For the all fun Rodgers has had with people who wonder if he can still do at age 37 what he did at, say, 27, when he won the Super Bowl, review the film of Green Bay’s 27-17 win over the Steelers on Sunday at Lambeau Field. And not just Rodgers’ 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, although he admitted to thinking about those who have questioned whether his physical skills have begun to decline.
Rodgers went into scramble mode on that second-and-goal play and even though at the last second he saw receiver Randall Cobb, who was on his way to a big game, he decided against the throw and chanced it with his feet.
Rodgers has become fond of giving Green Bay Press-Gazette columnist Pete Dougherty, who earlier this year asked Rodgers how he has had to change the way he plays as he’s aged, a hard time.
“I probably could have dotted [Cobb], but Pete’s been talking all this trash about my athleticism,” Rodgers said with a smile. “So not that I made a big statement tonight, but it’s good to get in the end zone.”
Sunday’s game was less about Rodgers’ run and more about his continued efficiency since the dud to start the season, the 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Three straight wins later, and Rodgers has begun to round back into form.
Sunday was his 18th career game with at least two passing and one rushing touchdown. According to Elias, that broke a tie with former 49ers quarterback Steve Young for the second-most such games in NFL history, trailing only former Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s 21.
Forget that Rodgers tied former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino for sixth on the all-time touchdown pass list with 420 because even Roethlisberger reached 400 TDs on Sunday. Instead, remember how Rodgers finds ways to win, while Roethlisberger hasn’t gotten the Steelers (1-3) going.
On Sunday, Rodgers went to his hand-picked target Cobb (five catches, 69 yards. two TDs) and relied on the running back combination of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon (who combined for 196 total yards on 34 touches). With the help of Cobb’s work in the slot, Rodgers threw for 171 yards and a touchdown between the painted numbers on the field, his most since Week 4 of 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Since the loss to the Saints, he has averaged 9.1 yards per attempt with four touchdowns and no interceptions in the middle of the field compared with 4.9 yards with no touchdowns and two picks on such throws in the opener.
“He looks great,” said Cobb, who returned to the Packers in July via trade at Rodgers’ request after spending 2019 with the Cowboys and 2020 with the Texans. “I haven't seen any change from whenever I was here before.”
And that includes Rodgers’ run.
“I thought he was going to give me that one, too, actually,” Cobb said. “I popped open in the back of the end zone. I don’t know if he had crossed the line of scrimmage or not yet. I was joking with him after that, ‘You’ve still got some moves.’ It’s great to see him scramble around, get out of the pocket and make something happen.”
What’s more, Rodgers and the offense have done it without their two best offensive linemen. All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari hasn’t played this season while recovering from ACL surgery and Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins, who moved over to left tackle, has missed the last two games because of an ankle injury. Throw in receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who went on injured reserve Saturday because of a hamstring injury, and Rodgers has had to do as much as ever.
“We put a lot on his plate in terms of getting us in the right play,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said.
“Certainly, he has free rein out there to do what he thinks is best for our team. There’s the ultimate trust there and he’s earned that and he’s earned that throughout the course of his career. He’s just a guy that, even when we have certain criteria for our ‘can’ plays [with options], sometimes he doesn’t always follow it but, you ask him why, and he just is able to see things that you’re like, ‘Oh, great job.’ He can cover up any holes in our plan, really.”
While it’s 10 games -- and counting -- since Rodgers’ last 300-yard regular-season game back on Nov. 22, 2020, in an overtime loss to the Colts and it’s two games shy of the longest such streak of his career, he has the Packers at 3-1 heading to Cincinnati this week.
“I wanna be able to play the way I've played,” Rodgers said. “I'm not playing the way I played in '11 from a physical standpoint, but I'm smarter and I wanna keep being able to run bootlegs and extend plays when I can.”