Aaron Rodgers had a brace on his injured left knee. He had blood on the white sleeve that was covering his left arm on a cool October night at Lambeau Field. He looked particularly gimpy after being sacked in the final minute of Monday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.
No matter. Even if Rodgers isn’t quite right, even if he isn’t exactly himself, he’s still plenty good enough to summon crunchtime quarterbacking magic and overcome the Green Bay Packers’ deficiencies at other spots on the field. Rodgers did it again Monday, and the Packers escaped with a 33-30 triumph over the lowly Niners on a redemptive field goal as time expired by kicker Mason Crosby.
“I appreciate Aaron getting me a little closer for the chip shot,” Crosby told ESPN soon afterward.
Said Rodgers at his postgame news conference: “It’s very apropos.”
Little has gone exactly as scripted this season for the Packers. Rodgers hurt his left knee on opening night and was taken from the field on a cart. Packers fans had visions of a repeat of last season, when Rodgers missed nine games after suffering a broken collarbone, costing the team its string of eight straight playoff appearances.
Rodgers, of course, returned to the field that night to orchestrate a dramatic comeback victory over the Chicago Bears. He has remained in the lineup ever since, sometimes looking like himself and other times, not so much.
He was said to have suffered a setback in the Packers’ previous game, a loss at Detroit. Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young said at halftime of the ESPN broadcast Monday that it was clear to him Rodgers isn’t healthy, that Rodgers can’t plant his leg and drive through his throws like he’d want to, that Rodgers can’t move as he’d wish.
Yet even on such a night, Rodgers threw for 425 yards and two touchdowns on 25-for-46 passing. And that came without injured wide receivers Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison.
The Packers needed all of Rodgers’s exploits. They struggled against the 49ers, arguably the NFL’s worst team after losing their own franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, to a season-ending knee injury. Fill-in quarterback C.J. Beathard provided first-half touchdown passes of 67 and 30 yards to wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.
The Packers trailed, 24-20, at halftime. They still were behind, 30-23, late in the fourth quarter. Then Rodgers went to work.
He tied the game with a touchdown lob to wide receiver Davante Adams with less than two minutes remaining. The Niners had their chance to win after a long kickoff return and a late hit out of bounds called on the Packers. But Beathard threw an interception.
The Packers had their final drive extended on an illegal contact penalty against cornerback Richard Sherman on a third-down sack, the play on which Rodgers appeared to aggravate his knee injury. Even so, he scrambled for 21 yards on the next play then had a trio of completions on sideline patterns as the 49ers inexplicably allowed Green Bay’s wideouts to repeatedly get out of bounds.
That made things relatively easy for Crosby, who made the winning kick from 27 yards. It was the fourth field goal in four attempts on the night for Crosby, who rebounded from a career-worst performance against the Lions in which he missed four field goals and an extra point.
“He had a rough one last week,” Rodgers told ESPN. “But we love Mase …. That was a big kick for us. It’s gonna be a nice bye week.”
The Packers enter their bye with a record of 3-2-1, tied with the Minnesota Vikings and all but tied with the 3-2 Bears atop the NFC North. Rodgers now has some time for his knee to heal a bit. He is lobbying to play without a brace after the bye. The Packers’ season still has possibilities, although their immediate post-bye schedule brings road games in L.A. against the mighty Rams and then at New England.
“It’s rest,” Rodgers said. “And then we look at our schedule and it gets really tough. We’re gonna find out what kind of team we are.”
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