For most of the game, Aaron Rodgers wasn’t even the main story on Monday Night Football. 49ers backup quarterback C.J. Beathard came into Lambeau Field and absolutely lit up the Packers defense. Beathard threw for 245 yards on just 23 attempts, a ridiculous 10.7 yards per attempt. It looked like Beathard was going to pull out one of the most unexpected wins of the season.
But there is no stopping Aaron Rodgers when he decides it’s time to be great.
And so, Rodgers did what he’s been doing for years: put the Green Bay Packers on his back. Instead of Beathard being the unlikely hero, Rodgers stole back the spotlight, making big throw after big throw to lead the Packers to a rousing last-second win.
Here’s how it happened.
Rodgers’ sense of urgency kicked in
The Packers had trailed the entire second half. With the game slipping out of their reach late in the fourth quarter, Rodgers took control and engineered a four-play drive that took just over a minute off the clock.
He found Davante Adams for a quick 38-yard gain:
Aaron Rodgers took this right out of the Patrick Mahomes playbook. Don’t waste time. Just throw it down the field. pic.twitter.com/tCPguibeox— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) October 16, 2018
Then he hit Adams again for beautiful pass in the end zone over an outstretched 49ers defender to tie the game at 30.
It was a tremendously clutch throw on third down — the type we’ve grown accustomed to him making over the years in this exact situation. And he wasn’t done yet.
The Packers almost beat themselves with sloppy play
After rookie cornerback Tony Brown got an unnecessary roughness penalty on the ensuing kickoff return, the Packers looked like they were toast. San Francisco had the ball near midfield with 1:49 left and Green Bay didn’t have any timeouts left.
Then Kevin King bailed the Packers out with an interception on an errant deep throw from Beathard — easily his worst throw of the game.
Kevin King comes up with a HUGE interception pic.twitter.com/GaqDD28XSL— BetQL (@betqlapp) October 16, 2018
Rodgers took over on his own 10-yard line with the entire length of the field to go and 1:07 on the clock. It looked like the game was destined for overtime — Rodgers even told ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the game that he was thinking “overtime” when the Packers got the ball back.
Following a 14-yard run by Ty Montgomery on the first play, the Packers started shooting themselves in the foot. Two incomplete passes and a delay of game penalty had them facing third-and-long. Then the drive seemed to come to an end when DeForest Buckner brought down Rodgers for a sack.
But the sack was wiped out. Richard Sherman was called for an illegal contact penalty, giving the Packers an automatic first down.
On the play, Rodgers appeared to re-injure his left knee, the same one he hurt in Week 1 against the Bears. In that game, Rodgers led a furious comeback — on one leg, no less — to get the Packers a win. On Monday night, he did the same against San Francisco.
Rodgers evolved into the best form of himself
When Rodgers is at his best, it’s one of the most amazing spectacles in not just the NFL, but all of sports.
On the Packers’ final drive, Rodgers surgically sliced through the 49ers defense. He went 3 of 6 for 46 yards and had a 21-yard scramble to move the chains. The run was especially impressive considering Rodgers came up limping after the sack by Buckner. On the very next play, he darted up the field for a huge gain.
Rodgers masterfully worked the sidelines to keep the clock stopped as the Packers marched down the field. He had perfect placement on almost all his throws, including a flawless back-shoulder throw to rookie wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown.
Tied at 30 with a few seconds left on the clock, Green Bay put Mason Crosby in position to attempt at a game-winning field goal. Crosby had one of the worst kicking games ever last week against the Lions, missing 13 points worth of kicks (four missed field goals and a missed extra point) in an eight-point loss.
Crosby bounced back in a major way this week. He was perfect on all seven of his kicks (four FGs, three XPs), including the 27-yarder that gave the Packers the 33-30 win.
After the game, Rodgers told Salters they wanted to give Crosby a chance at redemption and got him as close as possible to make the kick.
“We had faith in Mason anywhere, like we always do, but to get him even closer made that kick almost a certainty.”
It was crucial win for the Packers, who are now 3-2-1 and trying to keep pace in the competitive NFC North. And it wouldn’t have been possible without Rodgers putting on his superhero cape yet again.