Rodgers Takes Lead in Hot Start to December

Bill Huber

The Green Bay Packers are pushing toward the playoffs. To take that push from December to January and potentially the first Sunday of February, Aaron Rodgers knows what needs to happen.

“I’ve got to take the lead and get hot in December,” Rodgers said on Wednesday.

Rodgers did his part on Sunday against the Giants. Coming off a bitterly disappointing performance at San Francisco, Rodgers threw four touchdown passes vs. zero interceptions in toppling the Giants 31-13. It was more than the touchdowns, though.

It was the toughness. On a 43-yard bomb to Allen Lazard on the opening possession, he stood in the pocket and got belted by Leonard Williams. That connection set up his first touchdown. Then, on a fourth-and-10 late in the third quarter after the Giants had pulled within 17-13, Rodgers again stood in the pocket, took a shot from Markus Golden but hit Geronimo Allison for a first down. It might have been the biggest play of the game.

It was the mental game. Continuing with the drive prolonged by the fourth-down play to Allison, Rodgers caught the Giants with 12 players on the field, hustled the offense to the line and hit Davante Adams for a huge insurance touchdown.

It was the desire. On second-and-goal from the 1 midway through the fourth quarter, Rodgers wriggled his way out of a sack and hit Marcedes Lewis for the clinching touchdown.

“You don’t see many people that are physically capable of making that play,” coach Matt LaFleur said on Monday. “There were a number of other plays in that game where you’re just like, ‘Wow.’ You know? But that’s the standard that he’s set because he’s done it so many times.”

When Rodgers gets hot, all things are possible. In 2010, after suffering a concussion against Detroit and missing the following week’s game against New England, Rodgers returned to face the Giants in a must-win game in Week 16. He threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns to jump-start a sprint to a Super Bowl championship. In 2014, Rodgers threw 22 touchdowns vs. two interceptions as the Packers won eight of nine games to reach the NFC Championship Game. In 2016, during his famed running of the table, Rodgers threw 21 touchdowns vs. one interception during an eight-game winning streak that resulted in an unlikely NFC Championship Game appearance.

Against the Giants, Rodgers completed 21-of-33 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns, good for a 125.4 passer rating. At 9-3, the Packers will return home to face Washington (3-9) and Chicago (6-6) – teams with two-game winning streaks – before a showdown at Minnesota that could decide the NFC North. A trip to Detroit will conclude the regular season.

“We’re right in the mix where we want to be, playing meaningful games in December,” Rodgers said last week. “But I think we’ve got to play a little bit better moving forward if we want to get to where we want to go. This team has obviously a lot of goals. It starts with the North and everything kind of opens up from there. The key is for us, we just have to stay healthy, but we have to play a little bit better in all three phases. Offensively, I’ve got to take the lead and get hot in December here and we’ve got to start finding ways to get the ball to our guys all the time, and then the defense has to do their part and special teams has to play well. If we do those things, I like the talent of our football team, I like the spirit and chemistry, and I think we’ve got a chance to be in the mix.”

Video: Aaron Rodgers on "important" win over Giants