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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers returns to form with big game

By Bill Huber, The Sports Xchange
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers returns to form with big game
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson. File photo by Jeffrey Phelps/UPI | License Photo

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- For one of the few times in his magnificent career, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers came under fire after last week's loss at Minnesota.

The Packers' two-time MVP had turnovers on the final two possessions against the Vikings, sealing the team's fate in a bitter 17-14 loss.

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Rodgers, who entered the season with an NFL-record 104.1 passer rating, had a rating of 70.7, running his streak of sub-100 games to 14. He hadn't gone more than four consecutive games in his career.

His three fumbles matched his career-worst performance. Shockingly, the Packers entered Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions with the NFL's 31st-ranked passing attack.

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Unlike 2015, when star receiver Jordy Nelson sat out the entire season with a torn ACL, there were no injury-related excuses to explain away Rodgers' struggles.

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Then came the first half of Sunday's 34-27 victory over the Lions. Rodgers completed 12 of 18 passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 137.5.

While Rodgers didn't add much to those numbers in the second half, not with Lions counterpart Matthew Stafford slinging one arrow after another, 205 passing yards, four touchdowns and 129.3 rating was enough to give the Packers a key bounce-back win.

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"He looked at me after one of the touchdowns and just kind of smiled, head-butted me and said, 'I'm back,'" right guard T.J. Lang recalled. "So it's definitely good to see him go out there and get back to his dominant fashion."

Rodgers, perhaps not willing to further the narrative that he hadn't been playing to his impeccable standards, didn't quite remember the reaction to that late second-quarter touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson the same way as Lang.

"I've always felt like myself out there," Rodgers said. "He might've misunderstood what I was saying and gave the edited version there."

Rodgers was excellent. He was accurate. He made quick decisions. He seemed comfortable in the pocket. Unlike last week, when his turnovers killed the team, he was clutch.

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Green Bay ran out the final 3:34, keyed by Rodgers' third-and-8 scramble, even though Detroit had all three timeouts to get the ball back to the red-hot Stafford.

"Aaron played well today. He played very well today," Packers coach Mike McCarthy stated matter-of-factly.

Asked if he felt better about the offense, Rodgers said, "That's for you guys to write about."

Pressed on the topic, Rodgers said, "I care about winning and then also what it feels like. We need to harness that feeling we had in the first half and keep doing that kind of stuff. That's a tough offense to stop, that first half. There are going to be games like this where we have to score 30 points to win, and we did it."

Stafford played very well, too. He completed 28 of 41 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns. Marvin Jones had a career-high 205 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions.

The Lions hogged the ball for 35 minutes, ran 17 plays, gained nearly 100 more yards and churned out five more first downs. Stafford threw one interception, when Packers cornerback Damarious Randall basically stole a ball from the mitts of tight end Eric Ebron.

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"Obviously, it's a difficult situation. We put ourselves in that situation," Stafford said. "On offense, we didn't score enough points in the first half. We had some chances down there. We just didn't put touchdowns on the board. That makes it tough.

"I'm proud of the guys for fighting back. I had a really good rhythm going there in the second half, but again I had to settle for a field goal on one of those drives. I was proud of the way we fought, we just didn't get it done."

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