GREEN BAY — Just over nine minutes of game action and halftime was all that was needed for a quiet Lambeau Field to erupt in cheers Sunday night, as Aaron Rodgers ran out of the Green Bay Packers’ locker room to his sideline after ending his first half being carted off the field.
The final 30 minutes of game play nearly brought the house down as Rodgers led the Packers to a 24-23 comeback victory.
“Tremendous lift,” Packers linebacker Blake Martinez said. “You look at ’12’ and what he’s able to do every single day in practice and obviously you saw what he was able to do tonight, you obviously want that guy on the field.”
Rodgers returned with 9 minutes, 10 seconds left in the third quarter and fired an 8-yard pass to Davante Adams on the next play. He led a 12-play drive that produced a Mason Crosby field goal that trimmed the Bears’ lead to 20-3.
The scare woke up the Packers offense, as Rodgers brought the Packers to within 20-17 with touchdown throws to Geronimo Allison and Davante Adams in the fourth quarter.
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After Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky led a 14-play, 61-yard drive that took up 6:22 and ended in a 32-yard Cody Parkey field goal to put the Bears up 23-17, Rodgers had 2:39 and 75 yards in front of him to win the game.
He only needed 26 seconds.
On 3rd-and-10, Rodgers found Randall Cobb in the middle of the field and the receiver raced up the field untouched, outrunning Khalil Mack. Rodgers drifted out of the pocket to his left, and Cobb cut away from Bears safety Eddie Jackson. It was a relatively easy pitch-and-catch and Cobb was home free.
“That’s the G.O.A.T. man,” Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark said.” That’s the G.O.A.T. He got the ball to the skill position guy sand they made plays for him. It just shows how much of a competitor he is and how much fight he has to come back, him hurting whatever he hurt, and him coming back and leading us to victory.”
It was a much different feel at the 9:22 mark of the second quarter, as a silence fell over the stadium as trainers hustled out to the Packers quarterback, who had been sacked at his own 25-yard line by Bears defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris.
“It was painful,” Rodgers said. “Got it checked out, was in some pain so we wanted to do some further tests back in the locker room area. Came back in, did some tests, felt like I couldn’t further injure it at the time, so doc and I agreed I could go back in and play.”
Rodgers got up to try and walk off, but immediately grabbed his left knee and went back to the turf. After a few more moments on the ground, he walked off – albeit gingerly – to the Packers sideline.
Rodgers spent the next Chicago possession being examined under the blue medical tent on the Packers’ sideline. At the 6:44 mark, DeShone Kizer came out to lead the Packers’ offense and Rodgers was carted to the locker room.
The Packers were trailing 10-0 at the time.
Rodgers, who missed nine games last season due to a broken collarbone suffered in Week 6 at Minnesota, had dropped back to pass on third-and-nine at his own 36 before the Bears’ defense collapsed the pocket. As Rodgers went down to take the sack, his left leg was left extended and the 294-pound Robertson-Harris dove on top of him. No flag was thrown on the play.
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To that point in the game, Rodgers was just 3-for-7 for 13 yards (42.9 percent) for a rating of 50.3. He was sacked twice.
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Rodgers went 17-for-23 for 273 yards. He wasn’t sacked again and his rating shot up to 130.7.
At halftime, the Packers deemed his return to action in the second half as questionable before he ran out of the locker room to cheers.
“Once I realized it wasn’t going to be; I wasn’t going to injure it any more if I went back out there, I realized I could put a little bit of weight on it, the adrenaline would kick in,” Rodgers said. “Playing behind Brett Favre for three years, you realize you’ve got to be tough to play this position.”
In his absence, Kizer fumbled away the ball in the Bears’ red zone on a strip-sack by Khalil Mack with three minutes to go, and then Kizer threw a pick-6 to Mack with under a minute left to give the Bears a 17-0 halftime advantage.
Rodgers had his 2013 season interrupted by the Bears when he suffered a broken collarbone at Lambeau on Nov. 4.
“This is what we’re paid to do,” Rodgers said. “We’re paid to deal with injuries and play through them. that’s what everybody’s doing and will be doing throughout this season. That’s the measure of a teammate, is what are you willing to put on the line?
“To me it’s a no-brainer. Being out there is special.”