By Eric Goska
Claiming one can defeat an opponent with a hand tied behind the back is a boast that usually elicits derision.
Aaron Rodgers, who publicly abstains from such talk, nevertheless demonstrated that victory can be achieved while operating on essentially one good leg.
Half a man. Half a game.
Sunday night it added up to one hell of an opener for the Green Bay Packers and no laughing matter for the Chicago Bears.
The Green and Gold kicked off their 100th season of football with a 24-23 come-from-behind win over their arch nemesis at Lambeau Field. It was the sixth time the Packers have prevailed by a single point in this rivalry that dates to 1921.
The contest was a tale of two halves. In the first, the Packers surrendered yards in bunches while producing few of their own. In the second, the team moved with purpose while slowing the wave of navy blue and orange.
So numerous were the failings of the home team that, six minutes into the third quarter, a 20-point deficit beckoned. The hole was still 17 points deep as the fourth quarter opened.
Green Bay, the good news was Rodgers’ return. What the 14-year veteran couldn’t accomplish while healthy in the first half he more than made up for while compromised in the second.
Rodgers had a rough start. He threw incomplete on his first three passes. His lone first-quarter completion went for 7 yards to tight end Jimmy Graham on second-and-20.
The second quarter brought more of the same. No. 12 mustered but two completions for a scant six yards.
Then down Rodgers went. The usually elusive quarterback injured his knee after defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris sacked him for a 9-yard loss with just over nine minutes to go before halftime.
Packer Nation held its collective breath. Rodgers was carted to the locker room.
Halftime statistics showed
Green Bay with 71 yards and four first downs. The Bears had 160 yards, eight first downs and – more importantly – a 17-0 lead.
Fortunately for the Packers, Rodgers wasn’t finished. He resumed work after Cody Parkey’s 33-yard field goal put
Chicago up 20-0.
Unable to scramble and relegated to mostly quick throws,
Green Bay’s offensive leader rose to the occasion. He directed four scoring drives capped by a field goal and touchdown passes to Geronimo Allison (39 yards), Davante Adams (12) and Randall Cobb (75).
The Packers’ offensive line, which gave up four sacks in the first half, did not yield any in the second. Defensively,
Green Bay permitted Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubiski just 62 passing yards in the final two quarters.
Rodgers’ second-half numbers were far more impressive: 17 completions in 23 attempts for 273 yards. He was particularly effective in the fourth quarter where he threw for 212 yards and three scores.
His second-half passer rating was 152.72, not too far removed from the NFL maximum of 158.33.
Just six players in Packers history have exceeded 150 in a second half. Rodgers’ effort against the Bears was the 25th time it has happened.
Not surprisingly, Rodgers is
Green Bay’s all-time leader with 12 second halves of 150 or more. Brett Favre (6) and Bart Starr (4) are the only other Packers players to get there more than once.
Rodgers has topped 150 against the Bears twice before. He compiled a second-half rating of 150.95 in a 38-17 win in 2014 and a mark of 152.08 in a 35-21 triumph on Christmas Day 2011.
Chicago has been standard operating procedure for Rodgers. Whether it be a 50-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings in 2009, a 48-yarder to Randall Cobb in 2013 or a six-pack of aerial scores in a 41-point blowout in 2014, Rodgers has engineered 16 wins in 20 starts against the Bears.
But pulling out a victory in the fourth quarter when down 17 might top them all. Certainly, no Packers team had come back when that far gone.
Fifteen points had been the maximum. Bobby Thomason was the triggerman in a 29-27 win over the Yanks in 1951 (down 21-6) and Don Majkowski piloted the team to a 23-21 victory against the Falcons (down 21-6) in 1989.
Rodgers now resides at the head of that list.
Early in his career, Rodgers’ comeback ability was questioned. He was called out for not winning enough close games.
Against the Bears Sunday,
Rogers, figuratively speaking of course, came as close as anyone to beating a team with one arm tied behind his back.
Green Bay is 24-1 in games in which its passer posts a second-half rating of 150 or more. Its only loss was a 37-34 setback to the Vikings in the 2012 regular-season finale.
· Rodgers 212 fourth-quarter passing yards came up seven short of Babe Parilli’s team record. Parilli passed for 219 yards in the Packers’ 37-21 loss to the Redskins in 1958.
Packers players with the most second-half passer ratings of 150 or more (minimum 10 attempts). The highest rating allowed is 158.33, sometimes referred to as a perfect rating.
No. of 150s No. of 158.33s Player
12 4 Aaron Rodgers
6 3 Brett Favre
4 2 Bart Starr
1 1 Tobin Rote
1 0 Don Majkowski1 1 Matt Flynn