The Green Bay Packers hitched their trailer to Aaron Rodgers with a four-year, $134 million contract extension in August. It wasn’t a tough decision for the team. They could either: A) Pay up, or B) Lose arguably the best NFL player of the last decade without any replacement waiting in the wings.
But all that money added even a little more sting to an already devastating looking situation for the Packers when Rodgers went down with an injury.
In the second quarter of a Sunday Night Football game that was already going south for the Packers, Rodgers was awkwardly smushed during a Bears sack. Chicago had jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but the score took a back seat to a knee injury that the Packers ruled Rodgers questionable to return from.
Any hope for Rodgers to return seemed optimistic, especially as he was carted off the field.
The doom and gloom felt justified
Rodgers missed nine games in 2017 after suffering a fractured collarbone. It was the same injury that cost him seven games in 2013.
An ACL tear would’ve meant Rodgers was sidelined for the last 15 games of this season. That would’ve raised his total to 24 games missed over a two-year span.
Not only would it have meant thoughts that his best years are in the rearview mirror were fair. Those thoughts would’ve been logical.
Rodgers turns 35 in December. While Tom Brady and Drew Brees have helped reshape expectations of quarterback longevity, both have done well to avoid significant injuries. Historically, passers hit the end of the road in their late 30s. Rodgers would be approaching those years after back-to-back season-ending injuries.
The Packers finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs when Brett Hundley took over for Rodgers last season. On Sunday, during the 13 offensive plays Rodgers missed while in the locker room during the second quarter, new backup DeShone Kizer drove home just how screwed the Rodgers-less Packers were.
In two drives, Kizer did what he couldn’t stop doing during his rookie year with the Cleveland Browns a year ago: He gave the defense the ball. Twice.
First, Khalil Mack took the ball straight out of Kizer’s hands on a sack. Then Mack intercepted Kizer on the next drive and returned it for a touchdown.
#MonsterOfTheMidway status... EARNED.#CHIvsGB | #DaBears pic.twitter.com/11Jab3GDy6— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) September 10, 2018
Watching Rodgers go off on the locker room on a cart didn’t just feel like the Packers’ season was about to circle the drain. It felt like we were getting robbed of the magic of Aaron Rodgers.
But then we got a heaping scoop of Aaron Rodgers wizardry
Even a hobbled Rodgers was a welcomed sight for the Lambeau crowd.
But the 20-point comeback he pulled off to beat the Bears was miraculous even by Rodgers standards.
Despite the fact that he was clearly hindered by an injury that limited his mobility, Rodgers kept plays alive and got the ball in the hands of his playmakers — Geronimo Allison, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams to let them pick up the slack. It helps too that a one-legged Rodgers can make throws off his back foot that only a handful of humans can make while 100 percent healthy.
GERONIMO! @AaronRodgers12 ➡ @813Geronimo for SIX #CHIvsGB #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/ZT4gWMQysg— Green Bay Packers (@packers) September 10, 2018
The go-ahead touchdown to Cobb was impressive all around. Rodgers kept the play alive until he found Cobb, who breezed past the entire defense for the score:
Randall Cobb goes 75 YARDS!!!!!! @packers have the lead! #CHIvsGB #GoPackGo— NFL (@NFL) September 10, 2018
: NBC pic.twitter.com/S3trWF5UoY
At the end of his fourth quarter destruction tour, Rodgers finished the game with 286 passing yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, a 130.7 passer rating.
There’s still reason to be concerned about a knee injury that was clearly bothering Rodgers in the second half. But if you were worried that the Rodgers era was closing, he showed everyone why he’s worth all of his record-breaking contract.