DETROIT -- They’re the plays that perhaps only a handful -- if even that many -- of quarterbacks can make. And Aaron Rodgers makes them time and again.
The New York Giants, who await the NFC North champion Packers (10-6) in a wild-card game at Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon, surely took note of what the two-time NFL MVP did on Sunday night. In the regular-season finale, a 31-24 win over the Detroit Lions, Rodgers made a few more of those how-did-he-do-that plays.
One of them, however, was just a little bit better than the others. A nearly nine-second dance around defenders resulted in a 10-yard touchdown pass to Geronimo Allison with 10:02 left in the game and silenced the Ford Field crowd but for a small collection of Packers fans. Rodgers spun left out of pressure and then stopped to look down the field. Seeing nothing, he again scrambled to his left and stopped once more to fire a rocket of a pass.
It was the kind of play he made consistently during the Packers’ six-game winning streak to close the regular season. In that stretch, Rodgers threw 15 touchdowns -- including four on Sunday night -- without an interception after he suggested the Packers could “run the table” following their 4-6 start. The one to Allison was his 39th of the season, which ensured he would lead the league for the first time in his career.
"He’s a great player and I think the biggest thing that gets lost in this is great players make other players so much better, make the players better around him," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "So just particularly in the passing game, extending plays versus a rush that was relentless. It obviously factored big time, particularly on the touchdown to Geronimo. That’s about as fine of a play extension that, obviously it’s not his best one ever, but it’s up there. Great throw and Geronimo did a great job working that back line."
To cap it off, he threw touchdown pass No. 4 of the night and No. 40 on the season -- a 9-yard fade to Davante Adams -- with 2:50 to play.
Rodgers handled the pressure -- two of his touchdown passes came when pressured, giving him 10 for the season (tied for the second most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information). And his touchdown pass to Allison gave him 13 from outside the pocket this season. That tied Jameis Winston for most in the NFL.
"He got outside, and we just couldn’t get him down there a couple of times," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "With him, when you’re playing with him, it’ll probably be about four or five plays where it’s got to be able to be the difference."
There were other MVP-type moments.
There was Rodgers ducking under Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah to somehow avoid a sack and step up to convert a third down with an 11-yard pass to Jared Cook. That would lead to Rodgers’ first touchdown pass -- a 7-yarder to a surprise contributor, fullback Aaron Ripkowski (who also posted a career-best 61 yards rushing).
There was a Rodgers dart to Adams for a 3-yard touchdown to regain the lead on the opening drive of the third quarter.
Rodgers also looked completely over the calf injury that hobbled him in December. He rushed for three first downs -- including a 13-yard designed keeper to convert a third-and-1 in the fourth quarter -- giving him a team-leading 25 rushing first downs on the season.
"He bumped it up to a new level," Adams said of his quarterback. "That’s what we expect from him because that’s the type of guy he is, a future Hall of Fame-type game. We knew it was just a matter of time before we really kicked it into another gear, and he got everyone else on that same hype, and we started winning some games."
Injuries at cornerback -- Quinten Rollins’ apparent neck injury and Damarious Randall’s knee -- could put the Packers’ already shaky secondary in a precarious position. And if the Packers don’t get takeaways, their defense struggles to get off the field.
But as long as Rodgers plays the way he did against the Lions, the Packers have a chance.