Aaron Rodgers can beat the Bears in the regular season. Aaron Rodgers can beat the Bears in the playoffs. And, as Sunday night proved, he can beat the Bears on one leg.
Rodgers rallied the Packers from a 20-0 second-half deficit less than an hour after being carted to the Lambeau Field locker room with an apparent knee injury. The two-time NFL MVP willed his team back from the dead, throwing three touchdown passes despite not being able to put much weight on his left leg in a 24-23 victory that will stand as one of the most memorable moments of his football career.
But for Chicago, it was just more of the same. Sunday’s win marked the sixth time Rodgers had engineered either a fourth-quarter comeback or a game-winning drive against the Bears. It was a familiar feeling 250 miles northeast of the Windy City, too. Rodgers has come back to beat the Detroit Lions an additional five times. Some of these epic comebacks have been for playoff spots. Others meant nothing more than pride. One doomed Detroit to the dumbest possible season.
So where does last night’s win rank on the scale of Rodgers comebacks against NFC North rivals (he’s 12-7 against the Vikings as a starter but none of those wins featured a game-winning fourth quarter drive)? It’s near the top with room to grow based on how the Packers play after Week 1.
11. Week 2 2008 vs. the Lions, 48-25
Rodgers’ first season as a starter may have ended with a 6-10 record, but he set the stage for a long career of crushing Detroit that fall. The Lions took a 25-24 lead midway through the fourth quarter before Green Bay roared back — though Rodgers only played a supporting role in the win, which featured two pick-sixes in the final 3:09.
10. Week 17 2008 vs. the Lions, 31-21
This game had no playoff implications whatsoever ... but it was Detroit’s last chance to avoid becoming the first 0-16 team in NFL history. A 14-14 fourth-quarter tie had developed into a 24-14 Green Bay lead when a nine-yard Kevin Smith touchdown gave the Lions new hope with 7:32 left to play. Just 16 seconds later, Rodgers hit Donald Driver for a 71-yard touchdown, and the books were sealed on what was, at the time, the most futile season the league had ever seen.
9. 2012, Week 14 vs. the Lions, 27-20
8. 2012, Week 11 vs. the Lions, 24-20
7. 2009, Week 14 vs. the Bears, 21-14
6. 2009, Week 1 vs. the Bears, 21-15
2009 was the year Aaron Rodgers became AARON RODGERS, and it all started with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings that turned a two-point deficit in the season opener into a six-point lead with 71 seconds to play. It’s been pretty much downhill for Chicago since then.
5. 2016, Week 15 vs. the Bears, 30-27
A 4-6 start left the Pack in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Green Bay had no room for error when it traveled to face a 3-10 Bears team, but Chicago battled back from a 27-10 fourth-quarter deficit to throw the Packers’ three-game winning streak into jeopardy. Connor Barth’s 22-yard field goal tied the game with 79 seconds left. Three plays later, Rodgers heaved a third-and-11 bomb to a streaking Jordy Nelson to set up a game-winning field goal that kept his team’s postseason aspirations intact.
4. 2015, Week 13 vs. the Lions, 27-23
Never, ever turn off a Packers game if Rodgers is about to throw a Hail Mary. Detroit gets some bonus heartbreak here for having this game won, then giving Green Bay one last chance to win the game after a questionable facemask call.
3. 2018, Week 1 vs. the Bears, 24-23
The end result may wind up meaningless by the time we wrap up the 2018 season, but the performance within was undeniable. Rodgers rode into the Green Bay locker room defeated and emerged a one-legged ass kicker. His go-ahead touchdown pass to Randall Cobb gets all the attention, but don’t overlook his 39-yard touchdown strike to Geronimo Allison:
Thrown off his back foot with a simple flick of his arm was proof not only of Rodgers’ incredible physical gifts, but also his preternatural ability to adjust on the fly.
And even though it was just a Week 1 win, it still got its own bobblehead, for some reason.
2. 2013, Week 17 vs. the Bears, 33-28
Rodgers missed a big chunk of the 2013 season due to a broken collarbone, but he hustled back from injury in a de facto playoff game against the Bears. Chicago led the NFC North at 8-7, while the rejuvenated Packers stumbled to 7-7-1 in Rodgers’ absence. The winner would earn the division crown and a home playoff game the next week. The loser’s season would be over.
Jay Cutler hit Brandon Marshall with a five-yard touchdown pass to give the Bears a 28-20 lead with 14 minutes to play, but Rodgers came marching back. Eddie Lacy cut that lead to one on the ensuing drive, then a clutch defensive stand gave the Packers the ball at their own 13 with 6:24 to play. Rodgers then precisely picked apart the Chicago defense with a litany of short plays before facing fourth-and-8 with only 46 seconds left on the clock. The veteran QB avoided pressure, rolled to his left, and uncorked a perfect deep ball to a streaking Randall Cobb. With the season on the line, Cobb hauled in the pass give his team a 48-yard game-winning touchdown.
1, 2010, Week 17 vs. the Bears, 10-3
Green Bay needed a win to make the playoffs. Chicago had already locked down the NFC North championship. But the Bears and their smothering defense had no interest in letting their arch rivals off the hook. This game was tied 3-3 at the start of the fourth quarter before Rodgers hit Donald Lee with a one-yard touchdown pass that stood as the difference between a postseason berth and a disappointing nine-win season. Four wins later, the Packers were Super Bowl champions. They beat the Bears in the NFC Championship Game to get there.