Through the first six games of the NFL season, all was well in Green Bay. Then Aaron Rodgers, like Austin Powers before him, mysteriously lost his Mojo. But then, last Thursday night in Detroit, he worked some of his old magic…
In 2014, Rodgers and the Packers were flying high going into the NFC championship game. Rodgers would go on to win the MVP, and after Morgan Burnett picked off Russell Wilson with the Pack up nine late in the game, it looked like the town-team hero would be back in the Big Game. Of course, calamity after calamity quickly followed and soon the Pack was eliminated. But the consensus in sports is after a heartbreaking loss in the playoffs one year, that team will come out with a passion the following season. After a long and anxious off-season, this certainly seemed true of the Packers. Rodger’s team bolted to a 6-0 start, and spirits were high in Wisconsin going into the bye.
But soon strange things started happening.
After back to back losses to quality teams on the road, Packer Backers assumed A-Rod would right the ship at Lambeau against Detroit, a place the Lions hadn’t won since 1991. But Rodgers was not his usual self and the Pack came up short, with a failed two-point conversion pass being the difference. After a bounce back win against Minnesota, Rodgers struggled again and was out-dueled by Jay Cutler. Green Bay had the ball at the two needing a touchdown to win, but somehow couldn’t punch it in. Now behind the Vikings in the NFC North, the Packers desperately needed a win in Detroit.
After the Packers fell behind 17-0 after one, the situation was desperate. True, the team would battle back to cut the deficit to 23-21. But considering the team needed to go 79 yards in one play, it all seemed much to little, much to late. But could the Lions find a way to lose again?
Since no quarterback can throw the football 80 yards, the Packers had to resort to lateraling the ball back and forth, a desperate strategy. When Rodgers was met face-to-face with two Lions defenders on his own 24 yard line, all hope seemed snuffed out.
But wait…a flag. Was there a glimmer of life?
Indeed, Devin Taylor was called for a controversial face mask on the game ending tackle. The Packers had one last chance. Detroit did not bother putting their best Hail Mary defender, Calvin Johnson, in the game, figuring another absurd lateral sequence was coming. Detroit only rushed three in a prevent look, but still Rodgers was almost sacked at the 23. He ultimately avoided the rush, and uncorked the biggest throw he could muster, over 60 yards into the end zone.
When Jay Cutler tried it against the Packers, it was picked off. When Tom Brady tried it against the Giants, it fell harmlessly incomplete. But for the Packers to salvage a season that was falling apart fast, this Hail Mary needed to be caught.
And it was. By none other than Rodgers himself–Richard Rodgers, that is. Somehow, in the mob of humanity in the Detroit end zone, R-Rod got in front of all the defenders and snagged the pass before tumbling to the ground. A-Rod, bringing back memories of Favre in the Super Bowl, ran down the field with his helmet off to join his jubilant teammates. For one night at least, Rodgers was the star yet again.
Time will tell how we remember Rodger’s heave. Will it be the catalyst the team needed in route to another Super Bowl title? Or will it just be a wondrous, spellbinding fluke? The Packers still have much work to do to clinch the division, let alone win everything. But one thing is for sure: Rodgers will never surpass Thursday’s heroics.