Aaron Rodgers’s prophecies tend to come true. There was his famous plea for Packers fans to “R-E-L-A-X,” and his decree that the team was “going to be OK” after a 1-2 start in 2014. Green Bay went on to make the playoffs that year. Then there was his prediction in 2016 that the team would run the table and make the playoffs after starting 4-6. This week, ahead of his first game back since breaking his collarbone in Week 6, Rodgers tried to dispel the notion that his return would magically save the Packers season.
"Hopefully it gives a lift to some of the guys,” Rodgers said, “but I'm not coming back to save this team.”
Once again, he was right. The Packers fell to the Panthers 31-24 on Sunday, and any realistic chance of Green Bay making the playoffs is essentially gone. If they do miss the cut, this will be the first time the Packers miss the playoffs since 2008, Rodgers’s first year as a starter.
Rodgers finished Sunday’s game with 26 completions on 45 attempts for 290 yards, and three touchdowns to three interceptions. It was the first time he’s thrown three picks in a game since 2009. Throughout the contest Rodgers looked like himself: an elite quarterback, though one who has barely practiced in two months and is still recovering from surgery that required 13 screws in his collarbone. He still had magic in his legs, rushing six times for 43 yards and picking up a few first downs, and he kept plays alive by miraculously finding open receivers after escaping the Carolina pass rush.
But he also underthrew receivers throughout the game, and missed throws that in the past would have resulted in first downs or touchdowns.
Welcome back, Aaron Rodgers!!!!! pic.twitter.com/bNFle5Fyho— Troy Hughes™ (@TommySledge) December 17, 2017
Despite being in subpar form, Rodgers still almost willed the team to victory in what could have been another miraculous comeback added to the Book of Aaron. Down 14 with less than four minutes to play, Rodgers led a touchdown drive that cut Green Bay’s deficit to seven. Then, Green Bay came up with the onside kick, and suddenly Rodgers had 2:40 to lead another touchdown drive to tie the game. Less than a minute later, though, wide receiver Geronimo Allison caught a pass from Rodgers, turned upfield, and promptly fumbled. Carolina recovered, and that play ended the game, and likely Green Bay’s season.
Though there were moments during the last minutes of Sunday’s matchup that had a vintage Rodgers feel, and as much as it looked like he might pull off another impossible victory, he already told us what was going to happen. Rodgers couldn’t save the Packers this year, and at 7-7, their postseason hopes are all but extinguished.