It seemed for a moment like Aaron Rodgers, the king of the Hail Mary and the man who once correctly predicted his Green Bay Packers would “run the table” to make the playoffs, had another miracle left.
Rodgers, in his first game back after suffering a broken collarbone on Oct. 15, tried to rally his team from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers. Rodgers’ third touchdown of the day in the final three minutes of regulation gave them hope, as it cut the Panthers’ lead to 31-24. Then they were very much alive when Panthers rookie running back Christian McCaffrey muffed an onside kick and the Packers recovered.
But the dream died when receiver Geronimo Allison caught a pass over the middle and cornerback James Bradberry forced a fumble that the Panthers recovered with 1:48 left. The Panthers won 31-24, which practically ends the Packers season. It might end Rodgers’ season too, if the Packers play it safe.
The 7-7 Packers will be officially eliminated if the Atlanta Falcons beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night, according to NFL Research. Then the real question will be what to do with Rodgers the rest of the way. It seems foolish to keep starting him, after a quick comeback from a broken collarbone, if there’s no chance at making the playoffs. Even if the Falcons lose on Monday, the Packers would need a miracle over the final two weeks to get in.
Rodgers had moments where you were reminded he’s one of the best quarterbacks ever. He made some nice throws, and it really seemed like he was going to lead the Packers to a game-tying touchdown before Allison’s fumble. Rodgers also had some rust, which is understandable. And with every hit he took, the Packers had to be holding their breath. And Rodgers got hit a lot.
Rodgers’ rust showed on some errant passes, and definitely on his three interceptions. One pick came when he tried a tough throw under pressure, which he can often pull off when he’s healthy, but it was underthrown and picked off. His second interception, he didn’t seem to account for the linebacker in the middle of the field, a mistake he wouldn’t generally make if he hadn’t missed a couple months. His third interception came when he was getting hit.
Rodgers showed toughness is hurrying back from a serious injury to try to help the Packers make an improbable playoff push. It was fun to see him back on the field after it seemed his season was over. However, if the Falcons win on Monday night and the Packers are officially eliminated, Rodgers’ next regular-season snap should probably come in 2018.
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