, Rodgers thought he could come back and be effective.
"As bad as it felt, I thought if I can go out there and do some things and we win, I get another week to rehab," Rodgers said. "That was definitely my (mindset)."
With the win, the Packers have the second seed and a bye next week, and Rodgers thinks he'll have enough time to heal for their next playoff game.
"Hats off to him — he played with a lot of grit there," Lions safety James Ihedigbo said. "You could tell he was pretty banged up and to come back and kind of battle the way he did and compete at that level, you've got to respect that."
The Packers also finished a perfect season at home, winning all eight games, while continuing their dominance of the NFC North. After a 1-3 start, Rodgers tried to settle the Packers fans down, declaring on his radio show that they needed to "R-E-L-A-X."
Following another memorable performance on a big stage with a division title at stake, he turned out to be right.