How quickly the tides turn in the NFL. When the Green Bay Packers were 6-0 and coming off a 27-20 win over San Diego on October 18, most of the NFL anointed the Packers NFC Champions and were ready to hand Aaron Rodgers another League MVP award.
Good thing we don’t hand those out until the season ends, because since that victory, Green Bay has lost four of its last five, including a tough 17-13 stunner to the struggling Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving night.
With the Bears ahead, 17-13, Rodgers threw a late interception, but the Packers got the ball back and marched down inside the Bears' 10-yard line in the game's final minute. But incompletion after incompletion followed, and Rodgers' fourth-down pass bounced away, preventing what would have been another crushing loss for the Bears, who hung on for a win to boost their record to 5-6.
"It’s a game I’ll never forget,” said Bears defensive end Willie Young, who’d never won at Lambeau Field as a Bear or Detroit Lion but marked this night, with a sack of Rodgers. “The only thing I didn’t get to do was shake Brett Favre’s hand.”
In fact, Rodgers has been anything but stellar during this tumultuous period, which makes sense considering he is the straw that stirs the Packers’ drink. On a night when the “other” two greatest QBs (Bart Starr and Brett Favre) in Packers history were honored and Favre’s No. 4 was retired, Rodgers, who has a 60.5 career completion percentage, connected on just 51.2 percent of his targets, looked rather pedestrian and had a season-low QB rating of 62.4.
Over the last five games in which the Packers have gone 1-4 and fell to second place in the NFC North behind the surging Vikings, Rodgers has a 54.28 completion percentage. He does have nine TDs and just two picks over that span, but those stats (as stats can often be) are misleading.
He hasn’t been the same QB that started the season with three straight games with a QB rating over 116. Instead of wondering if Rodgers will win another MVP Award, the Packers are now more concerned with their 7-4 record and suspect play as we enter the stretch run of the regular season.
Rodgers is a popular guy. The Discount Double Check commercials have made him an icon beyond the gridiron, however we have to call a spade a spade and the guy hasn’t been very good for a few games now.
Cam Newton has jetted by him as the top candidate for NFL MVP honors, especially after another stellar performance in leading the 11-0 Carolina Panthers to a 33-14 cakewalk over the Cowboys earlier in the day. Newton didn't have gaudy stats, but once again, it was obvious that he was the best player on the field and everything he did counted towards the victory. The "Don of Dab" scored Carolina's only offensive touchdown on a 4-yard run and he had 183 yards passing with several key third-down conversions and another 45 yards rushing.
Conversely, Rodgers has lacked his usual poise, leadership and accuracy. Defenses are giving him the business and Green Bay is playing like a team with more pressure than a brother facing a 3-to-9 on Rikers Island. His season QB rating of 97.4 is well below his career average of 105.1 as well.
The Packers, once division killers, have pumped playoff life into their division rivals, losing to Detroit (who mashed the Eagles 45-14 in the first of three Thanksgiving NFL games) and Chicago in their last three games. The only saving grace was a 30-13 win over Minnesota , but statistically he got manhandled by Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater.
Rodgers is considered to be a future Hall of Famer, following in the footsteps of his legendary QB predecessors, who embraced each other on the field following Favre’s halftime speech. During his illustrious career Favre’s fire and fury inspired the Packers to many a comeback win, but even the emotion of the night couldn’t affect the outcome.
As Green Bay battles for the division crown and now, a playoff berth, HC Mike McCarthy will have to do some soul-searching to right this ship and Rodgers will have to start balling like the best QB in the nation and stop falling back on his reputation. If we are going to shower a guy with props, then we must call him to the mat when he’s not getting it done. And right now, the great Aaron Rodgers needs to regain his funk flow, regain his swagger and what began as a cakewalk to the NFC North crown has become a test of will, desire and the ability of the game’s most efficient signal caller.
Both offenses struggled to move the ball, but that’s the Bears M.O. anyway. The Packers outgained the Bears, 365-290, and had advantages in first downs, total plays, yards per play and rushing yards. But the Bears won the turnover battle, 2-0.
Rodgers has thrown 249 regular-season touchdown passes to just 60 interceptions in his career, but as we are quickly learning, sometimes being efficient doesn’t make you effective when your team needs you to make game-changing plays.