Rodgers Returns to Step on Lions' ThroatsPosted:Dec 29th, 2014 2:50 am
There was a surreal moment during Sunday's division clinching season finale at Lambeau as related by my brother Dan, who was at the game. An Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb touchdown pass elicited an eerie silence from the 80,000 in attendance. There was no Lambeau Leap, no "Bang the Drum" singalong. All eyes were on Rodgers' prone form on the grass, willing him to get up but thinking, uh oh, that looked really bad.
We were alerted to a possible issue with Rodgers' calf when the inactive list didn't include any QBs for the first time this season. With Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien both active, it was a clear sign the team was concerned about the health of number 12.
When Rodgers was carted off before halftime and Matthew Stafford hit Megatron to cut the Pack's lead to 14-7, many of us saw the Pack's 2014 season flash before our eyes. But Rodgers had other ideas. Always the competitor, he returned in the second half to play through the pain, elevating the players around him and basically willing the Pack to victory. Then Ndamukong Suh reverted to his dirty ways, stepping on Rodgers' leg--twice--a disgusting latest chapter in his soon to be former Detroit career. I doubt he'll be suspended; but he should be fined big time.
Everyone will be talking about Rodgers' gutty return, as they should, but the Packers won this game with its running attack. They piled up 152 yards on the ground, a season-high given up by the Lions and it allowed Rodgers to have success through the air. Eddie Lacy ran with his usual reckless abandon and set the tone early with a few big runs on the opening drive. James Starks was equally impressive in relief. The Pack's offensive line won this matchup this time around and it was the difference in the game.
The opening score of the game, Micah Hyde's punt return touchdown, made up for the maddening start to the game, which saw the Pack's opening drive stall on the one yard line, coming up empty after seven plays from inside the seven yard line. That goal line stand gave the impression that we were in for a dogfight between two strong defenses. But then Hyde took a punt to the house from 55 yards out and the goal line stand was forgotten.
The defense was up to the challenge for the most part all day. Only two sacks of Stafford, but a lot of pressure throughout the day and a number of big stops on third down (the Lions were 4-11, while the Pack was 8-13). Though Johnson scored twice he was predominantly held in check. He and Tate combined for about the same number of yards Jordy Nelson got. We'll take that every time.
Now, with the divisional playoff schedule set and the Packers set for a noon Sunday kickoff in a couple of weeks, we know that Rodgers has 14 days to get that calf healed. If the Cowboys beat the Lions they will head to Lambeau in what would be a terrific matchup. If the Lions pull the upset, the Pack gets the Panthers-Cardinals winner.
For now, we'll appreciate a fourth straight NFC North title, a 12-win season and a possible MVP season for #12. He once again demonstrated his toughness, leadership and heart and the other 52 guys noticed. If he's close to 100% in two weeks, he and his team will be favored to earn a spot in the NFC title game. Who's gonna bet against them?