Since he took over in 2008, I have taken every opportunity I could to rip Aaron Rodgers for all of his shortcomings. Those feelings of hostility occurred mostly because I thought so highly of Brett Favre, but also because he always seemed to get outperformed by other quarterbacks in big games. I maintained that Rodgers would never win a big game against a big-time quarterback. However, over the last two weeks, Mr. Rodgers has made a believer out of me.
It all started in Philadelphia. Lincoln Financial Field has served as a House of Horrors for the Packers over the last several years. I’ve watched the Packers walk into that building (and the old Vet) and lose in heartbreaking fashion, and I’ve watched them lose in blowout fashion. Even the mighty Brett Favre could never conquer the Conquer the City of Brotherly Love.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote that in order for the Packers to win he’d have to play like Vick did against Green Bay in the Playoffs eight years ago. He did. #12 threw for less than 200 yards, but also had three touchdowns, completed two-thirds of his passes and committed zero turnovers. Rodgers would have thrown for bigger numbers if not for conservative play calling in the second half. It didn’t matter. The Packers jumped out to a 14-0 lead and the Eagles never recovered, losing 21-16. Win a big game on the road against an elite quarterback: check.
Then last week Rodgers turned in--wait for it--the single greatest playoff performance from a quarterback that I have ever seen. Yes, I admit it. Rodgers played at a level impossible to stop. His numbers? Gaudy. 31-36/366/4 total touchdowns, but his numbers don’t do the game justice. The accuracy of the throws, his ability to shed tacklers and escape the pocket, the velocity of his throws; they all jumped off the TV screen. Did I mention he did it on the road against the number one seed in the NFC whose quarterback had just two career losses at home? Rodgers played his best career game to date against his toughest opponent to date in the most hostile environment imaginable. Signature career game in the playoffs on the road against an elite quarterback: check.
After three years I have run out of arguments against Rodgers. Before, I could lean on the fact that he always seemed to figure out ways to lose close games. He still doesn’t have a dramatic comeback win against a top notch opponent, but the fact that he has beaten two divisional winners on the road in the playoffs trumps that. He stands at the doorstep of the sport’s highest honor. Defeat seed numbers three, two and one on the road, and go to Green Bay’s first Superbowl in thirteen years. With that, he’ll force all of his critics to eat crow. I know I’ve had my fill.