It wasn’t a Willis Reed sighting but Aaron Rodgers came out of the tunnel and the Lambeau Faithful erupted. Fighting through a painful calf strain, Rodgers returned to lead Green Bay to their fourth straight NFC North championship as the Packers defeated the Detroit Lions 30-20.
We’re not positive of the exact injury Rodgers suffered. It could’ve been re-aggravated from the cramps in Tampa last week going from hot to cold. It could’ve been the 20 yard scramble for the first down just prior to the actual fall. It could’ve been the sheer adrenaline rush stepping up in the pocket, limping towards the endzone, and tossing the ball to a wide open Randall Cobb for the touchdown.
But watching the leader of the Pack go down gave flashbacks for Cheeseheads everywhere. We all remember the agony of searching for a quality backup to at least manage the game.
And the fact that Rodgers wasn’t even hit made things more troubling. The worst injuries occur when untouched.Aaron Rodgers collapsed but not before hitting Randall Cobb for the touchdown.
Despite all these horrific things going through our minds, it was such a heroic display to watch Rodgers do everything in his power to not quit. He hobbled on one leg out of the pocket and with a desperation heave, gave his team a 14 point lead all before his collapse.
The MVP candidate was carted off but boy, it was perfect timing when he walked back out. The Lions already tied it at 14 and backup qb Matt Flynn just took a sack. And all of the sudden, number 12 starts throwing on the sideline.
With a great kickstart in the special teams as Micah Hyde ran back his second punt return touchdown of the year, Eddie Lacy set the tone hitting 100 yards.
The defense rallied flying to the ball, even forcing their first safety all season. You can really sense the whole team playing already with playoff intensity.
All Rodgers had to do was not make any mistakes. But of course, injured, hurt, or not, he couldn’t help but be himself.
He threw for 226 yards, two td’s both to Randall Cobb and added a rushing score on a qb sneak on the goal line.
Along with celebrating the win heading towards the playoff party, a milestone was set Sunday in Lambeau Field. Jordy Nelson set the single-season franchise record as the first Packer to reach 1,500 receiving yards.Jordy Nelson finished the year with 98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Think of all the Green Bay greats: Don Hutson, Sterling Sharpe, Donald Driver, but it’s Jordy Nelson, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl this year, who broke a record eclipsing for more receiving yards than any other in the most storied franchise. This mark earns his name as a legend already in company with others in legendary Lambeau Field.
Nelson and Cobb have become arguably the most dangerous receiving duo both with over 1,000 yards combining for 25 touchdowns.
Sadly, despite all the hard earned accolades, this game will also be remembered as another piece of the pattern in Ndamukong Suh’s reputation as a dirty player. Suh was caught stepping on Rodgers’ injured calf after knocking him down. Acting as if it was an accident, Suh appealed his suspension, but we can’t help but remember the “Thanksgiving Day Stomp” where he also blatantly stepped on a Packer.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy said postgame regarding Suh’s stomp, “There’s no place for it.”
Both teams made the playoffs but while Lions sit on the end as the sixth seed, they’re on the road to Dallas for Wild Card Weekend, with Suh no less as he fought suspension for his “foul play”.
The Packers on the other hand won and clinched the second seed earning them a much needed week off giving Rodgers more time to heal as well as homefield advantage where the Pack attack is (8-0).
As they await the winners of Dallas vs. Detroit and Carolina vs. Arizona to see who’s coming to Lambeau. Whoever it is, it’s one hot ticket to the frozen tundra.