GREEN BAY – After Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, Aaron Rodgers made it very clear how important the game had been to him.
“I wasn’t going to let this team beat us,” the Green Bay Packers quarterback said after completing 24 of 29 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns (130.6 rating) in the Packers’ 44-31 victory at the Metrodome.
That desire was evident in the way Rodgers ran – and opted not to slide – on three of his four scrambles in the game, when he eschewed sliding and took hits from defenders instead.
Rodgers, of course, suffered a concussion in 2010 when he didn’t slide against the Detroit Lions and took a hit that caused him to miss the following week’s game at New England.
“The first one, I was close to the first down. I feel like when you slide, they mark you down it seems farther back than where you started the slide,” Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com Tuesday. “It was third-and-6. I just wanted to make sure I got the first down, and I didn’t feel like (the defender) – I think it was (Vikings cornerback) Josh Robinson – was going to be able to get a big shot on me. Obviously I don’t want to take a big shot down there. Don’t want to have like, eight guys pushing me, which is what happened later in the game. I felt like I could not take a big shot from Josh there and still get the first down.”
Rodgers gained 12 yards on the play, more than enough to get the first down.
Asked about Rodgers not sliding on those runs, offensive coordinator Tom Clements didn’t take much of an issue with the risks Rodgers took.
“I think he was dialed in for this game and he wanted (to win). I think everyone was (dialed in), really,” Clements said. “We knew it could be a tough environment. They had a losing record going into the game obviously, but they’re a big rival and we anticipated, we were planning for a big game from them and we prepared accordingly.”
The play where Rodgers was knocked around the most was on third-and-2 from the Minnesota 4-yard line at the end of the Packers’ first drive of the third quarter. Referee Scott Green ruled that Rodgers’ forward progress had stopped after a 3-yard gain to the 1, but his offensive linemen – Josh Sitton and Don Barclay pushing, and T.J. Lang pulling – tried to get him across the goal line while three Vikings defenders had him in their grasp.
“He’s a competitor and wanted to get in the end zone,” Clements said. “You’d like to see him protect himself. But every once in a while, he’s going to do that. He came out OK.”
Rodgers said referee Scott Green told him after blowing the whistle that he was simply trying to protect Rodgers. Nevertheless, Rodgers felt like he crossed the plane of the goal line; when it was ruled that he didn’t, running back Eddie Lacy took care of the touchdown on the next play.
Rodgers said he was OK with his linemen trying to push him into the end zone because it’s safer to fall forward than be pushed back by the defense.
“I thought I was going to be able glance off of (defensive back Xavier Rhodes) and get in the end zone. He kind of stood me up a bit … and at that point, there were a lot of bodies running into me,” Rodgers said. “When I felt some presence on the back of me, I felt like if I could get my legs going a little bit, I might actually get in the end zone. I heard the whistles and was pushed into the end zone. I thought I was in initially by the run, I guess that’s yet to be determined if that was the case or not. Eddie’s happy we didn’t. Either way, we got the first down, and that’s my one time for my career doing that. It probably won’t happen again.”
Asked why the game was so important to him, Rodgers said it had nothing to do with ex-teammate Greg Jennings’ comments about him during the offseason.
“It's just an important time in our season,” Rodgers said. “I think being 4-2 with the Lions winning at the last second the way they did, just trying to get us back in first place. It's important to win your road division games. . . . I just had that feeling on the field that if I could do my job, get us in good plays, get us into good checks, that we were going to win that game. I knew I had a big role. And I wasn’t going to let that … I have an important role on this team and an important responsibility to those guys. And I just take that very seriously and didn’t feel like I was going to let those guys down.”
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