Cal Football: Former Bears Teammates Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch Clash in NFL Playoffs

Marshawn Lynch scores against the EaglesPhoto by Bill Streicher - USA TODAY Sports

Jake Curtis

Sunday will be the clash of former Cal titans Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch, who both played for the Bears in their ill-fated 2004 season. 

aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers - Photo by Raj Mehta, USA TODAY Sports

But before that we have the surprising NFL playoff debut on another ex-Cal star.

When the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens face the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, most eyes will be on Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. But providing some of the running room will be none other than Patrick Mekari, who played for Cal just last season and is listed as Baltimore’s starting center for Saturday’s game.

Mekari, an offensive tackle at Cal, was an undrafted free agent, who surprisingly made the Ravens’ 53-man roster. His versatility was one of the reasons he was kept, and that came in handy when starting center Matt Skura was injured. So now Mekari will be starting a playoff game at a position he hasn’t played since high school, having been a guard and tackle at Cal.

His first start was opposite Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, a two-time NFL defensive player of the year. 

He talks about his new starting role in the video here. 

Patrick Mekari
Patrick Mekari

Ravens coach John Harbaugh presents him with a game ball after his first start in the video here.

That game sets the stage for Sunday’s Packers-Seahawks game.

That contest will feature Packers’ quarterback Rodgers, who finished ninth in the 2004 Heisman Trophy voting in his final year at Cal, and Seahawks running back Lynch, who was in the Cal backfield with Rodgers in 2004, the year Texas and Mack Brown stole the Rose Bowl berth from the Bears. 

You remember that season, right? Cal was fourth in both the final AP and coaches polls, and a top-four finish would have put Cal in the Rose Bowl. But the computers and some lobbying by Brown helped Texas surpass Cal for the fourth spot in the final BCS standings, putting the Longhorns in the Rose Bowl. (Click here if you can't recall the specifics of that sad drama.)

In 2016, Rodgers showed in the video below that he still has not forgiven Brown:

Lynch gained 624 yards on the ground in 2004 as the Bears' No. 2 back behind J.J. Arrington, and Lynch went on to become the Pac-10 offensive player of year in 2006, his final season at Cal.

Now he has come out of retirement to play for the Seahawks this season.

And Pete Carroll said early this week that Lynch will get a lot more carries against Green Bay than he did in the win over the Eagles.

Carroll and Lynch talk about his performance against the Eagles in the video here. Yes, Marshawn did speak to the media, albeit briefly.

Click here for audio of Lynch's postgame comments.

Rodgers had some interesting things to say too, as you will note below:

Questions abound. 

Can Lynch, at age 33 and away from the game for a year, regain the form that enabled him to have six 1,000-yard seasons?

Can Rodgers, at age 36, come up big in the playoffs after what was, for him, a mediocre regular season?

Other former Cal players will also play prominent roles this weekend.

Bryan Anger, a two-time all-conference pick while at Cal, does the punting for the Houston Texans, who will take on the Kansas Chiefs and offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz, an all-conference player at Cal and a 2018 All-Pro pick in the NFL.