Courted by a quarterback

Aaron Rodgers wooed me last night. And I can’t lie, it was kind of nice. I haven’t TiVo’d an NFL Network replay in a while. When I saw the Wild Card game between Arizona and Green Bay, I had to watch that.

It featured the most points scored in an NFL playoff game. It featured two of the top quarterbacks in the league. The Cardinals had made an improbable playoff run the year before and had Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald. In what must be a playoff tradition, Anquan Boldin was out with an injury. Aaron Rodgers was in his first playoff game. The Packers had just scored the most regular season points in franchise history. It looked like an epic game.

It came close to being an epic blowout. For a game with such offensive firepower, the difference came down to two defensive plays. It was pitch and catch with Wamer hitting Steve Breaston and Early Doucet a lot. The Packers had two early turnovers and couldn’t get the offense untracked. Leading 17-0 and close to the red zone, Warner hit Fitzgerald over the middle. Charles Woodson stripped the ball and the Packers had life. Later in the game I saw their punter bouncing the ball off the turf. He wouldn’t make it back in the game. Since the game skips plays I can’t be 100% certain, but it looks like the Packers scored on their next seven possessions.
And it wasn’t like the Cardinals put their foot off the accelerator. After the Packers scored their first touchdown, the Cardinals struck back. Leading 24-10 at the half, the Cardinals scored what looked like a game-clinching touchdown to make it 31-10. After Green Bay scored, recovered an onside kick, and scored again, the Cardinals added another touchdown to pad a 38-24 lead.

I’m not talking about Rodgers enough. He got sacked a lot last year. The offensive line wasn’t great. On one red-zone play the Cardinals blitzed defensive backs from both corners. Rodgers flushed right and completed a pass for a first down. He’s a very mobile quarterback who almost always looks to pass rather than run. I think I saw one scramble the entire game. One thing that surprised me about the game was that Jermichael Finley seemed to be covered by a cornerback when the Cardinals bothered to have a man on him. On a third down play, Rodgers just heaved the ball up 40 yards and hoped that Finley caught it. He did. While Rodgers spread the ball around, Finley and Greg Jennings were his main men. Jennings had one of the best touchdown catches I’ve seen ever when he ducked inside, turned his head, and stuck one hand out to slow down a Rodgers fastball and cradle it for a score.

The defenses couldn’t stop anyone. The Packers tied the game. The Cardinals scored another touchdown. The Packers tied it at 45 with less than two minutes. The Cardinals easily got into field goal range. Neil Rackers missed an easy kick. Later the coach said that they threw Rackers out there without much of a warm up and he rushed the kick. I see why the team moved on without him. Assuming Arizona fans didn’t just discover their team last year, a loss would have been devastating.

The Packers got the ball in OT and the assumption was that they’d score and win, taking their first lead only in the extra session. On the first play Rodgers missed Jennings on a post. That’s what was amazing about the game. There were no bombs. Every scoring drive took time.

On third down the Cardinals blitzed Mike Adams, a cornerback who had been torched all day. He got a hand in, knocked the ball out of Rodgers’ hand, and Rodgers’ foot kicked the ball to Karlos Dansby who trotted in for the winning score. It was exactly how no one would have predicted the game to end.

Despite the final turnover, Rodgers really wears that uniform, know what I mean?

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