GREEN BAY, Wis. -- No one among the 77,856 fans at Lambeau Field has a vote for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award, but that didn’t stop them from trying to stump for their quarterback.
The way Aaron Rodgers played in Saturday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, he might not need the chants of “MVP, MVP” to influence the balloting. Rodgers was equal parts technician and magician in the Green Bay Packers’ 38-25 Christmas Eve win.
He carved up the Vikings with some pinpoint throws on the way to three first-half touchdown passes and also somehow escaped pressure on the way to a 6-yard touchdown scramble. Only four other quarterbacks have thrown three touchdown passes and rushed for another in a single half in the past five seasons.
And his toughness was on full display as well when two Vikings -- linebacker Eric Kendricks and defensive end Danielle Hunter -- sandwiched Rodgers in the third quarter, leaving him on the ground. Rodgers, however, returned without missing a play until coach Mike McCarthy pulled him late in the fourth quarter after he threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns.
Perhaps Rodgers’ early-season struggles will keep him from winning the NFL’s highest individual honor for the third time in his career, but even if he’s not the MVP, there may not be anyone playing any better at the most critical time of the year.
"I think he’s an MVP," McCarthy said. "There’s no question about it. He’s been playing at an MVP level for a number of years, and that was an MVP performance. There’s no question about it. I don’t want to disrespect the other players who are having great years but he’s the best player in the National Football League, in my opinion."
What’s more important than that, as the Packers are 9-6 and a win away from the NFC North title? They would secure it -- plus the home playoff game that goes with it -- if they beat the Detroit Lions in next Sunday’s regular-season finale.
Saturday was Rodgers’ fifth 300-yard passing game of the season, and it was the first time anyone has done that against Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s defense this season. He surpassed the 4,000-yard passing mark in a season for the sixth time -- a franchise record -- and also set the team record for completions in a season when he connected on his 373rd pass midway through the fourth quarter.
In the Packers' current five-game winning streak, Rodgers has thrown 11 touchdowns without an interception and has 1,367 yards while completing 71.4 percent of his passes. That's a passer rating for 119.8.
Back to what Rodgers did, specifically, for his MVP chances Saturday.
He had just as many touchdown passes in the first half as he did incompletions. He was 19-of-22 for 268 yards. He threw one ball away on purpose, Davante Adams dropped one and Ty Montgomery couldn’t handle another.
When he found Richard Rodgers for a 13-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, he became just the second quarterback with four passing touchdowns and a rushing score in a game this season (Drew Brees was the other).
He threw two first-half touchdown passes to Jordy Nelson -- Nos. 58 and 59 of their careers together. They came into the game tied with Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman for the most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver combination in Packers history.
The master of the back-shoulder throw, Rodgers placed one perfectly to Adams for a 20-yard touchdown.
"From the first throw today, I was in a different head space," Rodgers said. "I just felt that I was, for whatever reason, at a heightened awareness and focus and I was seeing things better. I was playing slower in my mind from the start. A good place to be at. You wish you could harness that every single game, that feeling. But definitely was in a good head space starting the game."
And then as if to show everyone that his strained right calf was no longer a problem, he avoided Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen on the way to a 6-yard touchdown scramble in which he covered about 20 yards. When he jumped into the north end zone for his Lambeau leap, the crowd broke out in an “MVP, MVP” chant.
"The guy’s playing banged up and he’s playing even better since he’s been banged up," Adams said. "He’s turned this thing around."