by Mark Metzler
Packer fans will be talking about this one for years, and I’m sure Aaron Rodgers’ performance on Sunday will be referenced when he’s inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Rodgers was at his best in the 24-23 victory against the Chicago Bears, playing on an injured left leg in the second half that had taken him out of the game and into the locker room in the first half.
The Packers and Bears have been grinding it out since 1921, and the Packers were the ones doing the grinding in the first half. Not pretty. The team was down 17-0 at the half and then 20-0 before the Rodgers could bring them back.
The Bears came out looking like a new version of the Monsters of the Midway, instead of the old incompetent Bears that I’ve grown so comfortable in seeing over the past few decades.
The Bears had a good game plan. When the Bears started with a 10-play, 86-yard drive, I looked to see if Dom Capers was still calling the defensive plays for the Packers. He wasn’t, but it sure looked like it. To Mitch Trubisky’s credit, he actually looked like the second overall pick. He was sharp, completing most of his passes in the first half. The Bears’ offensive line played well, and I wish the Packers had the Bears’ running backs of Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard. Kudos to their new coach.
Then there was Khalil Mack. I was sorry to see that the Bears traded for Khalil Mack. He’s an exceptional football player and one I was hoping the Packers would get – sort of like the Reggie White signing on the way to Super Bowl 31. Like White, he has the reputation of being a good teammate. To say he had an impact is an understatement. It started early before Rodgers got hurt. Then there was the strip sack of Deshone Kizer with the Packers in position for at least a field goal. And then the interception return of a Kizer pass for a touchdown. The rest of the defense is good. They should have a good year.
It was ugly at the half, and Packer fans were waiting to hear about the severity of Rodgers’ injury. Would he be out for the game? For the season? There was no way that I expected him to come back in the second half, but there he was, ready to play again.
His numbers in the second half were 17-23, 273 yards and three touchdowns. It was amazing watching him limp around, unable to move like we’ve become accustomed to him moving, and completing pass after pass. Gutty. One of his best games ever. Even more miraculously, the weak offensive-line play of the first half turned solid, and the questionable defense of the first half ended only giving up two field goals in the second half.
The secondary play is much improved, and there wasn’t any quit in the team. A comeback like that is going to provide a great lift. I am optimistic. The team is going to need to play well against the Vikings this Sunday.
As I read Mike Marek’s excellent Vikings column last week, his use of a Bob Marley line made me think of my favorite Marley line: “None but ourselves can free our minds.” While it isn’t the best English, it’s certainly meaningful, especially as we look to this year’s first Packers/Vikings game.
Marley is saying it is all about what we believe, and fans for both teams profess to believe that their team will triumph. But do they really? Packer fans do. The belief is based on a tradition of success, and the fact that Rodgers is the quarterback doesn’t hurt. Viking fans, I’m not so sure. They always seem to be waiting for the next shoe to drop. They seem skittish. I would be, too. But I admire their resiliency, and they do have a very good team.
In the end, it won’t be enough. It should be a good game, maybe even a great game. Look for the Packers to prevail at historic Lambeau Field 24-17.